Deputies not naming suspect after missing mother found dead in abandoned car

Jena Nicole Higgins found dead day after crash

WHITEWATER TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Deputies say they know the identity of the driver in a crash that killed a missing 29-year-old mother of four Sunday.

Jena Nicole Higgins was found dead at about 2 p.m. Monday in the passenger seat of an abandoned 1970 Pontiac LeMans sedan along the side of Cilley Road in Whitewater Township. She was reported missing hours earlier by her mother Julie Ramage in Colerain Township.

Investigators determined the car had been traveling westbound on Crilley Road at a high speed early Sunday morning when its driver lost control and struck a utility pole and tree.

Deputies say they are not releasing the driver's identity until prosecutors determine charges.

Ramage said she is in disbelief someone could leave her daughter alone to die after the crash.

"I'm hoping and praying that she didn't lay there and suffer for a day and a half," she said.

Two family members searching for Higgins found her while scouting the 10000 block of Cilley Road Monday afternoon.

“They had heard the vehicle was left in the stretch of road, found the vehicle and contacted us,” Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Lt. Tom Butler said.

The sedan was found in very thick foliage about 30 feet south from the roadway, making it difficult to spot. The vehicle, still jammed into the utility pole, was severely damaged. Investigators said they believe Higgins died from injuries sustained in the crash. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Ramage said her daughter is leaving behind four boys, ranging from 2 to 10 years old.

"(The driver) stripped her life. These boys, all four boys... taken away forever," Ramage said. "She was a good mom... She would have gave her life at any moment for them just like I would have gave my life for her.”

Authorities said the driver of the car left the scene and they believe alcohol and drugs were a factor.

Higgins left a bar with an acquaintance in Cleves Saturday night, officials said. It was the last time anyone heard from her.

Ramage said she wants to know more about the circumstances surrounding Higgins' death.

"I don't know if somebody inside knew (the driver), or she's met him before and thought it was all okay," she said. "But it turned out not okay."

Cilley Road was closed for several hours Monday while deputies investigated. Higgins' body was removed by the county coroner just before 5:30 p.m.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Traffic Safety Unit is asking anyone with information in this case to call 513-825-1500.

WCPO reporter Amy Wadas and Web Editor Holly Pennebaker contributed to this report.


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