A houseful of rodents and insects, and a lack of food and utilities is no place for a child to grow up.

But, according to testimony from Derek Arnold’s siblings that was the life they endured as children.

“We would have to check our cereal in the morning for roaches before we could eat,” younger brother Adam Collier told jurors Friday. “They would fall from the ceiling and crawl on us. It sounds kind of weird, but we got used to it.”

Derek Arnold was convicted Wednesday of murdering Michael Nolen Yarbrough, Catoosa.

During testimony Friday, Arnold’s sister Katrina Arnold and Collier spoke of a less than perfect childhood, which eventually found Arnold in foster care.

“He was picked on as a kid by kids at school, almost everyday,” Katrina Arnold told jurors. “He was beat up on ... one kid poked him in the eye with a stick.”

Troubles at school weren’t the only problems Arnold endured as a child.

After several failed relationships and marriages, Arnold’s mother had deteriorated mentally. According to Arnold’s sister, her mother would often talk to a ghost, and would stay in her bedroom for days at a time.

The home itself was in bad condition, she said.

“(The house) was horrid. The refrigerator had mold and mildew in it. Bugs crawling all over. Nothing to eat inside it,” Katrina said. “The sink was full of dishes and roaches crawling everywhere, and there were mice. The house smelled like sewage because the plumbing backed up in the bathroom.

“We didn’t always have electric or water. We would eat with friends. We had to fend for ourselves.”

Collier said the home would have been “condemned by the city,” and that he and Derek would often go to a neighbor’s house to “steal food.”

“We would go over to the neighbor’s and one of us would do favors for him while the other went through the refrigerator and stole food,” Collier told jurors. “The favors were touching him or letting him touch us.”

When Arnold became a teenager, he and a brother were removed from his mother’s home by officials because she had left them alone. Arnold was placed in several institutions before making a home in foster care, according to testimony.

Arnold’s mother died in November 2001, which “devastated and crushed him,” his sister said.

“He couldn’t attend the funeral because he said he couldn’t handle it,” Katrina Arnold told jurors.

It was then that Katrina said she found out about Arnold’s meth use.

“It was at Christmas and I could tell he was using meth,” she said. “He looked strung out, talking non-stop, eyes glazed, sweaty.”

Katrina added that when she encountered Arnold again in June/July 2002, she didn’t recognize him.

“He had lost like 50 or 75 pounds, and I didn’t even recognize him,” she said. “I later found out he was injecting meth.”

Collier, who used meth with Derek for several years, said following the death of their mother, the meth use got worse.

“That made the drug use worse,” he said. “Derek would take drugs, meth and pills, and drink to not feel anything.”

In July 2002, the month of the murder, Derek Arnold became homeless, according to testimony, and went from using “about a gram a day to two to three grams a day, at least,” Collier said.

Arnold’s family has stood by him during this case, Collier added, and still love him “very much.”

“I love my brother very much. I don’t want to see him die.

“If I could trade places with him, I would — in a heartbeat.”

Derek Arnold faced the death penalty, but was given life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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