Preschool Teacher Mary Katherine Higdon, 24, Accused Of Murdering Her High School Sweetheart

Caution police tape
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A preschool teacher’s assistant accused of murdering her high school sweetheart has told investigators it was an accident. The 24-year-old contends the gun discharged as she handed it to her boyfriend.

Mary Katherine Higdon reportedly shot Steven Freeman, 23, in the chest at their Griffin, Ga., home last week. Police were called to the couple’s home at 10:42 p.m. where officers found Freeman with a single gunshot wound to his chest. He was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead, the Daily Mail reported.

Higdon, who most recently worked as a preschool teacher’s assistant at St. George’s Episcopal School in Griffin, reportedly told police she was in a back room of their home handling the gun, which accidentally went off as she handed it to Freeman, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

But the case’s lead investigator told local news channels that evidence found at the scene suggests there was intent to kill, prompting authorities to arrest her on charges of murder and possession of a firearm. The investigator said he couldn’t elaborate because the investigation is ongoing. However, police added that responding officers could smell alcohol on Higdon’s breath and that she was mumbling at the scene.

Police said Higdon kept telling officers she “didn’t understand what happened since she never kept a round in the chamber,” the Austin American-Statesman reported.

The couple had a history of police showing up on their front steps as authorities have been called on them at least five times just in the past year, including once for domestic violence, according to the Daily Mail. The other calls related to animal issues. A neighbor, identified as Jeanette Head by the Statesman, said the couple had been known to argue, but that no one could have predicted the tragic outcome.

“She was out on the porch with the police officers and she said, she was crying, ‘I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t mean to do it,'” Head said, according to the Statesman.

Higdon and Freeman had been together for seven years since high school and their families were close, often spending Christmas and other family occasions together, Freeman’s uncle said, as reported by the Statesman.

An obituary for Freeman described him as “a friend to everyone, especially if that friend loved fishing and hunting. He had a heart of gold, a bounce in his step, and a sweet Southern drawl,” it read, according to the Daily Mail.