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.

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Staff Writer

Courts and public safety reporter for the Herald & Review.

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