The Mystery on Bridle PathDateline NBC
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- 29 Oct 2020
In this Dateline classic, Carol Kennedy returns from an evening jog in Prescott, Arizona and calls her mother Ruth. Their nightly phone ends abruptly. So begins the Mystery on Bridle Path. Keith Morrison reports. Originally aired on NBC on March 28, 2014.
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She was family, a giant holes ripped in our hearts. The first thing you want is while the police are going to go get the bad guys right. I was not prepared for what happened. Professor, artist, mom murdered a primal scream came out of me and she just immediately broke down, started crying pretty hard. Police were quick to question the ex, maybe too quick. They focused in the right from the very beginning, hospital always does it right, but what if the husband didn't?
You don't find any DNA, fingerprints, blood, anything at his in the house. Could someone else be the real killer? I'm wondering, what was this man capable of so much tragedy, so much heartbreak? It was very emotional for me and we just kept waiting for them to figure out that they had it wrong.
It was the 2nd of July 2008, early evening in a fine old town called Prescott, Arizona.
Sun going down here, cooling down to a fine evening than an hour out of here at the town's historic rodeo grounds, refugees from the summer heat in Phoenix, two hours and 25 degrees away settled into the stands to enjoy the annual exploits of the Cowboys. For the very same time, a few miles away on the edge of town, a woman named Caroline Kennedy, George along a well-worn path at the base of Granite Mountain. Sometime after 7:00, he turned in at her big backyard here in a street called Bridle Path, trotted past the stone labyrinth she'd laid out here years earlier to mark the turn of the millennium and arrived at the back door of the house she intended to inhabit for the rest of her natural days.
But, of course, Carol Kennedy had no idea that this was going to be her last day. And no, it would not be natural at all.
It is the biggest loss of my life to this day has profound, its piercing, its constant.
Carol Kennedy was in, as they say, a good place in her life. This is her friend, Catherine Morris.
Carol was the epitome of kindness and living a life from our perspective of having an open heart and being loving. Before she became a close friend, Catherine Morris was Carol's student at Prescott College. She was very well respected and admired. Her classes were always full, very difficult to get into.
What was she like? She was magnetic and she was always sort of searching for the truth.
And you just gravitated to her charisma that kind of pull her students in, especially if she was soft and inviting.
I'm Carol Kennedy. I live in Prescott, Arizona.
You get a sense of her personality in this 2006 interview in which he was asked about her passion for teaching such a gift to feel like you get to give seeds to this first row here and then they turn around and give it to Rose behind them.
And in fact, she shared those passion with the man who was her husband for 25 years. Love of her life, really, Steve DiMarco. They were crazy for each other. Sharon democracies. Steve Sister Carol was really easy to love.
She was kind of a natural fit. And the family, she was just immediately a sister to all of us, all of us being the democracy family, high achievers, all of them.
Sharon is a doctor.
It's an accomplished bunch. It's one of my friends said there's not a weak link in this group. Carol and Steve got married in his parents backyard overlooking Lake Ontario near Rochester, New York, an outdoor wedding for a couple who loved adventure. Steve was the one that kind of started the adventuring side of things. First, there was hiking and skiing and mountain climbing and kayaking. They moved around a bit, as people do, and wound up eventually in Prescott, which proved to be the perfect place to raise their two bright, attractive daughters, Katie and Charlie.
They're amazing. I think that it's really a testimony to the kind of parents that Steve and Carol were that the girls were their first priority.
Steve became the dean of Prescott College. Carol taught psychology there.
But life is a river, never the same for long. Steve decided to change careers, left the academic life, became a financial adviser, very successful, too. And there were other changes, more difficult ones.
Nobody knows all of what goes on inside a marriage. But I did talk with both of them about it. And they both struggle because their lives are moving in different directions.
And much as they still cared for each other, there were infidelities. Steve had an affair. They decided to separate.
Carol loved Steve. Fiercely, she fought hard for her marriage until the end, but in 2008, after more than 25 years of marriage, five living apart Stephen Carroll divorce. It was a long, painful process. And after it was final, Carol went to a nearby lake where she called Katherine. She was sobbing. And at first when she called me, I was like, Oh, no.
And then I realized that the that the sobbing and the wailing on the phone was that it was a mixture of things. Yeah, absolutely.
Oh, time for a fresh start. Carol had left teaching by that time, was focused on the new passion painting her art was developing.
