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Former Playgirl model to face two court dates related to beating death of Jason "Cowboy" Huggins

(Editor's note: Since this story was published on Feb. 22, 2012, the San Diego County District Attorney's office has vacated the felony readiness conference scheduled for Feb. 24, and a spokesman said that the defendant signed a time waiver to give up his right to a speedy trial. So Friday's court appearance will be a status conference. The spokesman said that a status hearing has now been scheduled for March 5, at which time a trial date will be set.)

SAN DIEGO – The former Playgirl model accused in the brutal beating death of Jason “Cowboy” Huggins is scheduled to appear in court twice over the next two weeks.

Joshua James Larson, 37, is scheduled to appear at a felony readiness conference at 8:30 am Friday, Feb. 24, followed by a court date at 9 am Thursday, March 1. Both appearances will be at San Diego Superior Court’s Central Division at the downtown County Courthouse.

Larson has been charged with murder, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. He faces 25 years to life if convicted, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Attempts to reach Larson's defense counsel Peter Will were unsuccessful.

Hillcrest residents who know Larson say that he is a 2001 Playgirl cover boy who was living with his girlfriend at the time of the slaying. One acquaintance sent San Diego Gay & Lesbian News a photograph of the Playgirl cover on which Larson was featured, but asked not to be identified out of safety concerns.

Cowboy was a beloved member of San Diego’s large LGBT community. The tall and lanky man was a fixture in the Hillcrest and North Park gayborhoods, wearing his trademark cowboy hat, boots and big belt buckle.

On June 12, 2011, Larson is accused of bludgeoning Huggins in the head with a rock in a canyon near the 1300 block of Washington Street in Hillcrest, where the homeless Cowboy was living at the time. Community members organized vigils for Cowboy, but Huggins died two weeks later on July 6.

Prosecutors are expected to present a motive of revenge, because Huggins had testified against Larson during a criminal trial.

Huggins was born in Clarksville, Tenn., and was mostly raised by a grandmother. He moved to Garland, Texas, outside of Dallas, where he embraced the cowboy lifestyle. About a decade ago, he moved to San Diego, where he had his ups and downs.

SDGLN Staff Writer Ben Cartwright wrote the obituary for Higgins, noting that:

Friends say Huggins was homeless prior to his death, but was proud of who he was and loved living in San Diego.

"I am true cowboy from TN now living in sunny San Diego, CA," Huggins wrote on his Google.com profile page.

Huggins, who was very open about his life, also posted "I am gay and have HIV too."

In the "Bragging Rights" section of his profile Huggins said "[I] came out of the closet to all my redneck friends back in TN and was accepted because I am still a great friend that never overstepped my boundaries."

The brutality of the slaying of Huggins shocked San Diego’s LGBT community. Dozens of friends and relatives gathered at the hospital where Cowboy was taken after being found bloody from being repeatedly beaten in the head with a large rock. He died two weeks later surrounded by family members after doctors removed the life-support system.