In a hearing before Bartow County Superior Court Judge Scott Smith on Tuesday morning, Deandre Davoughin Hightower pleaded guilty in the 2012 murder of Candice Louise Piper.
Hightower was charged with murder, felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of false imprisonment. He was sentenced to life plus 30 years to serve in prison.
On Oct. 2, 2012, Piper returned to her 370 Old Mill Road apartment where Hightower and Rosa Williams were staying.
District Attorney Rosemary Greene said in her summary Tuesday that about 45 minutes after Piper returned Williams heard noises and the victim call her, saying, “Rosa, help me.”
“She went there to the door, proceeded to try to open it — the door was closed. She could hear movement inside the room; she proceeded to beat on the door, calling for her friend Ms. Piper,” Greene said. “At some point, Mr. Hightower opened the door. She could see into the bedroom and observed Ms. Piper with her hand to her throat and blood on her person and about the room.
“Mr. Hightower moved Ms. Williams out of the way, came into the living room, and Ms. Williams attempted at that point in time to make a run for the door to get out of the apartment. Before she could get to the door, Mr. Hightower grabbed her and she was forced to the ground.”
Greene continued, “She states the next thing she remembers he was on top of her with his hand on her throat and she could see a knife in his hand. She then heard Ms. Piper come out of the bedroom and stand there near the two of them. Ms. Piper diverted Mr. Hightower’s attention and she observed Mr. Hightower again reach back and stab Ms. Piper. At that point in time, she was able to get away from them and fled the apartment ...”
Hightower gathered his belongings and left the complex, dropping a knife outside the apartment door. Several residents followed Hightower to a wooded area, where one man held him at gunpoint until police arrived.
Greene said Piper was alive when Cartersville police arrived and told them “Andre Hightower” was responsible. She later died at the hospital.
Piper’s family was aware of Tuesday’s proceedings and agreed to the prosecution’s terms, Greene said.
Williams also addressed the court, asking why such an act had occurred.
“I don’t know that we will ever know the answer to that question,” Smith said.
Prior to entering his plea, Hightower’s attorney, Ed Dettmar, addressed the court.
“This has been a difficult case for me. I have gotten to know Mr. Hightower over the last year. I wish I had the answer ...,” he said. “... What happened that day is a shock to me and, I think, is a shock to him. ... I don’t think there is any indication he’s a violent person. Mr. Hightower, I don’t think has an explanation ...
“He regrets it, wishes he could take it back, but to his credit, he does take responsibility for his actions ... I wish we had an answer.”
— Staff writer Jason Lowrey contributed to this report.