She was really doing well with that and taking off for that. Of course, she remained close to her daughters, but she also stayed close to Steve. And in fact, just a few days before that July morning, the whole family went to the airport together to see Katie off on a study abroad trip to South Africa. Charlotte was staying with her dad and Prescot, nothing ahead now but the long, easy days of summer as she draws the last few yards to her house, Carol passed by the guest cottage she'd rented out as a way to help pay her expenses.
That's 50 feet away from the main house and it has all of its own kitchen and bath and shower rooms.
It was comforting in a way, to have someone else with her on the property out here at the edge of this man's name with Jim Knapp, divorced father.
Bit of an odd duck, some people said, but easier to get along with, at least at what Carole told her friends. The man didn't cause any trouble.
Jim Knapp was just sort of this free spirited surfer dude from Hawaii who. Hang tight. But she took them in as a border. It was my understanding that he was have been diagnosed with cancer and I think they sort of supported each other through a lot of the painful times that they were both experiencing.
Once inside her house, Carol put together a salad for dinner, answered a few emails, settled in for an evening alone. She picked up the phone and called her mother, Ruth, who lived way off in Nashville, Tennessee.
She was an amazing daughter who still called her mom every day.
Ruth was 83. The call, a nightly ritual. And then at 8:00 p.m., oddest thing, the line went dead, but not before Ruth heard something rather terrifying.
Ruth tried to call back. Nothing.
And there she was so far away and now worried. So she decided to call the sheriff's department, whose headquarters is here in downtown Prescott Sheriff's Office.
We're going to help you. Yes, my name is Robert Kennedy and I'm calling from Nashville, Tennessee. I was on the phone with my daughter and she screamed and said, oh, no. And the phone's gone dead. And is there anything you can do to send you go check?
Oh, no. Those two words played back again and again in Roo's worried rain.
And so began a mystery and a story to unbelievable, even for some of its most intimate participants. What happened to Carol Kennedy?
That question would take years to answer, not just what happened to Carol, but who was behind it. She didn't have any enemies. None. None. We were just stunned.
Carol Kennedy and her mother, Ruth, were having their nightly phone call, suddenly the phone line went dead. Ruth tried back, couldn't reach Carol, then she called the sheriff's department.
She's out there and she screamed and said, oh, no. And then the phone was dropped and I'm just at my wits end now. Did you call her or did she call you? And this occurred. She called me tonight. And when she called me every night because I'm 83 and she worries about me. And so we we're we're just having our conversation. And then all of a sudden she just screamed and said, oh, no. And then I haven't been able to get her to answer the phone.
But, you know, I'm afraid something bad happened. OK. And who does your daughter live with? She's recently divorced. She's alone. What's your daughter's name? Carol Kennedy. Did you notice what she said recently?
Divorced. Certainly the operator heard it.
Do you believe that there's any reason that she would be concerned if her husband, ex-husband came back? Oh, I don't think so. OK. No, I don't think it's that kind of a thing. OK.
Family and friends all knew that even after their divorce, Steven Carroll still cared deeply for each other and their two daughters.
That connection between the two of them interests me. They took time to nurture their relationship and to spend time together and to do things that that they enjoyed doing and and bringing up Katie and Charlotte.
But this was hardly the time for reminiscing. Carol wasn't answering your phone and Ruth was frantic. All right.
We will send somebody out to check on her and we'll have them give you a call.
You can imagine what that was like for Ruth so far away, waiting for a phone call. She knew Carol had a border, that offbeat guy, Jim Knapp. But Ruth didn't know how to reach him. Steve would know what to do. So she called him on his cell phone.
And when he didn't pick up, she left him this message saying, all right, Kennedy and I was there on the phone with Carol. And she screamed and said, oh, no, I can't get her to answer me back. One day she's going to say what you can find out.
And by that time, it was dark. Steve and Carol's daughter Charlotte and her then boyfriend, Jacob Jannuzi, were at that moment at Steve's house waiting for him to come home. Jacob was actually living there while he tried to sort out a few issues with his parents.
What was your relationship like with him and what was Charlotte's relationship like?
Charlotte was very close with with Steve. He had offered you to to stay with him before you tried to figure something out just to make my situation, my parents better. And so I had a lot of respect for him. I definitely looked up to him.
But that evening, Steve, an avid outdoorsman, was overdue from a mountain bike ride. And it was getting late, really late, actually.
