Big Lee, left; Wayne Higgins

Lee "Big Lee" Martin, left (via Facebook); Wayne Higgins (via JPSO)

A Jefferson Parish grand jury on Thursday indicted Wayne Higgins on a charge of second-degree murder in the shooting death of his neighbor in front of their adjoining Bonnabel Boulevard homes in May.

Higgins, 78, faces an automatic life sentence if convicted of murder in the death of well-known towing company operator Lee "Big Lee" Martin. The two men had been feuding for years. 

Judge Stephen Grefer of 24th Judicial District Court kept Higgins' bail at $500,000 at the request of District Attorney Paul Connick's office. Prosecutors can seek bail as high as $750,000 for second-degree murder.

Higgins, who is being held in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center, had previously failed to convince a court commissioner to lower his bail to $240,000, arguing the real estate his family was offering to put up as collateral wasn't being assessed at its actual value.

Prosecutors argued successfully that bail is set based on various factors related to the crime, including flight risk and the weight of the evidence against the defendant.

Higgins was captured on home surveillance cameras stepping out of his truck on the morning of May 5, pulling out a .380-caliber handgun and firing a single shot into Martin's chest.

Sheriff's Office Detective Kurt Zeagler testified earlier this month that cameras at both men's homes showed footage of Higgins getting angry at Martin for blowing yard debris into the street.

Later, when Higgins backed out of his driveway, Martin squirted his truck with the garden hose he was using at the time. When Higgins rolled down his window and the two exchanged words, Martin squirted the truck again, possibly getting Higgins wet.

Zeagler said Higgins got out of the car, took his gun out of a fanny pack and shot Martin. Higgins then unloaded the gun and put it in his truck, moved the truck and went inside his house.

Martin can be seen trying to use his cellphone while walking across the yard, only to collapse on the side of his house, Zeagler said.

Neighbors said that Martin and Higgins were known to argue often. Higgins' attorney, Roger Jordan, has argued that the shooting was a direct result of a long-running dispute and that manslaughter would be a more appropriate charge.

The case was allotted to Judge Donald Rowan, who will preside over all pretrial hearings and the trial.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.