‘Horrific’: Florida man shoots girlfriend, plus roommate who tried to help, police say

Madeleine Marr
·2 min read

A woman tried in vain to save her housemate who was killed by her boyfriend in their home Sunday morning in the Central Florida city of Bartow, deputies said.

According to a police report from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Heather Rivenbark ran into Nicholette Higgins’ room, telling her she was afraid of her boyfriend, Christopher Pequeen.

Rivenbark, 41, said “she was scared that Pequeen, 33, was going to kill her and that he had held his hand over her nose and mouth so that she could not breathe,” the PCSO report said.

Rivenbark and Pequeen lived in the home with Higgins and her boyfriend, Michael Beam, who was also in the room with Higgins at the time.

The complaint says after Rivenbark took refuge in their room, she sat on the bed and began Googling how to get a restraining order. Suddenly, Pequeen burst in and shot her in the chest, authorities say.

You might be wondering what all the activity was in Bartow on Sunday. Here’s what happened: We received a 911 call in...

Posted by Polk County Sheriff's Office on Monday, November 9, 2020

After she was shot “multiple times,” Higgins stepped in front of her friend, attempting to shield her from further gunfire and was herself shot in the chest. The 39-year-old Florida woman was wounded and is in stable condition.

Beam, 41, said he then grabbed his girlfriend and ran to a neighbor’s home to call police.

Pequeen ran off but was soon caught. He was charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault.

The suspect has a long rap sheet with a history that includes charges of battery domestic violence, aggravated assault domestic violence with a deadly weapon, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and dealing in stolen property.

“This is an example of how horrific domestic violence can become,” Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said of Sunday’s incident. “Christopher Pequeen is a coward and a murderer. We will do everything we can to make sure justice is done in this case.”