It was very, very on. And he would usually usually have dinner pretty late there, it was normal to have dinner at nine o'clock, nine thirty when he hadn't come home around that time was when we got and started to get a little worried that maybe he had crashed or gotten hurt or something. What do you do? Charlotte called his cell phone and no, no answer.
Did it go straight to voicemail? So, yeah.
Anyway, hungry for dinner. They went to the store for groceries while we were at the store.
It was probably around ten. Ten, fifteen was when we got a call from Steve and he told us that, you know, he got a flat tire and he was at the workout center and was going to finish up his workout there. And what his phone had been off or something or what happened to his phone? He said his phone had died, done well, he was out there having a flat tire. Right.
He was in the shower when Charlotte and Jake arrived back at the condo. They made a quick dinner vegetable stir-fry. It was late, but then again, it was a mild summer night. Not a care in the world, Itzin. No idea what was happening at the house, unbridled power. I'm coming, getting brain to panic begins, a daughter rushes to the scene, what would she find? She just immediately broke down, started crying pretty hard.
July 2nd, 2008, about 11 PM Steve Democracia, his daughter Charlotte, and Charlotte's boyfriend, Jake, were eating a very late dinner.
He had taken a few more bites of his dinner. And then by that point, Charlotte and I were pretty close to being finished.
That's when Steve told them about a strange phone call he received from Carol's brother, who told him that apparently Carol's home phone suddenly cut out when she was talking to her mother, Ruth, and nobody could reach her.
How did Charlotte react to that?
She was wearing Charlotte. She texted her mom earlier that evening. Everything seemed fine. And but now she called another voicemail.
Her mom is sure, I informed, and that apparently later on the phone and she's kind worried about you. So you can go home and get to know if you want to take me back home or something. Just let me know here that everything's OK.
The beginnings of panic bubbled up in Charlotte's brain.
She and her boyfriend called around to local hospitals, but nobody named Carol Kennedy had been admitted to any of them.
So this is nighttime. Is there any thought of going over there? Yeah, we talked about it.
She was concerned about Carol, of course. But as her now ex-husband, he had another concern, too. Steve had expressed that he wasn't really comfortable with it because they had just finalized their divorce. And, you know, he didn't feel comfortable invading her privacy if she was with another guy on a date or something like that. So we decided that Charlotte, that would go out there and check on it, just kind of see if anything was out of the ordinary.
It was around midnight when they drove out to Carol's place on Bridal Pat, having promised to call Steve the minute they got there. Do you remember what it was like driving over there? It's very quiet. I don't really think we we spoke very much at all on the way there. Because just nerves. You know, a little anxious, right? Do you remember pulling you up to the house? Yes, very vividly at that moment. Charlotte was on the phone with her dad.
Soon as we got to the top of the hill, you could see the police, the sheriff's lights and all the cars. And, you know, just the worst thoughts are kind of going through my mind at that point.
You know, that almost kind of hit you here before it hit you, right?
Yeah. Kind of feel it in your stomach first, for sure. And we got closer to the house and we saw a caution tape and and all the, you know, people running around and everything. We had pulled up and stopped on the side of the road and two sheriffs walked up on either side of the car and we rolled the windows down.
Did this person know who you were? I think he had asked, you know, and you guys just passing through and said, no, this is my mom's house. And so I'm sorry to tell you, but, you know, you know, Carol passed away at that point. She just immediately broke down and started crying pretty hard.
Charlotte dropped the foam, fell to pieces when frightened, scared a little bit, really more so for Charlotte, just, you know, not really. And even now, I don't think I could I could figure out how to console someone in that situation, maybe Steve would know what to do.
I picked up the cell phone and told Steve what had happened. He needed to come down and and be with Charlotte and Steve.
He was taken aback. You know, it was almost kind of disbelief, like you didn't really know what to say, really kind of hear him choking back some tears a little bit. And that was, you know, it was hard right away.
Steve rushed over to Carol's house. A detective had a recorder rolling.
You can hear Charlotte sobbing and Steve talking all along for a while.
Someone else talked to the detectives to a man who showed up just minutes after the deputies got there. Jim Knapp, Carrolls border, the man who'd been living in the guesthouse.
I can't remember the man on the phone. And Jim Knapp had a lot to say about Carol, but he didn't stop there.
It was certainly a gruesome scene.
