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8:53 AM Fri, Sept. 21st

DeMocker trial: Mystery DNA identified

Steven DeMocker

Steven DeMocker

PRESCOTT - The DNA found on fingernail clippings of the victim in the murder trial of Steven C. DeMocker has been identified as being that of a man who may have died prior to or shortly after Carol Kennedy, according to documents obtained by the Courier.

The results may substantiate claims by the prosecution that the nail clippers used by the medical examiner were contaminated.

The prosecution in the DeMocker trial on Monday asked Judge Warren R. Darrow to order the Chino Valley Medical Center and the Yavapai Regional Medical Center to release the medical records of Ronald Lloyd Birman, who, the document said, "has been identified as the major donor of the DNA profile, previously unknown" by the Department of Public Safety's crime lab.

A Chino Valley Police report said that Birman, 68, was found dead in his home about 7 a.m. on July 3, 2008, after a neighbor called 911 because he was concerned about Birman's health.

The neighbor said he had last seen Birman the day before, July 2, around 8:30 a.m., and reported that he was pale, but had answered the door, bleeding from a chest wound.

Birman had had heart surgery and had gone to the Yavapai Regional Medical Center for a follow-up on June 30.

The Yavapai County Medical Examiner, Dr. Philip Keene, did an autopsy and determined Birman bled to death after an arterial graft failed.

DeMocker is accused of beating to death Kennedy, his ex-wife, on July 2, 2008.

Birman, whose DNA was found under the one of the fingernails of Carol Kennedy's left hand, has been called "Mr. 603," a reference to the trial evidence exhibit number.

This DNA sample has been used by the defense to assert that someone else killed Kennedy and that she fought back; the defense has argued - and a prosecution witness has conceded - that there is no direct evidence, such as DeMocker's DNA, blood or fingerprints, to tie him to the attack or even having been in Kennedy's home.

The timing of the Birman's death will play a crucial role in DeMocker's retrial, as will the existence of DNA on Kennedy's body from what appears to be a totally unrelated person, which may point to contamination at Keene's office, as previously reported in the Courier.

Kennedy's fingernail contained DNA from three people, one "major" profile and two "minor" profiles. The DNA test results are believed to refer to the "major" profile, according to testimony quoted in the Courier.

On Aug. 24, 2010, Dr. Keene testified under examination by Deputy County Attorney Joseph C. Butner III that the clippers used to trim Kennedy's nails for evidence had not been sterilized.

The prosecution says in the motion that it wants to "corroborate the findings of the DPS crime lab."

Because a gag order has been imposed on the trial, neither side was able to speak about the motion or the identification made by DPS.