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Former McCandless ice cream shop owner convicted of sex charges

| Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, 9:54 a.m.

The former owner of a McCandless ice cream shop sexually abused two underage sisters during a five-year-period, mostly inside his Marshall home, an Allegheny County jury decided on Thursday.

The jury of seven men and five women found David F. Higginbotham, 62, guilty of a dozen counts, including two counts each of aggravated indecent assault of a child, unlawful contact with a minor and indecent exposure.

The jury acquitted Higginbotham of three charges, including one count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and two counts of statutory sexual assault. It deliberated for about nine hours during two days.

“Unlike other cases, any time you have a sexual assault type of case, it's very difficult for a jury,” said Higginbotham's lawyer, Phil DiLucente. “This has been a long struggle.”

DiLucente said he was pleased the jury acquitted his client of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, the most serious count that carried a mandatory 10 to 20 years in prison. The trial before Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel began on Monday. She will sentence Higginbotham on Nov. 13.

DiLucente said he plans to ask Assistant District Attorney Lee Goldfarb to waive the mandatory five to 10 years on each count of aggravated indecent assault of a child, and ask the judge to sentence Higginbotham to a total of three to six years in prison.

Police arrested Higginbotham at Handel's Homemade Ice Cream and Yogurt, a shop he owned in the McCandless Crossing shopping center, on Nov. 22, 2013, a week after the older sister told her parents about the abuse. The girl told them her sister also had been abused.

The Tribune-Review does not identify victims of sexual assault.

The sisters, now 13 and 12, testified how Higginbotham sexually abused them from 2008 until August 2013 in his home, swimming pool and vehicle, and at a school chorus concert. They cried as the jury foreman read the verdict, and left the courthouse immediately.

Higginbotham took the stand and denied the allegations. He showed no signs of emotion when the jury read the verdict.

DiLucente, who called the girls' testimony “inconsistent or illogical” during his closing argument, said he will talk to his client about an appeal.

Goldfarb said in her closing that although the girls contradicted themselves and each other at times, their words were credible.

Children, she said, “don't remember all the details. But they remember the things that scar them for life.”

Adam Brandolph is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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