STEELE COUNTY, Minn. — Charges were filed Thursday, March 5 against Dariaz Higgins, 35, in connection with the death of Noelani Robinson — nearly a year after Noelani’s mother was murdered and an Amber Alert was issued for the girl.
Higgins faces one count of second-degree murder without intent, with a maximum sentence of 40 years.
Prosecutors laid out the following details in a criminal complaint against Higgins:
On March 15, 2019, a passerby discovered the body of a child wrapped in a blanket in the east ditch north of the intersection of Highway 218 and Highway 30 in Steele County, Minnesota. The body was later identified as a 2-year-old female, listed in the complaint as Victim A.
An investigation revealed that Victim A had been at the Rodeway Inn Motel in the City of Austin, in Mower County, Minnesota with her father, Dariaz Higgins, from approximately Feb. 6, 2019, until about March 10, 2019, when Victim A’s body was removed from the motel and then left in the ditch in Steele County.
Higgins was arrested in Milwaukee on March 13, 2019, in connection with the fatal shooting of Victim A’s mother, Sierra Robinson, on March 11, 2019 in Milwaukee. An Amber Alert was issued for Noelani that day.
According to prosecutors, Higgins gave a statement to Milwaukee investigators in which he positively identified a photograph of the child’s body from Steele County as that of Victim A.
The complaint said Higgins indicated that he was at the Rodeway Inn Motel and Victim A fell off the toilet and subsequently died. Higgins said he wrapped Victim A’s body in blankets and left her on the motel room floor by the bed for a couple of days.
He said he went to Milwaukee, got a vehicle, and then returned to Austin. Higgins said in the early morning hours of March 10, 2019, he put Victim A’s body into the vehicle that he was driving. He said he was with Deloise Lipsey and they drove toward Minneapolis in blizzard conditions. He said that he stopped by the side of the road and put Victim A’s body into the ditch where she was located a few days later. He indicated that he knew Victim A was dead, and that she had been dead for a couple of days, and that he could not travel with her.
An autopsy was conducted on Victim A, which determined that Victim A died from non-accidental blunt force trauma.
Victim A suffered multiple blunt force injuries to her head, “scleral hemorrhaging, conjunctival petechiae, and brain hemorrhages,” the complaint said.
There were also multiple blunt force injuries to Victim A’s extremities.
The cause of Victim A’s death was blunt force trauma to her head.
Prosecutors noted the injuries that contributed to Victim A’s death did not match Higgins’ version of events.
Milwaukee County charges
Higgins faces one count of first-degree intentional homicide, use of a dangerous weapon for the shooting of Sierra Robinson on March 11, 2019. He faces one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide for the shooting of Sierra Robinson’s friend that day. He faces one count of first-degree recklessly endangering safety for injuries to a neighbor who told police “he was shot in the neck” during the incident.
Higgins pleaded not guilty to the amended charges listed above on April 18, 2019. An April 2020 jury trial was scheduled in the case.
Shooting of Sierra Robinson
Police were called out to 91st Street and Mill Road around 1 p.m. March 11, 2019, where Sierra Robinson was pronounced dead at the scene.
Her friend identified the shooter as “her boyfriend Darius Taylor,” who was “in Milwaukee to give (Robinson) her baby.” She was taken to the hospital for treatment of multiple gunshot wounds.
The complaint said she told investigators Higgins was her former pimp, along with Robinson’s former pimp. She said Robinson became pregnant while Higgins was her pimp, and they stayed together with their child, Noelani. In February 2019, Robinson “no longer wanted to be with (Higgins), and she moved to Las Vegas, leaving Noelani with Higgins. Once in Vegas, Robinson was “trying to get her child from (Higgins),” and the friend indicated she was trying to help with that. She said Higgins “finally agreed to give Noelani” to Robinson, and on March 9, 2019, Robinson flew to Milwaukee. On March 11, 2019, she said Higgins agreed to let Robinson have Noelani and told them to come to 22nd Street and Fond du Lac Avenue. They took an Uber to that location and met Higgins, who did not have Noelani, but said he would take them to her later. The friend told investigators they “drove around, smoking weed, drinking and talking about old times,” with Higgins telling Robinson they should get back together, and she agreed. The friend noted she observed a firearm in the driver’s map pocket in the SUV Higgins was in. They eventually drove to 91st Street and Mill Road, which was where Higgins told them Noelani was. They parked and got out, and as they were walking up to the apartment building, the friend said she heard gunshots and saw Higgins shooting her and Robinson — before getting back into the SUV and driving away. She identified Higgins as the shooter via a photo.
