Man who killed girl in DUI crash in 1999 arrested in hit-run
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY AND STEFANO ESPOSITO Sun-Times Media December 29, 2011 5:28PM
Glen Higginbotham Jr. was previously convicted of reckless homicide for causing the accident in Lockport that killed Candi Graham on May 4, 1999. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Updated: January 31, 2012 8:24AM
Twelve years ago, Jerrine Graham placed a little statue of Jesus, a ceramic doll and a bear in one corner of her front yard — a memorial to her 10-year-old granddaughter, Candace “Candi” Graham, killed in a drunk driving crash in Lockport.
Memories of the grandmother’s crushing loss surfaced again Thursday, as the Tennessee woman learned that the drunk and drugged-up driver who killed Candi in 1999 faces more drunk driving charges after a Christmas Day hit-and-run accident near Joliet.
“He should be taken off the streets permanently, before he kills someone else,” said Graham after being told of the charges Thursday night.
Glen Higginbotham Jr., 33, of Yorkville, was charged with drunken driving, driving in the wrong lane, leaving the scene of a property damage accident, having unsafe tires, and driving on a revoked license.
Will County Sheriff’s police said Higginbotham hit a vehicle on New Lenox Road, before pulling into a parking lot with sparks coming from his wheel assembly. He refused a breath test, police said.
Higginbotham was previously convicted of reckless homicide for causing the accident in downtown Lockport that killed Candi on May 4, 1999. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Higginbotham is already awaiting trial on another drunken-driving charge — from a Dec. 4, 2010, arrest in Will County. And nine months earlier he was charged with speeding 26 to 30 mph over the speed limit and driving on a revoked license, court records show.
He was set to appear in Will County Court on the 2010 aggravated DUI charge on Jan. 9.
Candi’s aunt and godmother, Connie Gaffin, said of the latest incident, “Thank God he didn’t kill anyone.”
“Some people just never learn,” said Gaffin, who lives in Joliet. “I would have hoped the time (Higginbotham) spent behind bars would have taught him something, ... kind of turned his life around.”
After the 1999 accident, Candi Graham’s mother, Constance, admitted she also was drunk — after downing beer and tequila — when she and her daughter were driving to a White Hen Pantry just before midnight that night.
Constance Graham testified in court that her daughter woke up on the night of the collision and asked to go with her to the store to pick up cat food. Candi also told her mother she wanted ice cream.
Higginbotham’s Buick Skylark, which was traveling at 81 mph in a 35-mph zone, slammed into the passenger side of Graham’s Plymouth Sundance as they were leaving the parking lot.
“I wish I wouldn’t have taken her with me,” her mother said then. “It was nothing out of the ordinary. I always took her with me.”
According to trial testimony, Higginbotham had a blood alcohol content of .181 and traces of cocaine in his system. Candace Graham’s blood alcohol content was .197 when she turned left in front of Higginbotham. She pleaded guilty to drunken driving and was sentenced to 240 hours of community service.
Prosecutors at the time said they did not pursue more serious charges against her because even a sober driver turning left would not have been able to avoid Higginbotham’s speeding car.
Candace Graham, who was a fifth-grader at Kelvin Grove School in Lockport and weighed 69 pounds, was in the front seat and unbuckled when the collision happened. The impact flung her into the back seat. Her mother blamed Higginbotham for the crash, saying at the time: “The accident was not my fault. I didn’t cause it by going 81 miles per hour.”
Family at the time said Candi Graham enjoyed fishing, softball, cheerleading and volleyball. She kept a journal that chronicled vacations to her grandparents’ house in Tennessee and questioned her girlfriends’ sudden interest in boys. Her grandfather nicknamed her “Hummingbird.”
At the time of that fatal accident Higginbotham was on probation for theft, possession of a stolen vehicle and aggravated battery. In December 1999, after the fatal crash, Higginbotham’s probation was revoked and he was sentenced to 14 years in prison on those charges.
In handing down that sentence, Judge Gerald Kinney told him, “Your behavior has shown me through the years that you’re not going to change your behavior.”
This article contains corrected information.