Man who orchestrated robbery-turned-murder gets 18 years
The man who initiated a 2016 Russian Jack marijuana robbery that left a woman dead has now been ordered by a judge to serve nearly two decades in prison.
Tommy Hunter Higgs III, 20, received an 18-year sentence Thursday from Superior Court Judge Michael Wolverton, the state Department of Law announced Friday.
Court records show that Higgs changed his plea in May 2018, on charges that had included second-degree murder. Prosecutors said his reduced charges in the plea agreement include manslaughter, robbery, attempted burglary and evidence tampering. Under its terms, he has also waived his rights to an appeal.
Prosecutors said Higgs played a key role in the Sept. 22, 2016 robbery of an Alora Loop trailer home, but wasn’t the person who shot 40-year-old Paula Zorawski in the neck. Medics took Zorawski to a local hospital in critical condition, where she died the next day.
Higgs was one of five co-defendants in the case, alongside Michael Fitzgerald, Yurel Nichols, Savon Berry and Alonzo Steward. According to prosecutors, they had “planned to rob a man of marijuana and money” at the trailer.
“After determining there were several people at the home, the group went forward with the robbery at Higgs’ insistence,” prosecutors wrote. “Four of the five individuals lined up along the side of the house while Fitzgerald knocked on the door. After Paula Zorawski opened the door and took a step outside, Nichols shot Zorawski in the neck, causing her death. The group ran back to their vehicle, where Higgs instructed everyone to delete their text messages with each other from their phones.”
Zorawski’s relatives, who traveled from New York to Anchorage after the shooting, called her death at the group’s hands a senseless act, adding that she “didn’t have a chance to even ask them what they wanted.”
According to Friday’s statement, Wolverton said during Thursday's sentencing that surveillance video of the shooting had been playing on “a continuous loop” in his mind.
Berry and Fitzgerald have received nine-year sentences from Wolverton for manslaughter and robbery respectively, prosecutors said, with Steward awaiting sentencing Feb. 22 for second-degree murder. Nichols is awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges.
Editor's note: An initial version of this story omitted the III in Tommy Hunter Higgs' surname.
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