Two sisters testify in sex abuse case

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Two sisters on Monday recounted to a jury how a close family friend sexually abused them dozens of times over a period of years.

The girls, now 12 and 13, said that they would visit David Higginbotham’s home in Marshall often in the summertime, and that the abuse started when they were in third and fourth grades.

The girls, whose names are being withheld, described the alleged abuse in similar fashion — that it began when Mr. Higginbotham took them into his office to play computer games. He would have them sit on his lap, they testified, and then he began to touch them.

The abuse, they continued, also occurred in his swimming pool, in his bed, and in one instance described by the older girl, at a school chorus concert, and later in his car.

Mr. Higginbotham, 62, of Marshall is charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, statutory sexual assault, unlawful contact with a minor and related charges.

His trial began Monday before Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel and will continue today.

The girls went to their mother with the allegations in November.

“He told us if we told, we would also go to jail, and that scared us,” the younger girl testified. She said the sisters finally told their mother because “We were tired of it happening.”

The older girl testified that she made a list of things Mr. Higginbotham did to her in August of 2013, and when her sister told her mother, she gave her mom the list, too.

When asked why she made the list, she said, “Because I didn’t want to forget.”

Although several incidents described by the girls were similar, their testimony differed on one in particular.

They both described taking a shower together in the Higginbothams’ master bedroom. The younger girl said that Mr. Higginbotham watched the girls through the doorway while sitting on the bed, and that while he asked them to touch each other, the girls did not.

The older girl, however, said that the defendant was in the bathroom with them during the shower, and that when he told them to touch each other, they did.

Throughout her opening statement, assistant district attorney Lee Goldfarb reiterated to the jury that the girls’ testimony, alone, is enough to convict Mr. Higginbotham.

“I can count on one hand the number of cases I’ve had when I have a child who is assaulted and immediately goes to the police,” she said. Typically, incidents like those occur “in secret, in the dark, in a private room with no one else around.”

But defense attorney Phil DiLucente discounted the prosecution’s case, promising the jury Mr. Higginbotham would testify.

“There’s no dark secret rooms,” Mr. DiLucente said. “I’m going to give you a lot more evidence.”

He described his client, who owns an ice cream shop in McCandless, as having grown up poor in southern Mississippi before joining the U.S. Naval Academy on a football scholarship.

Mr. Higginbotham served for 10 years, he continued, and serves as a deacon in his church.

Paula Reed Ward:, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter: @PaulaReedWard.


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