Dale Lee Higgenbottom faces charges of murder, child cruelty, and aggravated battery stemming from death of 15-day-old Christopher Dewayne Breazeale on Dec. 20, 1992. Higgenbottom was 15 years old at the time.
The denial comes more than six months after the prosecution and defense went before the state Supreme Court in June. The defense maintained that the charges against Higgenbottom should be dismissed due to the withholding of evidence and lack of a speedy trial.
Higgenbottom, now in his thirties, was at the Breazeale home at 117 Circle Drive in Ringgold when police were contacted in regards to injuries suffered by the infant, authorities said at the time. When the officers arrived, they found the injured baby, his parents, his brother and sister, and Higgenbottom, a long-time friend of the family. The initial report stated that police were told that the infant’s 4-year-old sister had accidentally dropped him.
In the June hearing, defense attorney David Dunn reiterated from previously submitted briefs that Higgenbot-tom’s case had been continuously harmed due to lengthy delays in the trial process. He asked the Supreme Court to overturn Catoosa County judge Bo Wood’s refusal to dismiss the indictment against Higgenbottom.
The appeal also consisted of Dunn’s request that the non-murder charges be prohibited in the event of a trial due to statutes of limitation.
Word of the denial came in late Tuesday afternoon.
“We’re obviously disappointed with the court’s decision to deny the appeal,” Dunn said Tuesday evening. “We now have a couple of different options moving forward, but it’s too early to speculate on where we will go from here.”
In light of the denial, the defense is now presented with three options: submit a motion for reconsideration, which would need to be turned in by Tuesday, Dec. 6; take the appeal a step further by applying for a review by the U.S. Supreme Court; or proceed to trial with the case as is, with all charges allowed.
After an autopsy was conducted following the incident, Dr. Floyd James of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation declared the death “accidental,” with chief medical examiner Kris Sperry signing off on the report.
The Ringgold Police Department, Catoosa County Sheriff’s Department, and the Department of Family and Chil-dren’s Services continued to investigate the incident, interviewing Higgenbottom twice before eventually dropping the investigation.
Dr. James died in 2004.
In 2007 the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Department reopened the case after a child welfare worker came forward with concerns about the infant’s death.
In June 2007, Sperry issued a revised opinion of the autopsy report, which concluded that that the child’s death should have been ruled a homicide.
On Aug. 30, 2007, Higgenbottom was arrested for murder. He was released on bond two weeks later.
In April 2009, a grand jury indicted Higgenbottom for murder, cruelty to children, and aggravated battery, with a trial set for September 2009.
Shortly thereafter, Higgenbottom requested a postponement of his trial and it was pushed back to March 2010.
In February 2010, Higgenbottom filed a motion to have the indictment dismissed on the grounds that he had not been provided the right to a speedy trial. The court denied the motion and Higgenbottom appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court.
In January 2011, the Georgia Supreme Court sent the case back due to insufficient findings regarding the lack of a speedy trial claim.
In June 2011, both councils presented oral arguments to the Georgia Supreme Court in the defense’s appeal to have the indictment dismissed.
On Nov. 29, 2011, the Georgia Supreme Court announced its denial of the June appeal.
The defense argues that Higgenbottom is already at a disadvantage due to the prejudice created as a result of the lengthy delays in the case. It also claims that his due process rights have been violated as a result of the lack of a speedy trial and the withholding of evidence on the part of the state.
“The state has continually drug its feet in this case and has hoarded evidence,” Dunn stated during June’s hear-ing.
Lookout Mountain assistant district attorney Alan Norton stated in June that the delays that have taken place in the case are not uncommon in cases that go to court years after the incident and contends that Higgenbottom’s due process rights have not been violated.
“The state will prove that, in anger, the defendant picked up the baby and infected cranial damage, resulting in the death of the child,” Norton stated in June.
As it stands now, the case remains in the jurisdiction of the Georgia Supreme Court.
In the coming weeks, should the defense chose not to pursue a motion for reconsideration, the case could be turned back over to the jurisdiction of the Catoosa County Superior Court, which could then set a trial date for the case.
The soonest the case would go to trial would be three months from now, in March 2012.
“We feel that we have a strong case,” Dunn said Tuesday evening. “If the case moves to trial, we’re pre-pared for that, and we will proceed accordingly.”