BP rallies to lift up family of toddler brutally murdered
The emotional and disturbing story of a toddler found in the middle of sex trafficking and murdered and eventually dumped in a ditch outside of Blooming Prairie is tugging at the hearts of the community as a local pastor and police chief are reaching out to help the family.
Pastor Heidi Heimgartner of First Lutheran Church, along with Chief Greg Skillestad of Blooming Prairie Police, began a campaign last week to lift up the memory of Noelani Robinson, who was found wrapped in a blanket and dumped in a ditch along U.S. Highway 218 near Blooming Prairie March 15. Heimgartner and Skillestad invited the community to take part in a group memorial of sympathy cards, notes, drawings and very small tokens.
Items for the group memorial will be accepted until Wednesday either at the City Center in Blooming Prairie or First Lutheran Church at 434 First St. SW. The church plans to mail the items to the Robinson family in Milwaukee on Thursday.
Heimgartner said the memorial was established “to demonstrate our community’s support for the tragic loss of Sierra and Noelani Robinson.” Sierra was Noelani’s mother who was shot to death in Milwaukee just days before Noelani was found by Blooming Prairie.
“Thank you to our law enforcement and the community for your prayers, thoughts and gestures of sympathy for the Robinson family and friends,” Heimgartner said.
Family and friends gathered to say goodbye to Sierra and Noelani in Kansas City, Mo., on Saturday. Pink and white balloons soared above Hibbs Park in honor of both of them.
The exact details of what happened to Noelani still remain unclear, but some of the story began coming together on March 21 when a third woman was charged in Milwaukee with aiding Higgins after the shooting of Sierra. Noelani was likely murdered before her mother and left alongside the Steele County ditch for as long as five days before being discovered.
Deloise Lipsey, 31, of Milwaukee, was arrested on March 13, the same day as Higgins. She may also have been sex trafficked by Higgins.
According to the criminal complaint against Lipsey, she flew from Las Vegas to Minneapolis at Higgins’ urging on March 6. She landed in Minneapolis on March 8 and was picked up by Higgins and another unknown man. They drove to a motel in Austin where Lipsey said she spent Saturday alone until Higgins returned alone on early Sunday. They packed up their belongings, including “the trash,” to head back to Minneapolis. While driving to Minneapolis, they changed routes and eventually stopped while Higgins “threw out the trash”—believed to be Noelani’s bundled body.
After continuing on their journey, Higgins said he needed money in Rochester and they headed there before driving to Milwaukee. They arrived in Milwaukee on March 11, the same day Sierra was killed.
Higgins is being held in jail awaiting charges of murdering Sierra. He has not been charged in Noelani’s death.
Sierra’s father has said Sierra took Noelani to Milwaukee to meet Higgins for the first time in January and wanted Noelani to know her father. Then Sierra went to visit family in Las Vegas for six weeks. But when she returned, her father said, Higgins did not want to return the girl.
Minnesota officials still have not released information about an autopsy other than a preliminary finding that Noelani’s death was as a result of homicide by blunt trauma. The BCA has taken over as the lead investigating agency with Noelani’s death. Authorities still haven’t said when, where and how she died, or whether they even know.