Murder victim's family: He had the biggest heart

Murder victim's family: He had the biggest heart

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by Stephanie Zepelin

Bio | Email | Follow: @ktvbstephanie

KTVB.COM

Posted on July 19, 2013 at 9:28 PM

Updated Saturday, Jul 20 at 8:09 PM

CALDWELL -- Friday, a jury convicted Gregory Raymond Higgins Junior of first degree murder with a weapons enhancement in the shooting death of James Groat out near Lake Lowell in Canyon County last August.

Prosecutors said Higgins lured James Groat out into the country by asking him to come along to help on a drug deal. Higgins, along with two accomplices, made James Groat dig his own grave, and then shot him multiple times.

Months of waiting and days of anticipating led up to that moment for James Groat's family. A jury convicted Higgins guilty in the murder of James Groat. A wave of emotion swept over James Groat's family and friends.

"Just an overwhelming sense of relief," said Natalie Needham, Groat's sister. "There's a lot of pent up emotion. It's been a very difficult, difficult road for us."

"It definitely helps deal with it a little better," added Jeremy Groat, James Groat's older brother.

However, James Groat's brother said no verdict will fill the void left by James' death.

"He was a great man," said Jeremy Groat. "He was not only my little brother, but he was my best friend, my whole life. And everybody that knew him knew how good of a guy he was. He was just a great person."
   
Canyon County Deputy Prosecutor Monica Morrison said this case should serve as a warning to others.

"Probably the most tragic part about this whole case is that everybody involved was very young, especially the victim, James Groat, and he came to a tragic end," said Morrison. "And it's certainly a commentary on what happens when everyone gets involved with drugs. But certainly this was a horrific crime and it was premeditated."

James Groat's family doesn't want people to think of the trial when they think of James Groat.

"Up until maybe a year or less than a year before James' death he was drug free," said Needham. "He lived a good life, he was involved in church, he loved everyone around him, his family, his friends, his son. And it's a testament to the fact that drugs can be extremely destructive in a very short amount of time."

In the memory of his family, James Groat will be remembered as a good person.

"My brother was very caring. He had the biggest heart, he was kind, he cared about everyone around him," Needham said.

Higgins' sentencing is scheduled for August 30.

Two other men, Cruz Flores and Christopher Michael Duran, were also arrested for this crime. Duran is scheduled for trial later this month, and Flores's file is sealed, so it is unknown what the status of his case is.

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