Blood drops, shoe prints, the clues tell a story. And the man in the guest cottage has a story to all you guys is just my into cake.
Just before nine p.m. July 2nd. Because around the time Carol Kennedy worried family members were recording phone messages to each other. Yavapai County sheriff's deputy was dispatched to Carol's house on Bridle Path. Found the home dark, eerily quiet, you shine a flashlight through a window. So bookcase toppled over. And blood everywhere. That's when investigator Mike Sashay was pulled into the strangest case in his career, the kind of thing he had moved to Prescot to avoid. It's a quaint little community nestled in the pines and not a whole lot of crime, especially from what I was used to put in 27 years in the Phoenix police.
This job with the Yavapai County Attorney's Office was supposed to be an escape from big city crime. And here he was, middle of a July night, looking at one very brutal homicide.
Where to look like it was certainly a gruesome scene, not only a large amount of blood on Carol's body, but also on the furniture that was nearby blood spatter that had been cast off in onto the walls and other items as well.
So that tells you something about how she died. She certainly died.
A violent death, something else. As he's afraid the room he could plainly see, whoever did this was trying to fool them. How did he know when he looked past the obvious core, he couldn't help but notice things have been moved around after Carol was dead.
There was a ladder that was placed over top of her body that along with some of the blood that had splattered onto a bookshelf. And then the shelf was knocked over.
Obviously several minutes after the blood hit it unlikely that it was just tottering and eventually collapsed.
That could not have happened. So that's a pretty significant little detail there. Yes, absolutely.
Stay clear, as day, said the detective. There were even some drops of blood just outside the door. The blood trail led detectives to another discovery. Shoe prints outside the house. There was a lot of tracks out there. The house was next door to ranchland. Lots of people went running and riding there, Carol.
Two horses, animals, people use that area. And there were a lot of tracks. These tracks were unique. They were fresh.
They found Carol's footprints from her jog that very evening. But there were others. Her track as it went out, the suspects tracked, then stepped right on one of hers.
So she went out and then the suspect came into her house, even had sequence of tracks. Yes, about 50 feet from the main house, you remember, was a guest cottage, which Carole had rented out to that tenant, Jim Knapp. Jim Knapp, who was one of the first ones to arrive at the scene after the deputies had arrived.
Of course, the detectives asked him where was he that night? And Nap was ready with a story.
He had been babysitting one of his boys at his wife's house when this incident actually occurred.
You'd have to pin him down on that, made sure he had proof of it, right? That's correct.
Another detective turned on his recorder as SNAP rambled on about his relationship with Carol.
Still. So a little political novel to be hopeful because it's awful, awful, awful.
But that didn't stop there. Oh, no. He seemed very eager to tell them about Carol's ex-husband, Steve.
The mocker on you guys. Of course, my little cake guy comes off to me is very sneaky, manipulative, more so.
By the time Steve arrived, detectives were already suspicious and they asked him to come to the sheriff's department where he told them the same thing. He had told his daughter he was riding his mountain bike when he got a flat tire.
I don't really think very often. OK, have to start with something. I do some on and on. I say, oh, I don't know how you drew them. A map of the trail you followed. A lane goes up and down in terms of trail. At one point the trail got to within a mile of Carol's house.
The detective's ears perked up, but Steve insisted he never went to Carol's house. But I'm happy to give you one.
I'd like to get to me so there's nothing we're going to find that's going to tell you that I wasn't there. I wouldn't do that.
Steve told the detective he was tired, dehydrated.
We can fix that. You get in our water. I'll be glad to get you some food. I'll give you some time. We'll get you something. Tell me what you want. And I'm just asking you to be a little bit patient with us and help us through this matter. Of course, I want to do it again. You I want a fair system that'll be good for me. But you say that once you are not at work and I'm just I'm cold here.
Steve asked them what were they thinking about him? Was he a suspect? I don't know what look suspicious. Look, I know you didn't mean to go out here. You know, here's the whole thing with that. There's certain certain things. And what's going on is just like that you've got a suspicious death. And right now we don't have any other person may. Well, we have no other person right now. And so it was a long night in that little room.
The detective gave Steve a blanket, asked again about that trail, the proximity of where the trail is.
I know where I wish I'd chosen a different trail. I'm sure it's different also because I'm hears things right now. If I course if I had done that, I probably wouldn't have chosen to be right near the scene of what sounds like maybe your maybe so.
