In an explosive development, the deputy county attorney prosecuting Steven DeMocker for murder disclosed that DeMocker's former girlfriend said that DeMocker wrote an anonymous e-mail claiming that a gang of hit men killed his former wife.
Carol Kennedy, 53, died on July 2, 2008, after a brutal bludgeoning in her Williamson Valley home. As she talked on the phone long distance with her mother, Carol Kennedy suddenly said, "Oh, no," and the call ended. After Ruth Kennedy subsequently could not reach her daughter, she asked the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office to check her condition. A deputy looking in the window of a back bedroom at Kennedy's Bridle Path home saw her body in a pool of blood.
DeMocker, 56, now on trial for first-degree murder, told detectives that he'd been riding his mountain bike that evening along a trail near Granite Mountain. Prosecutors claim that bicycle tire tracks and footprints link DeMocker to the area of Kennedy's house.
The anonymous e-mail that detectives traced to an Internet café in Phoenix came to the inbox of DeMocker's defense lawyer, John Sears, in June 2009. The sender, now alleged to be Charlotte DeMocker, then 17, also tried to send it to Deputy County Attorney Joseph C. Butner III, but had an incorrect e-mail address for him.
In April, arguing for the admission of the e-mail at trial, Sears said that Kennedy's tenant, James Knapp, who suffered from cancer, might have been the target of a prescription drug ring, which led hit men from Phoenix to come to Williamson Valley to kill him. Knapp, who was out babysitting the evening Kennedy was slain, died in January 2009 of a gunshot wound to his chest. The medical examiner ruled his death a suicide.
While Superior Court Judge Thomas B. Lindberg, then handling the case, ruled the e-mail could be admitted as evidence of third-party culpability, Judge Warren R. Darrow reversed Lindberg in a recent decision. That led Sears to file a motion last week asking Darrow to reconsider his ruling so the e-mail could be used as evidence.
At a June 3 hearing concerning the e-mail, Sears said, "There are inherent details inside this e-mail that even the investigator conceded show that the person had some degree of familiarity with the inside of the victim's home beyond what was available in the public record. There are aspects of the allegations in this e-mail that are consistent with our investigation of the physical injuries suffered by Carol Kennedy."
And in a motion, Sears wrote, that the e-mail "contains a detailed description of how and why the murder was committed...and describes a very detailed sequence of events. The e-mail mentions that Ms. Kennedy was in a back bedroom and on the telephone. The e-mail describes two weapons used and what happened to the weapons. The e-mail discusses scene 'staging' which has been alleged by the state at trial."
On Monday Butner, who previously fought to keep the e-mail out of the trial, reversed course, asking to be allowed to use the e-mail in the state's case. DeMocker's former girlfriend, Renee Girard, gave a statement to detectives Monday saying that DeMocker "prepared the language of the e-mail, showed a handwritten version of the e-mail to (her) during a jail visit prior to June 19, 2009, and then (he) gave the dictated e-mail to his minor daughter, Charlotte DeMocker, with instructions to go to Phoenix and send it from an untraceable location."
"This e-mail now constitutes a statement and confession by the defendant," Butner said in the motion. At an earlier hearing, Butner said that DeMocker told detectives, during an interview after the e-mail surfaced, that he heard the claims made in the e-mail through vents at the Yavapai County Jail in Camp Verde. Although detectives interviewed other inmates, they could not find the prisoner who might have spoken to DeMocker through the vent.
When she's called as a witness, testifying under a grant of immunity, Girard will buttress the state's case. This spring she led detectives to a waterproof getaway bag with clothing and a cell phone that DeMocker hid next to the 8th hole at Hassayamapa golf club, within walking distance from the Alpine Meadows Lane condominium where he lived.
According to previous testimony, DeMocker said that wind blew a mysterious golf club cover that detectives spotted on a shelf in DeMocker's garage into Girard's car. When officers came to retrieve the cover, after an autopsy revealed that a golf club might have served as the murder weapon, it had disappeared. After DeMocker's October 2008 arrest, Sears turned the golf club cover over to authorities.
Also, Butner filed a request asking Darrow to allow a cell phone expert to testify via Skype video link because the U.S. Department of Defense sent the man on a mission to aid the armed forces in Afghanistan. While unable to physically be in court, the video link would allow him to testify remotely.
Darrow held a closed-door hearing with the lawyers Tuesday and the trial may resume on Thursday. DeMocker, who remains in custody in lieu of $1 million bond, could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.