CALDWELL -- Three men are in jail facing charges in the murder of 27-year-old James Groat whose body was discovered Monday near Lake Lowell. Those men were arraigned Friday afternoon as new details about the crime emerged from the courtroom.
"I think there must be a great sense of relief that the people responsible for this crime have been brought into custody," said Canyon County's Chief Criminal Deputy Kieran Donahue.
Investigators say Groat was roommates with 21-year-old Cruz Flores and 24-year-old Christopher Duran, and he knew 33-year-old Gregory Higgins. They say around 1 a.m. Monday, Higgins and Duran lured Groat to a remote area to serve as backup on a drug deal that was never going to happen. When they all arrived, investigators believe Higgins accused Groat of being an informant for police, threw him a shovel, told him to dig his own grave, then shot him five times.
Late Thursday or early Friday, Higgins, Duran, and Flores were all arrested. Higgins is charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping, with weapon enhancements.
Duran is charged with aiding and abetting that murder and kidnapping. The charges for both him and Higgins are punishable by death or life in prison.
Flores faces an accessory to murder charge for not revealing his knowledge of the crimes. That carries a possible 5-year prison sentence.
"We've all kind of been up for the last three days and haven't had much sleep," said Tom Needham, Groat's brother-in-law.
Needham thanked the Canyon County Sheriff's Office for their hard work. He says the family was pleased Friday morning when they got the call that arrests had been made. But Needham also says the healing process has just begun.
"It was a good feeling, but it wasn't as good as we though it was going to be," said Needham. "We thought we'd get a little more closure when we found out who did it. But there's still so many unanswered questions, and there's still so much the family doesn't understand why this could happen."
Prosecutors stress that all three men are innocent until proven guilty.
Also, while Higgins accused Groat of being a police informant, Donahue says there's no reason to believe that's the case.
All three suspects will be back in court on Sept. 12 for preliminary hearings.