From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Detroit-Area Shooting Leaves Presbyterian Woman Dead
PCUSA NEWS <PCUSA.NEWS@ecunet.org>
20 Apr 2000 06:35:18
In note #5865 to PRESBYNEWS, PCUSA NEWS wrote:
Detroit-Area Shooting Leaves Presbyterian Woman Dead
Church friends say 64-year-old "angel" put others before herself
by Evan Silverstein
LINCOLN PARK, Mich. -- It was Tuesday, so long-time Presbyterians Marilyn
Higgins and her husband, Charles, were delivering muffins, bread, cake and
cookies to residents of a seniors' apartment complex in suburban Detroit.
Every Tuesday, the Higginses delivered donated food to the needy in a
mission program sponsored by Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church, where Marilyn
Higgins, 64, was an elder and had worshiped for more than 30 years.
But this Tuesday, April 18, was different for her and Charles. Gunshots
rang out shortly after they arrived at the Lincoln Park Senior Tower around
noon. Marilyn Higgins was one of two women killed; another victim was left
fighting for her life.
"She was out doing the work of the church when this happened," said Alyce
Riggs, mission chair at Lincoln Park Presbyterian, and a long-time friend of
Marilyn Higgins, who was better known as Lynn. "But that was Lynn. She was
always ready to help."
Indeed, helping others, especially the elderly, was nothing new for
Marilyn, who was well-known as an activist for seniors and for city
preservation. Outgoing and bubbly, she had served in just about every
capacity at her 150-member church, and was a former Lincoln Park
News of her murder sent shock waves through members of Lincoln Park
Presbyterian, who hailed her as a hard worker who would do anything for her
"We were numb the rest of the day, and that was kind of everybody's
reaction," said Audrey Saunders, a church member who knew Marilyn for about
30 years. "They just couldn't believe it. You don't expect things like that.
She was a worker. She didn't turn people down if they asked her to do
something, if it was at all possible to do it. She got things done the way
they should be done."
The church's interim pastor, the Rev. J. Lawrence, described Marilyn as an
"angel" who was not afraid to confront a problem.
"She was one of the most active members of the church," he said. "She had a
history of being a champion for social justice in all kinds of ways. In
fact, she followed this man (the gunman), trying to talk him out of it –
which would be typical of her. She sees a situation and tries to deal with
Marilyn Higgins was serving on the congregation's pastor nominating
committee, performed in its bell choir and often played the organ for the
church's Sunday school program.
"She loved working with the children and teaching them songs," Riggs said.
Higgins helped with the planning of mother/daughter events and was active
in the congregation's chapter of Presbyterian Women. She once organized
recreational activities at a nursing home, where patients' family members
"appreciated her so much because of the things she did (that) they presented
her with an organ to play at mealtimes," Saunders said. She also reportedly
dressed up as a leprechaun to celebrate St. Patrick's Day while working at a
Super Kmart in Lincoln Park.
"She just was a very outgoing, but not a pretentious person," Riggs said.
Authorities identified the alleged gunman as Kenneth Miller Sr., a
56-year-old resident of the apartment building, a retired country music
singer and guitar player who had been accused by two residents of harassment
and using vulgar language. A building manager had summoned him to a meeting
in a building adjacent to the high-rise after other residents complained,
according to Phyllis McLenon, deputy director of the Lincoln Park Housing
During the meeting Miller "was very dissatisfied and making threats,"
" ... He kept saying he wouldn't have this character assassination and that
he would take care of it." McLenon said. Miller left the meeting and had
been away for about 10 minutes when a maintenance man reported by two-way
radio that he was firing a weapon.
Charles Higgins, who was not hurt, told a Detroit newspaper that Miller
opened fire without warning.
"I went to a room where I thought I could get to a phone, and my wife came
down the hall after me," he said. "She started hollering at him to stop
doing that, and he just shot her."
McLenon said the gunman was armed with "a .22-(caliber) rifle and several
guns." Marilyn Higgins reportedly lunged toward Miller to protect others,
while terrified residents bolted themselves into their apartments or hurried
out of the building through a back door.
"She probably recognized that this man was causing trouble," Riggs said,
"and being a peacemaker, she probably just took it upon herself to see that
that got resolved."
Ironically, Higgins, a mother of three grown children, was gunned
down at the same high-rise she fought to have renovated as a member of the
Lincoln Park Housing Commission.
Miller was arrested three to four hours later when police found him
sleeping in a 14th-floor apartment, the top story of the building. Police
said he was surrounded by guns and spent casings.
Besides her husband, two daughters and a son, Marilyn Higgins is survived
by seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Funeral arraignments were
"She just was ... very loving, caring," Riggs said. "Everybody meant
something to Lynn. She never put anyone down. She just was such a special
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