Crawford County, Arkansas

From the Fort Smith Times Record of September 28, 2007

Prosecutor Won’t File In Killing

No charges will be filed in the July 27 shooting death of a 25-year-old Fort Smith woman, according to Crawford County Prosecutor Marc McCune.

McCune said Thursday an investigation by the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office turned up no evidence to refute a claim of self-defense by Edna Higgins, 69, of Mountainburg.

Higgins said she shot Heather Dyanne Mizell with a .22-caliber rifle as Mizell threatened her with a hammer in the Mountainburg woman’s residence.

According to investigators, Mizell, who was married to but separated from Higgins’ grandson, Jimmie Mizell, was at Higgins’ house to pick up money Higgins had promised to give her to replace a tire on her vehicle.

Mizell had earlier dropped off her two daughters, Katie, 4, and Megan, 1, with her estranged husband’s parents.

Crawford County Chief Deputy Ron Brown said Higgins told him after she gave Mizell the check, she turned around and Mizell was brandishing a hammer.

Higgins grabbed the rifle and fired twice, Brown reported. Mizell was struck once in the chest. A second shot apparently grazed her.

The shooting victim was taken to St. Edward Mercy Medical Center, where she died during surgery.

Mizell’s mother, Becky Sides of Fort Smith, reacted angrily to news of McCune’s decision.

“This case is not going to close,” she said. “I know it was murder and everyone else knows it was murder. If (McCune) can’t see that, I don’t know what his problem is.”

Sides said she has been told that Mizell’s fingerprints were not found on the hammer. “Without that hammer, it’s murder,” she said.

Sides said her pleas for convening a grand jury, or having a second, independent investigation of the shooting, have so far been unsuccessful.

“When you have a major medical problem, you are entitled to a second opinion. This involves a death, and we don’t get a second opinion,” she said.

She said she continues to contact “civil rights people” and organizations she hopes can help her in her quest for justice.

Sides has assembled a Web site, http://www.heathermizellmemorial.com, dedicated to her daughter’s memory and family. On it, she reports that Heather, a university student and rack driver for the Times Record, “had so many plans of what she was going to do. Her life was just starting to go the way she was wanting it to go.”

Heather’s husband, Jimmie, died Aug. 11. This week, custody of their daughters was awarded to Heather Mizell’s father, Ed Sanders, who lives in Texas.

“At least something has gone right,” Sides says of the children’s custody. “At least one judge had the common sense to do the right thing.”

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