In Prescott, Ariz., north of Phoenix, financier Steven DeMocker is accused of fatally bludgeoning his ex-wife with a golf club in 2008. In the years since the death of Carol Kennedy, the case has taken many strange turns, including the revelation that the proceeds from Kennedy’s $750,000 life insurance policy were used to pay her accused killer’s attorney’s fees.
Prosecutors believe that DeMocker’s brother, James B. DeMocker helped facilitate the use of the insurance money to pay the defense team. They also believe that James DeMocker was one of the last people to see a key witness in the murder case alive, before that witness died under very mysterious circumstances. The Yavapai County prosecutors want to interview James DeMocker and examine his records. But James DeMocker isn’t in Arizona. He’s in McLean.
So the prosecutors sought an order for James DeMocker to appear, and last month the Arizona judge signed and sent an order to Fairfax County Circuit Court, seeking DeMocker’s presence in Yavapai County. And on Friday, DeMocker appeared before Fairfax Circuit Court Judge R. Terence Ney, and Ney ordered him to go to Arizona on March 14.
DeMocker, 56, came to the Fairfax court without a lawyer, though he’d been given talking points by his attorneys in Arizona. He said those lawyers had “just received this new process yesterday,” though Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Gary E. Donahoe signed the certificate requesting the out-of-state witness on Feb. 22, court records show.
DeMocker asked for more time, to hire local lawyers and fight the subpoena, but Ney said that battle needed to be waged in Arizona.
After the hearing, I asked DeMocker why he didn’t want to go to Arizona. It’s warm, it’s dry, they’ve got good food, and he could visit his brother. He smiled, but said nothing. He politely declined to answer any questions.
Meanwhile, his brother’s second murder trial is coming up on March 26.. He’s already had one trial, partially, and that was one of only many sensational turning points in the trial. And into that swirling vortex now goes our man from McLean.
Carol Kennedy, 53, was an artist, teacher and psychotherapist. Her estranged husband was a stockbroker for UBS who, according to some reports, may have lost large sums of money for his clients. And in July 2008, he was scheduled to begin paying $6,000 in monthly alimony to his ex-wife. Kennedy was found dead July 2, 2008, and the killer tried to make it look like she’d fallen, police and prosecutors have said.
The couple had two daughters, one in high school and one in college.
Both believe their father is innocent. After Kennedy’s death, but before DeMocker’s arrest, the Hartford Insurance Company refused to pay DeMocker the $750,000 death benefit because he was a suspect. So DeMocker ceded the rights to the money to his daughters.
No physical evidence ties DeMocker to the homicide, prosecutors said, but he had been searching topics such as “how to make a homicide look like an accident” on the computer, and he made plans to flee while he was under investigation.
Prosecutors allege that once DeMocker was arrested in October 2008, his brother in McLean discussed ways to pressure his daughter into releasing the $750,000, and that James DeMocker “created and distributed letters, emails and detailed spread sheets tracking the insurance money from the trust to the attorneys,”Arizona court documents show.
Prosecutors initially sought the death penalty against Steven DeMocker, but later withdrew it after the family protested.
One of the key witnesses was expected to be a man named James Knapp, who lived in Kennedy’s guest house. In August or September of 2008, James DeMocker evicted Knapp from the guest house, prosecutors said. Several months later, Knapp was found dead with a gunshot wound to the chest. The medical examiner ruled it a suicide. Prosecutors said James DeMocker was “one of a few civilian witnesses who had personal contact with Mr. Knapp before his death.” They also said James DeMocker took over his brother’s finances after he was arrested.
Steven DeMocker went to trial in the fall of 2010. One of the early highlights there was an anonymous e-mail sent to defense lawyers, suggesting Knapp was the real murder target, and drug dealers wrongly killed Kennedy. But further investigation determined that the e-mail had actually been sent by Steven DeMocker’s teen daughter, dictated by DeMocker himself. A lowlight occurred when the trial judge collapsed in his chambers with a terminal brain tumor and had to be replaced.
Then without warning, DeMocker’s defense attorneys asked to withdraw from the case in the middle of the trial. And in November 2010, a mistrial was declared. Prosecutors said that one of the defense lawyers had kept a golf club cover for the possible murder weapon in his office; now they want to depose him too.
Bill Williams, who has been covering the case closely for Phoenix’s Examiner.com, said it has been cloaked in mystery due to the sealing of many court documents. Among his many articles is one examining Steven DeMocker’s apparent squandering of millions of dollars from his UBS clients, for which he was under investigation at the time of his ex-wife’s murder.
Can James DeMocker shed light on this complex mess? Yavapai prosecutors think so. His lawyers will probably continue to fight the subpoena. If they lose, the state of Arizona must pay DeMocker’s air fare and $15 (!) for “necessary and reasonable travel expenses at either end of the flight.”
Note: This post has been updated to reflect that Katherine DeMocker, the older daughter of Steven DeMocker, has not publicly stated her view on his guilt or innocence, according to her attorney, Melody G. Harmon.