Steven DeMocker, the Prescott stockbroker accused in the brutal murder of his wife, Carol Kennedy, wiped tears from his eyes Thursday as the couple's oldest daughter, Katie, testified.
Calm and poised, Katie DeMocker, 22, the first witness called by the prosecution in the trial of her dad, said she'd been planning a trip to study abroad in South Africa shortly before her mother's death.
The jury saw a poignant picture taken of the daughters and their mother and another of them with their father at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport just before Katie boarded a plane.
When Katie looked back after clearing security, she said, "Dad had his arm around my mom, and my mom had her arm around my sister, and they were all waving to me." She also described a friendly family dinner just before, saying her parents got along although they divorced on May 28, 2008, just three months before Carol Kennedy died.
But in his opening argument, Deputy County Attorney Joseph C. Butner III described a more sinister situation. Butner told the jury that DeMocker killed Kennedy on July 2, 2008, at around 8 p.m. with a Callaway Big Bertha golf club that he'd dropped off at her Williamson Valley home for a garage sale.
While defense lawyer John Sears said DeMocker enjoyed sound finances at the time of his divorce, Butner cited a $6,000-per-month alimony payment in their out-of-court settlement, coupled with a dispute over surrendering part of a nearly $200,000 retirement account to his ex-wife, as the motive for the murder.
"He was running a monthly negative of $1,700 per month," Butner said.
In addition to the divorce with his wife, DeMocker also broke off his business and romantic relationship with another UBS stockbroker just before the killing. However, Sears argued, "He wasn't hurting for money."
"Oh, no!" Carol Kennedy exclaimed as she spoke on the phone to her mother in Tennessee just before the line went dead, Butner said. This prompted frantic calls from Ruth Kennedy to the Sheriff's Office and her former son-in-law about her daughter. An officer stopped by the house and saw the dead woman inside lying in a pool of blood.
Medical Examiner Dr. Philip Keene found Carol Kennedy had defensive wounds on her arms as she tried to fend off her attacker, Butner said.
"The fatal injuries to her skull completely fractured it," Butner said. "There were at least seven blows which caused her brain to be extruded." Keene said those injuries "were consistent with a golf club," Butner added.
When detectives searched DeMocker's condominium on Alpine Meadows, they found a set of golf clubs but also a golf club cover to a Big Bertha on a shelf. Later, after the autopsy findings, they returned but found the cover missing. Sears turned it in to sheriff's officers after his client's Oct. 23, 2008, arrest.
While DeMocker told detectives he'd been riding his mountain bike on a trail off Love Lane while someone attacked his wife, Butner alleged bicycle tire tracks near her Bridle Path home and shoeprints link DeMocker to the crime scene.
Butner also pointed out that DeMocker appeared ready to flee the area, buying books about how to live as a fugitive and secreting a bag of clothing on the Hassayampa golf course near his house.
Sears told a different story of an investigation by Yavapai County Sheriff's Officers that focused solely on DeMocker while ignoring other clues to the murder.
"It's always the husband," Sears said. As for the state's case, "They wrapped that story tighter and tighter so there's no air." But the prosecution lacks the murder weapon, an eyewitness and forensic evidence, Sears said. "They have circumstantial evidence presented in place of real evidence," he contended.
Sears suggested several people killed Kennedy, not his client.
Instead of retrieving DeMocker's DNA from under Carol Kennedy's fingernails, as might be expected had he been the killer, scientists found that of three unknown men, Sears said. Kennedy had been "very fastidious" about washing her hands, he said. And her mother heard water running just before the call broke off as Kennedy prepared a salad for her dinner. Also, investigators found neither DeMocker's blood nor fingerprints at Kennedy's house.
The lack of DNA "exonerates" DeMocker, Sears said. "If you take their wired-together story apart, you can see right through it."
Also, Thursday Superior Court Judge Thomas B. Lindberg ruled that the defense could introduce a mysterious e-mail sent to Sears claiming that members of a prescription drug ring murdered Kennedy. Those killers allegedly came to her home seeking a tenant in her guesthouse, James Knapp. Knapp died of a gunshot wound in January 2009 that was ruled a suicide.
In a related matter, the Yavapai County Attorney's Office withdrew a complaint against a Phoenix lawyer representing DeMocker's daughters over comments that lawyer made to the press.
The trial will continue today. DeMocker, who faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted, remains in custody in lieu of $2.5 million bond.