CROWN POINT — A Gary man charged with murdering a Merrillville teen trying to sell his Xbox last summer won't be granted bail.
Attorneys for Garry L. Higgins, 18, wrote in court filings that the state's evidence against Higgins was insufficient to continue to hold him without bail on charges of murder, murder in perpetration of robbery and two associated counts of robbery.
But prosecutors wrote the presumption of Higgins' guilt was strong because Higgins was identified as the alleged shooter by two eyewitnesses. Higgins also gave statements suggesting he was at the crime scene, asked how to get "a deal," and was tied to the homicide by "a deluge of incriminating evidence."
Lake Criminal Court Magistrate Natalie Bokota agreed with the state and denied Higgins' petition to let bail in an order filed last week. Higgins has pleaded not guilty to charges in the murder case.
Defendants charged with murder typically are not afforded bail, unless the court determines the presumption of guilt is not strong.
Higgins is accused of fatally shooting 16-year-old Johnny Peluyera on June 12 in the 5000 block of Maryland Street in Gary, after arranging on the OfferUp app to buy an Xbox from Peluyera.
Peluyera's father drove him to Gary to make the exchange, and the teen died in his father's arms after the father drove a short distance from the shooting scene, records state.
Peluyera's father testified during the first of two hearings on Higgins' petition to let bail that his son's killer stood within feet of his car at one point and that he was certain Higgins was the shooter.
Another eyewitness, 18-year-old Dezman C. Dukes, also testified Higgins shot Peluyera as the three of them stood outside a home and attempted to plug the Xbox into an outdoor outlet.
"I got a little glance at something silver, a little .38, like a revolver, a pistol," Dukes testified Jan. 10. "I took off."
Prosecutors initially charged Higgins and Dukes with Peluyera's murder, but a magistrate rejected the charges against Dukes for lack of probable cause. Prosecutors withdrew the charges in September, records show.
Michael Woods, Higgins' attorney, wrote the in-court identification of Higgins by Peluyera's father was tainted, because the father previously had identified another man — a friend of both Higgins and Dukes — in a photo lineup and was told by the state that he had been incorrect.
Dukes' testimony Jan. 10 was "evasive and self-serving," and the state's technological evidence revealed links to both Higgins and Dukes, Woods wrote. A photo was entered into evidence showing Dukes holding a small silver gun that Peluyera's father identified as being used to kill his son.
Prosecutors said Higgins, Dukes and their friend — whom The Times is not naming because he hasn't been charged — were suspected in other robberies with a similar M.O. Higgins and the friend share "a striking resemblance," Lake County Deputy Prosecutor Patrick Grindlay wrote.
Higgins was charged in January in one of those cases: an armed robbery of a Domino's Pizza delivery driver June 9 in the 5000 block of Pennsylvania Street. He's pleaded not guilty.
Higgins and Dukes told detectives after their arrest in July that their friend — the man Peluyera's father initially identified as the suspect — wasn't present when Peluyera was shot, records state. By mutual agreement, that man was not called to testify during Higgins' bail hearing.