BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Attorneys have finished their closing arguments and the case of a man charged with two counts of murder in the shooting deaths of his mother and stepfather is now in the hands of the jury.
Jurors began deliberating at 3 p.m. Monday in the trial of Derek Connell. They resume deliberations 9 a.m. Tuesday.
The jury has been asked to decide whether Connell shot and killed his mother and stepfather for reasons known only to him, or killed his stepfather after the other man — who he alleged molested him for years — fatally shot his mother.
The prosecution said Connell, 33, gunned down Chris and Kim Higginbotham, both 48, the night of April 30, 2016, at their home in southwest Bakersfield, and was caught while leaving the scene.
The evidence shows Connell was the killer, prosecutor Marcus Cuper said. He was caught leaving the house with empty bottles of bleach in his vehicle, he told multiple lies to police about what happened and, during one interview, told investigators he believed he committed the killings.
As for motive, that remains unknown.
“The murders of Chris and Kim are probably never going to be fully understood or explained,” Cuper said.
Connell was frequently in trouble, drank heavily and had moved back in with his mother and stepfather after serving a nine-month stint in jail, the prosecutor said. He wrote an apology letter to his family apologizing for what he’d done and blaming his actions on alcohol.
Cuper ended by asking the jury to return two guilty verdicts for first-degree murder.
Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman told jurors the killings occurred as a result of “monster” Chris Higginbotham’s molestation of Connell beginning when Connell was 10 years old.
Chris Higginbotham had told Connell he would harm his mother if he ever told anyone about the molestation. On the night of the killings, Cadman said, Chris Higginbotham followed through on that threat.
That night, Connell told his mother about the abuse he’d suffered, Cadman said, and when she confronted Chris Higginbotham about it, he killed her.
Following a struggle and the stepfather’s provocation of Connell by telling him he was better at sex than his mother, Connell shot the older man. He then poured bleach over his body. He hated his stepfather so much he planned on cutting the body up and delivering the pieces to Chris Higginbotham’s father, according to Cadman and court testimony.
Cadman called the police investigation “sloppy,” noting the first officer to clear the residence missed Kim Higginbotham’s body. He police also missed a bare footprint found near her body which the defense alleges was left by Chris Higginbotham when he shot her.
It’s never been determined who that footprint belongs to.
“If you think unanswered questions are important, that’s reasonable doubt,” Cadman said.
The public defender said he agrees with the prosecution that two murders occurred in this case. Chris Higginbotham murdered Kim Higginbotham, Cadman said, and through his molestation he murdered Connell’s soul.
“This is one screwed up human being, and it’s Chris Higginbotham’s fault 100 percent,” Cadman told the jury.
Connell faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if found guilty of both counts of first-degree murder.