Ex-preschool assistant found not guilty in longtime boyfriend’s shooting death

Mary Katherine Higdon

Mary Katherine Higdon

A jury on Wednesday acquitted a former preschool assistant of all charges in the shooting death of her boyfriend.

High school sweethearts Mary Katherine Higdon and Steven Andrew Freeman were starting their life together when Freeman took a bullet to the chest Aug. 1. He was 23.

Higdon, 24, initially told police the gun accidentally went off when she handed it to Freeman in a back room of their Griffin home, according to Spalding County prosecutors.

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She stood trial last week for malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a gun during the commission of a crime. The jury found her not guilty on all counts.

Higdon was represented at trial by Michael Granims, who is with the Griffin Judicial Circuit’s public defender’s office. He sent AJC.com a statement that said, in part:

“The State’s case focused on the events of a single day, August 1, 2018. Mary Katherine Higdon deserved that the rest of the story be told ... we are proud to say that justice was served and Ms. Higdon is now home with her family.”

Higdon’s testimony included details of a history of physical and sexual violence against her by Freeman, which Granims said was corroborated by text messages and other evidence. He told Channel 2 Action News the jury, which consisted of seven women and five men, took about four hours to reach its decision.

District Attorney Benjamin Corker told Channel 2 he was disappointed by the outcome but must respect the jury’s verdict.

Mary Katherine Higdon (left) was found not guilty in the death of her boyfriend, Steven Freeman.

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Several of Freeman’s friends blamed Higdon for his death at trial, claiming she was possessive and unstable, the news station reported. Thomas Skinner said Freeman, a country boy and a hard worker, was his best friend.

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“At first, I really liked her, I did,” he said from the witness stand. “Things in that relationship I could see started getting more toxic, fighting and arguing, verbally fighting.”

Once, when Freeman tried to leave, Higdon allegedly threatened to harm herself, Skinner said.

Alijah Varela, a friend who worked with Freeman, told the jury Higdon bragged about how she knew how to use a gun, the news station reported.

The night Freeman died, Higdon met with officers inside the couple’s home, according to a police report obtained by Channel 2. She said she didn’t understand how the gun discharged as she never kept a round in the chamber.

Higdon was most recently a part-time teacher’s assistant at St. George’s Episcopal School in Milner. She was not on the school’s schedule for the 2018 school year, the headmaster told the news station.

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