DETROIT – A Detroit man was sentenced Wednesday morning in the murder of a 4-year-old girl and her mother which prompted an Amber Alert in February.
Marcus Hightower, 34, pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and one count of third degree arson. He was sentenced to 50 to 75 years in prison for the murders and 6 to 10 years for the arson.
Michigan State Police issued an Amber Alert for 4-year-old Savannah Walker on Feb. 20, who along with her mother, 39-year-old Heidi Lynne Walker, had been missing for several days.
Hours later, their bodies were discovered in an, abandoned, torched home in the 4700 block of Lakeview Street on Detroit’s east side.
Hightower turned himself in to police the next morning.
“I just want to make sure he’s held accountable for what he did,” Heidi Walker’s sister, Holly Cauchi, said.
Hightower spoke before sentencing and said that if he had been given a proper psychological evaluation when he was released from prison, the tragedy may never have happened. Hightower accepted responsibility for his crimes but said he was recently diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and that if it hadn’t gone unchecked and unmedicated, Savannah and Heidi Walker may still be alive.
“I accept full responsibility of my crimes,” Hightower said. “I ask the court to forgive me, and I ask for forgiveness from God and also my family.”
Mother, daughter go missing
Savannah and her mother were reported missing four days before their bodies were found in Detroit. Savannah’s older sister reported the two of them missing in Livingston County. They were residents of Howell.
The older sister told Local 4, she told police she believed her mother had been killed by someone.
“I told them about her on Tuesday and nothing was done until Friday,” the sister said.
Livingston County Sheriff Bob Bezotte told Local 4 a deputy responded to a 911 call Tuesday and advised the family member to file an Amber Alert with Michigan State Police, which is the only agency with authority to do so. The deputy was also able to locate the last activity of the missing woman’s cellphone—somewhere on Gratiot Avenue in Detroit. He told the family member to contact Ann Arbor police or Detroit police. It’s unclear if she did that before Friday.
Late Saturday afternoon, Bezotte defended his department, saying the deputy in charge began investigating immediately after receiving the report.
It was reported that Savannah and her mother were last seen with Hightower on Cadillac Boulevard in Detroit.
Allegations of abuse
The older daughter also detailed a history of abuse between her mother and Hightower. She says he bit her forehead on New Year’s Eve, leaving her bloodied. She also says he beat and choked her throughout their six-month relationship.
Police confirmed there was a history of domestic abuse between the mother and Hightower. Hightower has a history of criminal violence and is on parole for assault with intent to commit murder.
He was reportedly traveling in a black 2004 Ford Explorer with a Michigan license plate DFJ 5377 which was discovered on Detroit’s east side.
“You will not hide, you cannot hide,” Craig said. “We will find you.”
Saturday night, detectives combed through the home of Hightower's relative. Cadaver dogs were used to search for evidence Savanna or her mother had been there.
That home, on Cadillac Bloulevard and Kercheval Avenue, is less than three miles from where the body of the woman and child were discovered.