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Jury deliberations underway in trial for man accused of killing his mother and stepfather in 2016

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Posted at 3:30 PM, Feb 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-11 11:03:23-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Jury deliberations are underway in the Derek Connell murder trial. Connell, 33, is facing two counts of murder in the 2016 shooting deaths of his mother and stepfather.

It was a bloody scene on April 30, 2016 when officers found Kim and Chris Higginbotham shot to death in their home on Lily Pad Court in Northwest Bakersfield. Police were alerted to the scene by Sonya Connell, Kim's sister, who told them her nephew Facetimed her saying the couple was dead.

When officers arrived, Derek Connell was found driving a vehicle out of the driveway with empty bleach containers in the back.

"He's the only person who can give us the answers we want to know," Prosecutor Marcus Cuper said.

Cuper argued during closing arguments Monday that Connell repeatedly lied to police during the investigation and therefor his testimony of what happened that night could not be trusted.

During the investigation, Connell was interviewed three separate times and each time, his story changed. Cuper pointed out that during the first interview Connell "swore to God" he was telling the truth.

"He has proven himself to be a compulsive liar again and again and again," Cuper said.

During the trial, Connell testified that his stepfather, Chris Higginbotham, molested him countless times from the time Connell was 10 to 14 years old. Connell testified that on the night of the killings, he told his mother about the abuse and she confronted Chris.

Connell said Chris then shot his mother and then went to find him. Connell said he hid in a closet hoping to surprise Chris, then a struggle ensued and he shot Chris.

Cuper argued that Connell's story of that night was "convenient" now that he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman, Connell’s attorney, told the jury that Cuper's arguments were "shameless."

Cadman argued that throughout the investigation and the trial, Connell has been re-victimized.

Cadman said police told Connell during interviews that he was a coward and questioned his manhood. "That's how your police department treats sexual assault victims," Cadman said.

The defense argued that everything Connell did at the time of the killings and throughout the investigation were "defense mechanisms" stemming from the sexual assault. Candman said that Connell had no friends, lived in a fantasy world, and self-medicated.

"Don't re-victimize him the way the People did," Cadman told the jury.

Cadman also argued that Connell had absolutely no reason to kill his mother. Kim Higginbotham was found with a single gunshot wound and a bare right footprint near her body. Chris Higginbotham was found with multiple gunshot wounds and missing his right shoe.

"If you think unanswered questions are important, that's reasonable doubt," Cadman said.