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Sat, April 20

DeMocker's ex-girlfriend expected to testify for state

A murder trial that's had more ups and downs than a roller coaster screeched to a halt again Tuesday after lawyers met with Superior Court Judge Warren R. Darrow.

The trial for Prescott stockbroker Steven DeMocker had restarted July 21 after a five-week break because Superior Court Judge Thomas B. Lindberg collapsed in his chambers on June 17 and was rushed to the hospital. Lindberg, who subsequently had surgery for a brain tumor, is recovering at home and reportedly doing well.

Authorities charged DeMocker, 56, with murder in the brutal, bludgeoning death of his former wife, Carol Kennedy. Two detectives testified that DeMocker sparked their suspicions when he asked if he was a suspect after he drove out to the Williamson Valley house the night of Kennedy's death.

DeMocker, who lived in a Hassayampa Country Club condominium, told investigators that he'd been riding his mountain bike on trails along Granite Mountain on July 2, 2008, during the time his ex-wife died. However, no one saw him take that ride.

After a closed-door conference with the lawyers Tuesday, Judge Darrow told the jury that the trial was canceled for the week and scheduled to resume Aug. 11. Darrow did not disclose the reason for the postponement, but ascribed it to legal matters.

Darrow also reminded the jury not to discuss the case or read or listen to accounts in the news media.

After the jury left, defense lawyer Larry Hammond asked Darrow to tell the prosecution to expedite materials to be turned over to the defense. Darrow gave prosecutors until 5 p.m. to do that.

Meanwhile, The Courier has learned that Renee Girard, who was dating DeMocker at the time of the murder, recently wrote a letter to his family saying that she was breaking up with him. Prosecutors subsequently obtained a copy of that letter.

Previously, Deputy County Attorney Joseph C. Butner III said that Girard will testify for the state under a grant of immunity. Butner expects her to tell the jury about conversations that she had with DeMocker while he's been in custody and about a packed getaway bag that he hid near the eighth hole of the golf course, within walking distance of his house. At a pretrial hearing in April, Butner said that DeMocker and Girard spoke to each other in "a secret code" after his arrest in October 2008.

Butner alleges that DeMocker had a financial motive to commit the murder, since an out-of-court divorce settlement required him to pay $6,000 a month to Kennedy. Also, at the time of her death, Kennedy and DeMocker disagreed about an $8,000 portion of a retirement account. Conversely, defense lawyers argue that DeMocker had a good income as a stockbroker and could meet his obligations to his former spouse. Both sides plan to call financial experts to buttress their contentions.

Butner also will call on experts in bicycle and foot tracks to try to link DeMocker to the vicinity of Kennedy's house.

Detectives testified that they found bike tracks at the entrance of the Glenshandra trail that leads to the rear of Kennedy's house. They also said that they tracked footprints to her backyard. Defense lawyers dispute the significance of those tracks and point to a lack of DNA evidence to show their client was at the crime scene. Instead, forensic scientists found DNA from three unknown men beneath a fingernail.

The murder weapon, which authorities believe was a Callaway Big Bertha golf club, has never been found.

DeMocker had faced the death penalty until Lindberg dismissed two of three death penalty aggravators in response to untimely disclosure of evidence by the prosecution. Later, prosecutors dropped the remaining aggravator. DeMocker could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted. He remains in custody in lieu of $1 million bond.

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