But wherever he was, he picked up something that a detective simply couldn't ignore. Very fresh, multiple scratches on his arms and legs. Steve said he got those riding a rough mountain trail on his bike. Detectives photographed him before letting him go home.
Meanwhile, overnight, other detectives searched Steve's office and his home and his garage.
They took pictures, lots of pictures after the autopsy next afternoon, the medical examiner. Reported that Carol died from blows to the head, administered by some blunt object seven times particular, hit her with what the medical examiner offered and it looked like she might have been a golf club. And one more thing, Carol herself might already be telling them who killed.
It's one of those moments that you go, oh, my goodness, the clue that police almost missed, but it helped them crack the case. There is Catherine Morris can tell you, no good way to find out your close friend has been murdered, especially a friend as incandescent as Carol Kennedy is the biggest loss of my life to this day. It's profound, it's piercing, it's constant.
She didn't have any enemies, none, none. Catherine, who by this time lived in Atlanta, flew across the country to Prescott, I needed to see it.
I needed to be in her home where she last was. She joined other members of Carol's family, unbridled power in the very room where Carroll died. Blood still spattered on the furniture, the mess of what happened everywhere in that room, you just can't imagine.
Oh, painful, did didn't help. It helped greatly to put it into perspective of the absolute horrendous brutality, animalistic, violent evidence of that was still in the room. Oh yeah. So, yeah. Oh, yeah.
Steve was there to save Catherine. And she remembers him saying something that to her didn't make much sense.
They put his his arm around me and said, you just want to think it was an accident, don't you?
Then I looked at them and I said, this is not an accident when I'm looking at is not an accident.
But so soon after the murder, Steve was the only real suspect under investigation.
And the following weeks, as friends and family on detectives peel back the layers of Steven Karros relationship and soon found evidence that their recent divorce was, well, no divorce is pleasant.
But we looked heavily into emails and we learned that Carol was very unhappy with the outcome of the divorce. They argued heavily back and forth.
Up until the day of her murder, Steve made good money as a financial adviser, had agreed to pay six thousand dollars a month in spousal support. When you say somebody makes over five hundred thousand dollars, you would assume that a six thousand dollar monthly payment is not a big deal. But he was spending way more than he was making. He was having to borrow money from his parents almost monthly when he's making a half a million a year. That's correct.
And the six thousand dollars. He was going to be unable to sustain his lifestyle. I knew those numbers were for 2008, a year when, like a lot of people, Steve hemorrhaged money because of the financial crisis. Still to the detective, that six thousand a month sounded like motive might even explain why the murder occurred when it did at the beginning of July. And that payment started June 1st. The second payment was due July 1st. She was murdered July 2nd.
And that payment was never made.
I wasn't there. I wouldn't do that again and again. He denied killing his ex-wife said he was out mountain biking that evening. She died, but along with shoe prints near Karros House after the murder, police also found these tire tracks, bike tires.
We then were able to see that the bike had been stashed and then the individual walked right to the back of her house.
They did not take direct impressions of those shoe and tire tracks, as investigators frequently do, but they did take pictures of the tracks, looked a lot like the treads on Steve's tires. They fell. And while no matching shoes turned up, they discovered that Steve once bought a pair that might match. And then there was a curious business of the murder weapon or possible murder weapon. Remember the coroner's report suggesting Carl may have been hit with a golf club when investigators learned that something clicked in their memories from their first search through Steve's house?
There were golf clubs in his garage. So let's go back and sees them, right? Yeah.
Sees them and examine them to see if we can determine that these golf clubs were used as the murder weapon.
So it sounds like kind of a aha moment. Right?
It's one of those moments that you go, oh, my goodness, we may have overlooked something.
So they return to Steve, kind of seized the golf clubs in the garage and tested them, but could find no evidence that any of them was the murder weapon. But there was something else.
In the first search of the condo, a detective remembered seeing a golf club cover or a golf sock on a shelf. We looked at the photos. There it was, but when they searched the garage a second time, it was gone and the shelf itself had apparently been sort of rearranged.
Was it possible that now missing golf sock belonged to a different golf club when that was no longer around? One used to kill Carol Kennedy? Did Steve, knowing he was a suspect, get rid of that golf sock because it was incriminating evidence? Seems like every investigative trail they follow lead right back to the same person they had suspected all along. Carol's friend, Catherine, knew who that was. I didn't believe that Steve did it, but I couldn't think of anyone else that would possibly do any harm to Carol.
