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Press Release

Three Men Sentenced To Life In Federal Prison For Double Homicide—Murder For Hire Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida

Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Charlene E. Honeywell today sentenced Kermon Williams, a/k/a “The General” (42, St. Petersburg), James Higgs, Jr., a/k/a “Hammer” (40, St. Petersburg), and Jhaphre Higgs, a/k/a “Pre” (35, St. Petersburg) each to life in federal prison followed by 20 years’ imprisonment for a double homicide, murder for hire conspiracy. Williams, Higgs, Jr., and Higgs were found guilty by a federal jury on June 24, 2022.

According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Williams asked Jhaphre and James Higgs, Jr., to kill Tywan Armstrong, a rival drug dealer, who Williams saw as a threat to his drug business. Williams paid Jhaphre and James Higgs, Jr., with cash and drugs and gave them an AR-15 rifle to commit the murder. Jhaphre and James Higgs, Jr. made their first attempt on Armstrong’s life on September 22, 2018, shooting at him several times with an AR-15. Armstrong survived the first attempt on his life. Afterwards, Williams directed Jhaphre and James Higgs, Jr. to make the murder as public as possible to send a message on the street.

On January 21, 2019, Jhaphre and James Higgs, Jr., following William’s directive, opened fire on Armstrong’s car with an AR-15 and .40 caliber pistol in front of a large crowd of people gathered at a St. Petersburg gas station. The hail of bullets struck Armstrong 28 times, front passenger Roger Ford 11 times, and a rear passenger several times. Despite heroic efforts on the part of officers from the St. Petersburg Police Department and members of St. Petersburg Fire Rescue, both Armstrong and Ford died from their injuries.

All three defendants have previously been convicted of multiple felonies. Williams had previously been convicted of performing a lewd and lascivious act in the presence of a child under the age of 16. Jhaphre Higgs had previously been convicted of aggravated battery with possession of a firearm. And James Higgs, Jr., had previously been convicted of accessory after the fact to murder.

“This demonstrates how science – in this case, digital ballistics technology – can breathe life into violent gun crime cases,” said ATF Tampa Field Division Special Agent in Charge Craig W. Saier. “And despite the twist and turns over the course of the three-plus year investigation, we never gave up.”

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the St. Petersburg Police Department, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It was investigated and prosecuted by former Assistant United States Attorney Natalie Hirt Adams. The trial was conducted by Assistant United States Attorneys Craig R. Gestring and Charlie D. Connally.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.

Updated October 11, 2022

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Firearms Offenses