URBANA — A Decatur man is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to federal charges for his role in a gas station robbery and the subsequent murder of his getaway driver because he feared she would talk to police. 

Prosecutors said Matthew J. Higgins-Vogt, 25, admitted that he had shot and killed Paige Mars, 19, on April 5, 2015, murdering her execution-style in a wooded area near the Sangamon River just south of Greenwood Cemetery. She had been the driver during a shotgun robbery April 3, 2015, of the Circle K convenience store, 1685 South Baltimore Avenue in Decatur.

Higgins-Vogt pleaded guilty Monday in Federal Court in Urbana to conspiracy to commit a “Hobbs Act” robbery and committing the Hobbs Act robbery. The Hobbs Act is a federal statute covering robbery that interferes with interstate commerce. The murder of Mars is seen as being part of that conspiracy, said Sharon Paul, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Higgins-Vogt also admitted brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence and being a felon in possession of a weapon. He is due to be sentenced March 5, 2018, and faces up to 20 years on each of the Hobbs Act charges. Brandishing a firearm carries a mandatory seven year to life sentence that must be served consecutive to any sentence imposed for violent crime. Higgins-Vogt could also be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Paul said the evidence showed the two men had conspired to commit the robbery together and also conspired again to kill, with Higgins-Vogt the trigger man. “They met to discuss the possibility that Paige Mars might alert law enforcement and they conspired to kill her,” she said.


Staff Writer

Courts and public safety reporter for the Herald & Review.

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