And so three months after Carol was killed, they arrested Steve Tomoka on a charge of first degree murder. Steve, Sister Sharon.
I'm trying to imagine what it was like for the family, this amazing, accomplished, interesting, intelligent family when the leader child was charged with murdering his wife, a woman who you all loved. It was.
A total shock you're going that they don't understand if if they knew him, they would see how wrong in the impossible this was even worse.
Prosecutors filed for the death penalty. Any chance for bail for Steve, given the charge was remote. Still, the whole DeMarcus family gathered in court for the hearing, which coincidence had been scheduled for Christmas Eve 2008. And then it was delayed. It was this crushing blow saying that the wheels turn painfully slowly in this process.
So we left and we're standing out in the corridor. Then they were just starting to bring Steve out and we said, you know what, let's just sing a Christmas Carol.
So we started singing, We wish you a Merry Christmas. And we could see that, you know, there were tears streaming down Steve's face.
Steve's family wept, too. They believed he was innocent, that someone else killed Carol and their belief only grew stronger after 9/11 when one of the emergency, a 911 call, this time to the Prescott Police Department, stores open. It looks like that gunshot hole in the window and there is a shell casing inside and the bedroom door is closed. Hezbollah always does it right? They focused in on one person right from the very beginning, a thumbprint, a smear of blood.
And here's the bombshell. Neither one belonged to Steve Democracia. There were a lot of red flags.
Steve Tomoka was in jail, charged with first degree murder for his ex-wife, Carol Kennedy's violent death. He pleaded not guilty. Private investigator Rich Robertson joined Steve's defense team and right away saw what he believed was an elemental mistake by detectives. They put together their story, their version of events almost immediately.
Husband always does it right.
But, yeah, they focused in on on one person and they had a story and that's what they worked on. They zeroed in on Steve Tomoka right from the very beginning.
The Robertson said detectives should have taken a much closer look at another man in Carol's life, Jim Knapp, the man who lived in the guesthouse and showed up at the crime scene within minutes of the officers.
And who was the first person to point the finger at Steve?
The fact that law enforcement viewed him in a different way, that they viewed Steve Démocratie, that they saw Jim Knapp as a friendly witness and they see Steve Democrazy suspect frames the way that they investigate. So anything having to do with Jim Knapp becomes excusable.
Explained, it's just not something you have to worry about because he's not our guy, and yet crime scene photos show a magazine sitting on Carol's kitchen counter and slipped inside. Between the pages were some financial documents that were printed the very day Carol was murdered.
That became really important because his thumbprint is on those financial documents. What was Jim Naped doing with those documents? And something else perhaps very significant. There was blood on the doorknob of the door that led from the main house into the backyard garage.
The blood became evidence item number eight or five collected days after Carl's death and whose DNA was mixed with Carol's blood. Jim matched DNA just like the thumbprint.
The question becomes, when did Jim naps DNA get put on that door handle?
Robertson clearly had his suspicions, and Steve's sister Sharon did, too. So you felt all along that, Jim, that should have been a suspect and wasn't he should have been investigated.
There were a lot of red flags that or concerning that told sheriff's deputies he was nowhere near Carol's house when the murder happened.
He was at his wife's place miles away, babysitting his son.
Didn't they find out? The alibi, in fact, was pretty solid?
No, actually, it wasn't. What the son said was that, yeah, they had gotten a video and the son was watching it. He doesn't know where Dad was.
That wasn't sitting beside him in the room. No, Dad was not watching with him.
So he doesn't know where Dad was. The son got bored watching this movie, and I believe he went and got on his computer. So there's a period of time that we don't really know. He might have been in the house, but nobody saw him.
So maybe not solid alibi wasn't. And remember how he told everyone he had cancer? Sharon, a doctor discovered something about that. I've seen the medical records and he had a superficial type of skin cancer at one point and it had been removed. So, no, he didn't.
Steve's family even recorded a video after the murder in which Jim Knapp said things about Carol they found deeply disturbing because, Carol, I've lived a life like an old married couple. He was actually rather obsessed with Carol. I have emails that he's written about how what he and Carol share is more than anyone could picture, that no one will understand the bond that they have and how close they are to each other.
And he referred to her to some people as his girlfriend, but she never had any romantic interest in him.
