Body of toddler found in ditch near BP
The heartbreaking story of a Milwaukee area toddler came to an end when the body of the 2-year-old was found Friday night wrapped in a blanket and dumped in a ditch along U.S. Highway 218 outside of Blooming Prairie.
The Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner’s Office in Rochester has preliminarily identified the victim as Noelani Robinson, 2. The medical examiner determined the cause and manner of death to be “homicide due to blunt force trauma to the head.” A full autopsy will be conducted by the medical examiner.
A nationwide Amber Alert had been activated last week for Noelani Robinson, 2, after her mother, Sierra Robinson, was found shot to death March 11 in Milwaukee. Noelani’s father, Dariaz Higgins, was believed to have fled Wisconsin to Minnesota with the toddler.
Higgins, 34, was arrested March 13 and charged with first-degree homicide in the death of the girl’s mother. Authorities had no idea where Noelani was as Higgins reportedly gave them false information as to her whereabouts.
At about 6 p.m. Friday, a passerby reported seeing a blanket and possible remains in a ditch about one mile north of Blooming Prairie. Officers from Blooming Prairie and the Steele County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene where they located the child’s body wrapped in a blanket.
Sheriff Lon Thiele immediately contacted the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to assist in the death investigation. The BCA responded to the scene with its mobile lab used to process crime scenes.
BCA agents and crime scene personnel worked throughout the night to collect evidence at the scene. In addition, on Saturday morning, BCA agents executed a search warrant at a hotel in Austin where it is believed Higgins stayed at one point during the past week, according to Bruce Gordon, spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
“She appeared to have been at that location for a number of days,” said Gordon. “When, where and who killed Noelani Robinson will be determined during the course of the BCA’s investigation.”
Thiele said because of the BCA’s expertise in handling major crime scenes, he turned over the investigation to the BCA. It also made sense because of the complexity of the case spread over two states, he said.
The BCA, Gordon said, is conducting the investigation in partnership with the Steele and Mower County sheriff’s offices and the Blooming Prairie, Austin and Milwaukee police departments.
“This is an active and ongoing investigation,” Gordon said. “When complete, the BCA will turn its findings over to the appropriate county attorney for review.”
Under Minnesota law, the BCA is prohibited from providing details about an investigation while it is active.
A dark world
Noelani, who was the daughter of a pimp and prostitute, was an innocent victim of the dark world she was born into.
Milwaukee Police called Higgins “a stonecold killer,” who was actively involved in widespread human trafficking.
“That’s the world that these two individuals lived in,” said Chief Alfonso Morales of Milwaukee Police during a Saturday news conference after Noelani’s body was discovered. “They traveled throughout numerous states.”
Morales noted that Higgins has ties down to Miami and Las Vegas. He has also been in Kansas City. “He’s been all over the place,” Morales said.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Higgins, Robinson became pregnant while Higgins was her pimp. The couple stayed together after Noelani’s birth, but Robinson decided to end the relationship. She moved to Las Vegas last month while leaving the child in Milwaukee with Higgins.
After arriving in Las Vegas, Robinson tried to get Noelani back. She flew to Milwaukee on March 9. Two days later, Higgins agreed to give her the child. Higgins picked up Robinson and they drove around drinking and smoking pot, the complaint said.
As Robinson and a friend walked to the door of an apartment building where Noelani was staying, Higgins allegedly shot them both. Robinson died of a gunshot wound to the chest. Her friend survived several gunshot wounds.
Authorities do not know where Noelani was killed but believe it happened in Minnesota.
“We believe this death did not occur within the last 24 hours,” Morales said on Saturday. “She had been there for quite some time, which is consistent with the suspect’s time when he was in that area of Minnesota.”
Police had planned to interview Higgins again to see if he would confess to killing Noelani. Previously, he had confessed to killing Robinson, police said.