Ogden serial rapist apologizes to victims for 'cowardly' acts

'He's in shackles and I'm not,' says victim feeling control returning to her life

Published: Tuesday, March 27 2012 12:00 p.m. MDT

Convicted serial rapist Jason Brett Higgins testifies Tuesday, March 27, 2012, during his parole hearing at the Utah State Prison.

Joe DeLuca, Deseret News

Article: Rape victim says she's ready to reclaim her life

UTAH STATE PRISON — One of Ogden's most notorious serial rapists apologized Tuesday to the eight teen girls and adult women he raped 15 years ago.

"I am so sorry for the pain and torment I put you through," Jason Brett Higgins said, calling his actions "cowardly, disgusting and violent."

But Rebecca Mills, who had barely turned 16 when she was raped by Higgins at knifepoint in October 1996 — beginning what would become a string of abductions, rapes and sexual assaults that would terrorize the Ogden and Roy area for five months — said she didn't believe his apology was completely sincere.

"I don't know what to think about it yet," Mills said after Higgins' parole hearing. "I don't know if he's truly, truly sorry or saying what he needed to get out. … It was hollow."

Mills was the only victim who made an appearance at Higgins' hearing. But Higgins apologized to all of his victims.

"I made good and decent people feel afraid to go out at night," he said. "I hate being (in prison), but I know at this point it's exactly where I need to be."

Don Blanchard, a part-time hearing officer and former longtime member of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, agreed, noting that he does not believe the full board will vote to set a parole date. Rather, he expects another hearing for Higgins will be held "in at least five years or more" to review his status.

A psychosexual evaluation conducted for the hearing concluded that Higgins' risk to reoffend has decreased since his conviction, but it is still high enough that he would likely commit another offense if he were released today, Blanchard said.

Between October 1996 and March 1997, Higgins grabbed young girls and adult women who were walking or jogging alone and raped or sexually assaulted them. Many of his victims were between the ages of 14 and 16.

Higgins was convicted in 1998 of nine rapes or sexual assaults. He was sentenced to several prison terms of one to 15 years and 15 years to life. A judge ordered two of those 15-to-life sentences to run consecutively, essentially giving him a 30-years-to-life sentence.

Tuesday was Higgins' first parole hearing since his conviction.

Higgins, 39, cried as Blanchard gave a brief summary of all of the attacks. He described how Higgins — typically after he got off work or early in the morning — would spot females walking or jogging alone, wait until they were in an area with no one else around, and then grab them from behind and rape them. In some cases he punched his victims in the mouth before raping them and in others he threatened to harm them if they shouted.

"That was hard for me to listen to," Higgins said when Blanchard was done. "I can only imagine how the victims felt having to listen to that. … I wish at that time I had the clarity I have now to see the impact of that harm."

When asked how many additional victims did not report his attacks on them to police, Higgins referred to two other girls whom he had grabbed. But for a reason not disclosed at the hearing, he said he let them go without raping them. Higgins said he was charged for every victim he sexually assaulted.

Mills, 31, and her mother, Catherine Liston, cried as they listened to the graphic details of each attack. Then Mills got her turn to speak to Higgins. It was the first time she had the chance to tell him how horrible her life had been during the past 15 years because of his attack.

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