In the wake of a revelation that murder defendant Steven DeMocker may have authored an anonymous e-mail, a deputy county attorney filed a petition asking the court to grant immunity to his daughter.
The trial for DeMocker came to a standstill this week after DeMocker's former girlfriend, Renee Girard, gave an interview to detectives saying that DeMocker dictated the contents of the e-mail to his daughter Charlotte, then 17. Girard told detectives that he showed her a handwritten version of the e-mail during a jail visit.
She also related that Charlotte allegedly sent the e-mail in 2009 to defense lawyer John Sears from an untraceable account at an Internet café in Phoenix, according to court papers. The same e-mail sent to Deputy County Attorney Joseph C. Butner III, who is handling the case, had an invalid address.
Prosecutors charged DeMocker, 56, with first-degree murder in the beating death of his former wife, Carol Kennedy, 53.
The e-mail told a story about a gang of thugs from a prescription drug ring who had come to Williamson Valley to carry out a hit on Kennedy's tenant but killed Kennedy instead. That tenant, James Knapp, who suffered from cancer, died of a gunshot wound to the chest in January 2009. The medical examiner ruled Knapp's death a suicide.
Charlotte DeMocker, 18, and a college freshman, testified in June about the heart-wrenching night when her mother died. Charlotte, who lived with her father in his Hassayampa Country Club condominium, said she had been hanging out with her boyfriend that afternoon and evening. She said that DeMocker told her when he got home from work that he would be riding his mountain bike but she had not paid much attention. Charlotte told Yavapai County Sheriff's officers that her dad had ridden on a trail near the condominiums. DeMocker, who gave a videotaped statement, said that he was riding on a trail near Granite Mountain off Love Lane and had a flat tire on his bike.
Also, Charlotte couldn't reach DeMocker by cell phone and finally at 9:30 p.m. she went to a grocery store to get some food for dinner. When she got back from the store DeMocker was in the shower.
Charlotte became concerned about her mother after learning from her father that Kennedy's mother and brother had been trying to reach her that evening. Charlotte and her boyfriend then drove out to Kennedy's house on Bridle Path with DeMocker on the phone, she said. When an officer told her that her mother died, she burst into tears and dropped the phone. Her father hadn't wanted to come with her, she said, because he thought her mother might be on a date.
Now Butner wants to recall Charlotte to the witness stand and asked Superior Court Judge Warren R. Darrow to grant her "use immunity" to testify again.
That immunity would prevent Charlotte from being prosecuted because of "any information directly or indirectly derived from such testimony or evidence," that she "gave answer or produced evidence under court order." However, Charlotte might still be subject to charges of perjury if she failed to answer questions truthfully, the petition said.
In his filing, Butner added that her testimony "is indispensable in the interests of justice and Charlotte DeMocker has refused to testify or is likely to refuse to testify or provide other information on the basis of her privilege against self-incrimination."
Defense lawyers declined to comment about Butner's request to grant immunity to Charlotte. Charlotte's lawyer, Christopher Dupont, could not be reached for comment late Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, a judge previously granted immunity to Girard for her upcoming testimony. This spring Girard led detectives to a waterproof bag containing clothing and a cell phone hidden on the golf course near DeMocker's condominium.
Whether the e-mail can be admitted as evidence has been the subject of much argument among the lawyers. DeMocker's lawyer, Sears, had argued that the e-mail should be admitted to show that someone else might have killed Kennedy while Butner opposed it. Now Butner is the one asking to be able to show the e-mail to the jury.
Butner alleges that DeMocker killed Kennedy by striking her with a golf club for financial reasons to avoid paying $6,000 per month alimony. The couple also disputed a portion of a retirement account.
The trial is expected to continue on Tuesday.