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Trial date set for ex-Playgirl model accused in beating death of Jason "Cowboy" Huggins

(Editor's note: San Diego Gay & Lesbian News has been monitoring the criminal case against Joshua James Larson, who is accused in the 2011 brutal beating death of Jason “Cowboy” Huggins, a popular figure in San Diego’s LGBT community.)

SAN DIEGO – A former Playgirl cover boy accused of killing a popular member of San Diego’s LGBT community is now scheduled to go on trial on Wednesday, Sept. 5.

Joshua James Larson, 38, has been charged with murder, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the beating death of Jason “Cowboy” Huggins. Larson faces 25 years to life if convicted, according to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office.

Larson was the featured model on the cover of a monthly edition of Playgirl in 2001. Hillcrest residents who know Larson say that he was living with his girlfriend at the time of the slaying, and knew the man who was beaten to death. Those interviewed asked that their names not be published out of safety concerns.

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

Cowboy was a beloved member of San Diego’s LGBT community. The tall and lanky man was a fixture in the Hillcrest and North Park gayborhoods, wearing his trademark cowboy hat, leather boots and big belt buckle. He was known to always have a smile on his face, regardless of his circumstances as a homeless man living with HIV.

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

Peter Will has been appointed as Larson’s defense counsel. Attempts to reach Will have been unsuccessful.

Judge Theodore Weathers has been assigned the Larson case. Larson faces three hearings leading up to his felony jury trial in September:

* Friday, May 4, “further proceedings” in Larson case

* July 20, a felony readiness conference

* Aug. 28, a felony other motion hearing

All court dates will be held in Dept. 39 at San Diego Superior Court’s Central Division at the downtown County Courthouse.