At the scene near 91st Street and Mill Road, the complaint said a neighbor across the street from where Robinson and her friend were found “believed he was shot in the neck.” He said he was sitting on his couch in his home, next to a large window, and witnessed the shooting. He said one of the shots struck the window where he was sitting. He said a bullet entered the house and he was struck by glass fragments, which struck his neck and face. The complaint said officers observed a hole in the living room window and a bullet fragment in the bathroom of the home.
Higgins was arrested March 13, 2019 near 103rd Street and Caldwell Avenue in Milwaukee. Cash bond was set at $1 million in this case on March 17, 2019, when Higgins made his initial court appearance.
Timeline of important events in the case, according to prosecutors:
March 6, 2019: Deloise Lipsey was in Las Vegas and received a call from Dariaz Higgins — to fly to Minnesota to meet him.
March 8, 2019: Lipsey landed in Minneapolis, where Higgins and another person picked her up. They drove to Austin, Minnesota.
March 9, 2019: Lipsey stayed at a motel while Higgins was gone all day.
March 10, 2019: Higgins told Lipsey they needed to change motels and head back to Minneapolis. As they were putting their belongings in the vehicle Higgins had rented, Lipsey said Higgins took “trash” from his separate room and put it in the trunk. She said this “wasn’t unusual for them as they frequently have leftover drug evidence.” During the drive, Higgins wanted to take a side road. The vehicle pulled over because Higgins said he needed to urinate. While pulled over, the vehicle became stuck in snow. Higgins was about to throw out the “trash” when another driver pulled over to help push the vehicle out of the snow. They pulled over again after a few miles and Higgins “threw out the trash.” After arriving in Minneapolis, Higgins then directed them to Rochester to get money.
March 11, 2019: Lipsey and Higgins drove to Milwaukee, arriving early in the morning. After doing drugs and buying liquor, they parted ways in the late morning. At 1 p.m., Higgins fatally shot Sierra Robinson and wounded another woman near 91st and Mill, according to prosecutors. At 2 p.m., Lipsey and Higgins met up again to buy Higgins’ glasses. They then got on the freeway and drove for several hours. In the early evening, Lipsey received a call from a friend informing her that Higgins had shot two women and took his daughter, Noelani. Lipsey said at that point, “she was scared, but decided to play along with Higgins.” That evening, they drove through Chicago to Detroit. Around 8 p.m., an Amber Alert was issued for Noelani Robinson, believed to have been abducted by Higgins, her father.
March 12, 2019: Lipsey and Higgins arrived in Lansing, where they rented a motel. Lipsey paid cash. She then went to Walmart, where he told her to buy him bleach. She told investigators she didn’t know what it was for. Criminal charges were filed against Higgins for the 91st and Mill double shooting. Lipsey and Higgins went back to the Lansing motel — drinking and doing drugs in a vehicle in the parking lot. Two squads pulled up, and they were asked for their IDs. As Lipsey was out of the vehicle giving them her ID, Higgins sped off in the vehicle, leaving Lipsey behind. One officer chased Higgins, while the other stayed with her. She never told that officer that Higgins was a murder suspect.
March 13, 2019: Higgins and another man were arrested on Milwaukee’s far northwest side.
March 15, 2019: Noelani Robinson’s body was found wrapped in a blanket in a ditch near Austin, Minnesota. A preliminary investigation revealed the manner of death was homicide due to blunt force trauma to the head.
March 16, 2019: Lipsey was interviewed by Milwaukee police. Prosecutors said she acknowledged she “messed up” by not alerting somebody or notifying police that she was with Higgins.
March 17, 2019: Higgins appeared in court in Milwaukee County on charges in the 91st and Mill shooting. Cash bond was set at $1 million. Lipsey was arrested and held in the Milwaukee Count Jail on $50,000.
March 18, 2019: The alleged accomplice arrested with Higgins was released from custody. No charges were filed.
March 20, 2019: Lipsey was charged with harboring/aiding a fugitive. That charge was dismissed by prosecutors in October.