And no one he had tremendous romantic interest in her. Very much so. Thus, in your mind, a reason to be angry one night? Certainly.
Was it possible, Carol rebuffed him, that he got angry? The detectives didn't ask those questions. Steve's family, and soon it was too late. Six months after Carol's murder, a nine one one call from a condo where Jim Knapp went to live after Carol was killed, we came for a welfare check of a friend of mine. The door is open. It looks like a gunshot hole in the window and there is a shell casing inside the bedroom.
Doors closed. So are you doing a welfare check on?
Gymnast Jim Knapp was dead. Gunshot wound.
The medical examiner ruled it a suicide. I was stunned. It was it was one of those moments where it just sort.
Took my breath away and and then when I found out there was no note. And as I learned about the details of what the scene looked like, it's still. A baffling death. Baffling because it simply did not look like a suicide. There was multiple gunshots fired in that room, there was furniture in disarray, there was drawers pulled out staging.
In other words, just as the investigators believed someone staged the scene of Carol's murder, was Jim Napp Carol's killer or another victim of an unknown killer? Or maybe both. Couldn't have been Steve. He was in jail. And then the questions multiplied. In June 2009, almost a year after Carol's death, divorce attorney received an email, the sender anonymous, the email read. I can tell you what really happened the night Kennedy was killed. The email said Jim Knapp was running his mouth to Kennedy about a prescription drug deal he was in.
It said the murder was meant to look like home invasion robbery gone bad. This wasn't one crazed man with a golf club. When Steve's attorneys told him about the email, Steve replied with a startling story. He had heard the same thing just a month earlier in jail. Steve said that somebody was communicating to him through the ventilation system in the jails and told him a story about how a drug ring out of Phoenix had been trying to collect money or seek some retribution against Jim Knapp for involvement in a prescription drug ring.
The attorneys arranged for a meeting, an opportunity for Steve to tell law enforcement what he heard so they could investigate it. They showed him the mysterious e-mail.
Listen to his reaction. I'm sorry to ask you this. Would you explain why you're. So, you know. Carol is being accused of it. That's what's happening right now. There was more than the email to go on. Remember the DNA the medical examiner found under Carol's fingernails?
Turned out it wasn't Steeves or Jim Knapp's police called the DNA evidence item six, 03, but the defense investigator, Rich Roberts, in it represented much more evidence.
Item six or three became Mr. Six or three. It was a male DNA that was found mixed in with Carol's blood under the fingernails of her left hand. And this wasn't a small amount of DNA.
A reasonable person, I think, would think this probably could have gotten there during an attack, Jim, that the anonymous e-mail, Mr. Sexo, three D family and attorneys thought investigators should focus more on all of those things. Instead, seemed to them prosecutors had already made up their minds and Steve would go on trial for murder. A daughter called to the stand. Did you ask him about those scratches? I did have a girlfriend gets a call, too.
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Summer 2010, two years after Caroline Kennedy's murder, American flags were once again draped up around the Prescott town square in anticipation of the annual rodeo and on June 3rd, inside the square's historic courthouse.
County Attorney Joe Buttner opened his case against Steve Tomoka by ticking off the reasons why, in his view, Steve deserved to spend the rest of his natural life behind bars.
By this time, pretrial legal rulings have taken the death penalty off the table, though attorney Buttner told the jury the case was no less condemning. I will ask you to find the defendant guilty of the first degree premeditated murder first, he said. Steve had motives and not just that. Six thousand a month in alimony? No. Carol said the prosecutor was worth a lot of money. Did he?
Evidence will show that at the time of her death that Steven Tomoka was the owner and beneficiary of two life insurance policies? The total value of those life insurance policies was 750000 dollars.
Steven Carroll's daughters, Katie and Charlotte, were in court sitting behind and supporting their father, defense investigator Rich Roberts.
To have your father accused of killing your mother and for them to not believe it.
You can't imagine what that must have done to how they view things. It's just got to be a horrible experience.
In his opening statement, defense attorney John Sears was quick to address that life insurance money. And you will hear from Katie and Charlotte that their father told them from the beginning, this is your money from your mother. This isn't mine. He displayed beside of any interest to the girls and the money was paid off because that's what happened in this case.
Prosecutor Buttner called his first witness, Katie Democrates, Steven Carroll's elder daughter.
