Five years after being freed from prison, where he and his brother served 25 years for a murder they were eventually cleared of, Thomas Highers is back behind bars — this time on charges of beating his estranged wife.
According to a Macomb County Sheriff's report, Highers was arrested on Sunday and locked up in the county jail on charges of punching his estranged wife, Jessika, in the mouth and kidney, pulling her hair, beating her in the back with an old police riot baton and putting a gun to her head. According to the report, Highers thought Jessika was cheating on him, so he went over to her house in a rage early Sunday morning and attacked her.
The couple, who have been married for two years and together for four, have been separated for the past seven months because of Highers "abusing cocaine and drinking too much," the report states. Since the separation, Highers has been staying at the home of his brother, Raymond Highers — his one-time codefendant in a murder case.
Jessika Highers, contacted by the Free Press, declined to talk about the incident.
In 1988, the Highers brothers were given life sentences for a 1987 shotgun slaying in Detroit involving a drug dealer. But new witnesses came forward to testify about other suspects and persuaded a Wayne County Circuit judge that the brothers were wrongly convicted. The Highers were freed from prison in August 2012 after 25 years behind bars and exonerated two years after that. Officially, their convictions never happened.
Now, Thomas Highers is back where he started, facing a fresh criminal charge of felonious assault that could send him back to prison.
Highers pulled the gun, according to the report, as his brother and sister-in-law showed up at Jessika's house to help her and knocked on the door.
"Thinking the pounding at the door was police, he pointed the gun at Jessika's head and told her, 'If they come in, I'm gonna kill you, so you better pray it's not the f----- cops, because I'm not going back to prison,' " the report states.
According to the report, Raymond Highers got his brother out of the house and his wife drove Jessika to a hospital, where police were summoned by medical personnel.
Thomas Highers' attorney, David Cripps, said while the case is in its early stages, his client "has maintained his innocence."
He said that he could not discuss the couple's situation or what happened because he is awaiting discovery and "investigating what this is all about."
Cripps said Highers has "ongoing scars. ... He was wrongfully imprisoned for 25 years." He added: that "would affect any normal person."
Reached for comment Wednesday, Raymond Highers only stated: "I don't know nothin' about (it). I ain't got nothin' to say." He then hung up.
The Free Press also contacted Highers' aunt, Janet Hirth, who had less to say. When asked whether she had any information to share about Thomas Highers' arrest, she would only say, "No, I can't."
Thomas Highers, 52, is being held on a $20,000 bond for assault with a dangerous weapon/felonious assault after his arraignment Wednesday in Clinton Township District Court. He is to have no contact with his estranged wife.
Contact Tresa Baldas: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Tbaldas. Free Press staff writer Christina Hall contributed to this report.