BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Iraq War veteran Derek Connell was molested and raped for years by his stepfather, a man “obsessed” with violence who kept 14 guns in his bedroom, an attorney said Monday.
On April 30, 2016, Connell shot and killed his stepfather after the older man fatally shot Connell’s suicidal mother, Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman said during his opening statement in Connell’s murder trial.
“This is a case about secrets, family secrets, terrible secrets,” Cadman told the jury.
Connell, 33, faces life without parole if found guilty of the two counts of first-degree murder with which he’s charged.
Prosecutor Marcus Cuper told jurors Connell shot and killed both his parents and should be found guilty.
He said police dispatched to Connell’s family’s home on Lily Pad Court in northwest Bakersfield found him driving out of the garage. Officers stopped him and found several bottles of bleach inside the vehicle.
Upon entering the home, Cuper said in his opening statement, officers immediately encountered an overwhelming smell of bleach.
They found the body of Chris Higginbotham, 48, lying in a pool of blood with a mixture of blood and bleach surrounding him. He’d been shot three times, in the neck, chest and shoulder.
Kim Higginbotham, 48, a teacher with the Delano Union School District, was found dead with a gunshot wound to her chest in another part of the house.
Connell gave investigators a lengthy, detailed story of everything he did that day, Cuper said, and told police he arrived home to find his mother and stepfather dead.
Arrested on murder charges, Connell asked to speak with detectives a few days later. He told them his previous statement was a lie.
Connell said he’d been drinking heavily that day and was kicked out of a local restaurant. He returned home, fell asleep and when he woke up his parents were dead.
Cuper said Connell told investigators he probably shot them. He never said anything about being molested or his stepfather being violent.
Police were called to the house after a relative of Connell’s living in Scotland called them. She said Connell showed her the bodies of his mother and stepfather by using FaceTime.
A portion of the 911 call the relative made was played to the jury, the relative breaking down in tears as she describes seeing a the bodies.
Connell was born in Scotland and his case has received intense media attention overseas. A reporter with a Scottish newspaper was in court Monday.
The trial is expected to last until the end of February or early March.
Cameras were not allowed in court.