Man sentenced to life behind bars for killings of mother, stepfather

Crime Watch

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A man who gunned down his mother and stepfather following a night of drinking was sentenced Thursday to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Judge John R. Brownlee handed down a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 75 years to life for Derek Connell, found guilty last month of second-degree murder in his mother’s death and first-degree murder in the death of his stepfather.

Judge John R. Brownlee sentenced convicted murderer Derek Connell to life behind bars on Thursday in the deaths of his mother and stepfather.

In imposing sentence, Brownlee noted Connell tried to clean the crime scene, was leaving the house where the shootings occurred when police arrived and was emotionless when interviewed by detectives. Also, Connell sent video of the bodies to a relative in Scotland.

During a two-week trial, the prosecution said Connell, an Iraq War veteran, shot and killed his mother, Kim Higginbotham, and stepfather, Chris Higginbotham at their northwest Bakersfield home. Both were 48.

The defense argued Connell killed his stepfather after the other man shot and killed his mother, and Connell testified he suffered years of sexual abuse by Chris Higginbotham.

On April 30, 2016, Connell said, he finally told his mother about the abuse. When she confronted his stepfather, an argument ensued and Chris Higginbotham killed her, Connell told the jury.

He testified he then shot and killed Chris Higginbotham.

Prosecutor Marcus Cuper told the jury Connell, who previously admitted to lying to investigators, spun yet another lie regarding the allegations of abuse and his stepfather killing his mother.

Cuper has said the motive behind the killings remains unknown.

Officers dispatched to the home found Chris Higginbotham dead with gunshot wounds to his neck, chest and shoulder. Kim Higginbotham, a teacher with the Delano Union School District, was found dead with a gunshot wound to her chest in another part of the house.

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