Murder victims’ family faces daily struggle to copeWritten by Caitlin Bowling
To hear Diane Wiggins tell it, her little brother Scott Wiggins and little sister Christie Jones were spoiled, got away with everything and always caused trouble.
“It’s like they were always into something. I never got away with anything. You two got away with everything, especially Scott,” Diane said, sitting outside a Swain County courtroom with her sister last week.
The trip down memory lane was bittersweet. As they recalled good times from their childhood, they were haunted by the reality of what was playing out behind closed doors of the jury room. Wiggins was murdered, execution style, in a home invasion by thugs from Atlanta three years ago. As the two sisters reminisced, they were waiting for jurors to conclude a three-week trial and return with a verdict for one of the seven defendants allegedly involved in the robbery and shooting. They targeted his home because they believed he sold drugs.
When Scott was young, he threw rocks at his grandpa’s rooster, which retaliated by spurring him below the eye. But, he didn’t learn his lesson and ended up in the hospital after chucking rocks at a hornet’s nest.
Being 20 years his senior, Diane took on a more motherly role. She took her brother to basketball camp and took both her siblings to Disney World.
“I think I was more like a mother, “ Diane said. “I sent him to camp, and I did those sort of things with him.”
But, as he grew older, the relationship evolved into friendship. Diane even helped him build his house. In 1996, Scott built a home on the rural John Henderson Road on property that his father had given him. He asked Diane, who ran a cabinet business at the time, to build the cabinets for his new home and constantly called her for answers and advice.
“He about drove me nuts,” Diane said.
Christie Jones and Scott were only a few years apart and had the typical sibling love-hate relationship. But, when they weren’t fighting, they were thick as thieves. Jones described him as “funny,” “mischievous” and “adventurous.”
She recalled the times they would cart around the house in their miniature, battery-operated toy cars, one right after the other. And, despite the age difference, their mother used to dress both Jones and Scott alike whenever they were supposed to have their pictures taken.
“We used to be treated like twins,” Jones said. “If one got something, the other got something,” even not so good things like the chicken pox.
Both were still young when their father, Dave Wiggins Jr., served as Swain County Sheriff.
“They grew up in the back of the sheriff’s car,” Diane said.
Scott played basketball and football for Swain County High School before graduating in 1991. He loved NASCAR races, Jimmy Buffett, camping and horseback riding. Scott also had, what some would consider, a rather strange love — vacuum cleaners. In fact, he loved it so much that as a child that his family bought him a vacuum cleaner for Christmas.
Although he wasn’t big on hunting, Scott collected guns, in addition to Native American baskets. In college, he studied criminal justice and radiology.
Scott held down several and varied jobs through out his life. At one point, he worked at Harris Regional Hospital and his father’s company, Wiggins Oil Co. While still working for his father, he began working in the excavation business and flipping houses.
He lived in his personalized home with Heath Compton, 34. The two were in a long-term relationship, said Compton’s mother Linda, Mcburney. However, Compton was planning to move back to Virginia Beach to live with his family.
Similar to Scott, Compton was also outgoing, Diane said. He came to Western North Carolina to work as a whitewater rafting guide and teach skiing and snowboarding lessons at Cataloochee resort. Like Scott, Compton also loved animals. Collectively, they had a couple of Chihuahuas and a number of Labradors. They also shared a love of water. He and Scott would hang out on Fontana Lake in Compton’s houseboat.
Diane chuckled recalling one of Compton’s favorite pastimes — sitting on the couch, snuggled under a blanket, watching the Lifetime Movie Network.
“Scott would get so mad at him” because they usually had other plans, Diane said.
Then everything changed
Jones was on her lunch break from work when she first heard that something might be amiss. A neighbor had picked up correspondence on the police scanner, and her husband Eric wanted to know if he should pick her up from work. Figuring that it was nothing, she declined his offer but called her daddy, the former county sheriff.
He was the one to relay the news — intruders had busted into Scott’s house, stolen items and murdered him and Compton. Jones was in shock, not able to comprehend how or why it happened.
Only adding to the heartache was that fact that she would have to be the one to tell her big sister, Diane, who was working at Lowe’s when she received the call.
“I about passed out,” Diane said, adding that she couldn’t drive she was fraught with emotion.
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Even now, she will find herself suddenly breaking down while driving, and she cringes anytime she sees a murder on the news, knowing what those families are going through.
“We are scarred,” Diane said, adding she sometimes wakes in the middle of the night.
When Scott was murdered, nearly everything changed — and not just emotionally for the Wiggins family. His dad was forced to shut down the oil business because there was no one to drive the truck and deliver the product to customers. And, Scott’s house was rented. Though, Diane said she considered living there herself.
“I sort of wanted to move in it,” Diane said. “I just feel like I am closer to him there.”