Joe DeLuca, Deseret News
UTAH STATE PRISON — One of Ogden's most notorious serial rapists will spend the rest of his life in prison.
The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole ordered Monday that Jason Brett Higgins, 38, not be released from the Utah State Prison.
Higgins was convicted in 1998 of nine rapes or sexual assaults. Between October 1996 and March 1997, he 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.
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.
Rebecca Mills was 16 when she became the first of Higgins' victims, being raped at knife-point. She testified at Higgins' first parole hearing last week about the psychological trauma she has suffered since her attack and how she became a heroin addict as a way to cope with her pain. She has recently made strides to turn her life around and has been sober for more than two years.
Mills' mother, Catherine Liston, said she was both thrilled and surprised with the decision.
"We did not expect that at all. Life was not what we expected," she said. "But I guess that's what you get when you rape children."
Liston said Tuesday afternoon that because of her daughter's busy work and school schedule, Mills hadn't heard the news yet. She planned to tell her Tuesday night.
She said a "life sentence for a life sentence" was just. Mills, now 31, said last week that as a victim, she feels she, too, was sentenced for life.
"He knew what he was doing to these girls ... to these children," Liston said. "He chose the consequence that went with the behavior. Now he can sit and think about what he did for the rest of his life."
In making their decision, the pardons board released a rationale sheet with a checklist of aggravating and mitigation circumstances they considered. There were 12 check marks in the "aggravating" column and just one in the "mitigating" column.
Some of the aggravating circumstances that led to the board's decision included the extent of the victims' injuries, the vulnerable age of the victims, having multiple victims and "demonstration of extreme cruelty or depravity."
The lone mitigating circumstance was having a "degree of meaningful support system" at home.
During his parole hearing, it was noted that a psychosexual evaluation conducted on Higgins concluded he was still a high risk to re-offend.
Higgins offered a personal apology to Mills and his other victims at the hearing last week. While he said it wasn't a justification for his actions, he talked about being sexually abused himself and growing up in a household where women weren't respected.
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