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New Richmond graduate grieves the death of her boss in wake of Tucson tragedy

This was taken just before Christmas in court chambers. Pictured (left to right) is Katy (Cody) Higgins, certified legal assistant/judicial assistant; Chief Judge John M. Roll; and Barbara Wentz, assistant judicial assistant.

When New Richmond graduate Katy (Cody) Higgins heard the news that U.S Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had been shot on Jan. 8, she immediately tried calling her boss to tell him to turn on the television.

She couldn't get through to him. It turns out that United States District Court Chief Judge John M. Roll, whom Higgins had worked for since 1991, was at the scene of the Tucson, Ariz. attack and had been killed by the gunman.

"I was trying to call the judge on his mobile," Higgins said in a telephone interview on Monday. "I couldn't get through to him."

Within minutes of her first call, Higgins received confirmation from the U.S. Marshal that Roll was dead.

"I called his wife and went right over to his house," she said.

Since Roll's death, Higgins has been extremely busy helping the family plan for the funeral and other ceremonies.

"It's been very busy," she said. "I've been working with Mrs. Roll doing whatever she needed."

On Monday, Higgins was getting some much needed rest thanks to the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday.

"It's really been the worst week, and it's not over," she said through tears. "I'm very tired."

Higgins and her husband, Tom, know the Roll family very well.

"We've known them for over 30 years," she said. "Our children went to the same Catholic grade school and high school with their children."

Higgins, the daughter of Ed and Leonette Cody, was born and raised in New Richmond along with her five brothers and two sisters. She was the 1965 Miss New Richmond.

In 1977, she moved with her family to Tucson and has lived there since.

Higgins said she gets back to New Richmond often.

"We're back there once or twice a year, for weddings and other things," she said.

When Roll, 63, was appointed to the federal bench in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush, Sr., Higgins accepted the job as his judicial administrative assistant. In her job, Higgins helped the judge manage his schedule and keep on top of the heavy caseload in his federal court chambers.

The Tucson court is among the top three busiest federal courts in the country, due to numerous cases involving the transportation of drugs and illegal immigrants across the border from Mexico.

Roll previously served as an Arizona Court of Appeals and state trial judge He previously worked as a county and state prosecutor. In 2006, Roll was named Chief Judge for the District of Arizona.

Higgins said she awaits word about where she will be reassigned due to the death of her boss. She may be reassigned to assist Roslyn Silver, Arizona's newly appointed chief judge.