Did she have a habit of things that she did when she came home from work? She did. She typically went for a run maybe four days a week out on the back land. And to your recollection, did she leave the door unlocked when she would do that?
Yes, an unlocked door opportunity for her killer to enter and wait on the stand.
Carol's mother, Ruth Kennedy, had to relive that very last phone call with her daughter. How exactly did it end so abruptly? She told the sheriff's department operator that Carole had screamed, Oh, no.
And you just said that don't go a certain way with a certain emphasis. Was that the way that she said it, to your recollection? She said, oh, no.
Basically, that's the way it came out.
Did she scream that it really was not a scream? It I'm sure it was because I was so rattled myself. She just said, oh, no. That's all she said and basically in that kind of voice, like it was more. Dismay. This was very difficult for me, as you can imagine. She lost everything a mother would want and a daughter. She was a good mother.
Charlotte, the younger DeMarcus daughter, was living with Steve that summer, was in Steve's house the night of the murder when he was unreachable for five hours and said his cell phone was dead.
Your father, did he have any spare batteries with him? Sometimes in his car.
Did he carry him in the car and also in his briefcase? It's possible. I don't know if he was reachable by way of the cell phone, right?
Yes. And when he finally got home that night, she saw those scratches suspicious, according to the prosecution. Did you ask him about those scratches? I did.
What did he tell you? He explained they were from branches, from riding his bike.
And then the prosecutor asked Charlot's, by then former boyfriend Jacob, about the weird business of the golf club, covered the golf sock that appeared in the photo in Steve's garage the night of the murder, but was gone when detectives returned with another search warrant. The implication, of course, was that the cover fit the club never found that killed Carol.
Jacob said that after the detectives left, he talked to Steve.
What was that conversation? The golf had sock covered was found after they had left.
He said he had found it. Yes. Did he say what he was going to do with it?
He didn't know whether or not to turn it into the police or give it to his lawyer, implying that the prosecution, that Steve knew the golf sock could incriminate him and didn't know what to do with it.
But just as the case seemed to be building momentum two weeks into the trial, Judge Thomas Lindbergh left the bench at lunch break and suddenly collapsed. It was a brain tumor and everybody waited for five weeks until a brand new judge was appointed so they could pick up the testimony right where they left off. And that's when the jurors finally got to hear what became of the missing golf cover.
Go ahead and open your evidence that police detective Teresa Kennedy showed it to the jurors.
And the judge explained a stipulation made by the attorneys on July 5th, 2008, and out days after Carol's murder, Steve gave the sock to his attorney, John Sears, who kept it in his locked office until Steve's arrest. That's when Sears turned it over to law enforcement.
So was the curious case of the migrating club sock an attempt to cover up a murder or a bit of confusion and investigative dead end that prosecutors weren't done?
Mind you, they next tried to tie Steve to the crime scene, didn't find any of Steve's DNA or fingerprints at Carol's house, but they did see those tire tracks.
A criminalist compared them with the tires on Steve Bike.
The tread on this tire is similar to the tread of this tire track. And did you find any discernible differences between them? No, I did not. And those shoe prints, they brought in an expert from the FBI. Did you find any shoes that seemed to be comparable to the impressions that you observed in these photos from the crime scene?
Yes, I found one shoe that could have made those impressions a less supportive of Pike's Peak record show that Steve bought a pair of those shoes two years before the murder.
But when detectives searched his house, they didn't find any such shoes. So intriguing, but hardly proof prosecutors knew they had a big problem. That anonymous e-mail linking the murder not to Steve, but to Jim Napp and illegal drugs. So even as the trial went on, investigator Mike Sachar was interviewing and reinterviewing witnesses, including Steve's girlfriend, Renee Girard. It was obvious to me that she was very protective of Mr. Democrates. Steve began dating Renee when he was separated from Carol.
They were together during that tumultuous time. Steve divorced Carol's murder, his arrest. Renee had always stood by Steve and his family, but said she had the feeling. We were pretty convinced she knew more than she was telling us. So she knew something else, too. During the trial, Renee broke up with Steve, so on the eve of her testimony, so she interviewed Renee again about that anonymous e-mail. What he discovered explosive is not too big a word.
Steve was terrified. We were terrified. The e-mail trail, the money trail, a winding trail of surprises was about to change this case. And that was a doozy of a messy. MORNING's Don Koula in the Arizona mountains for the summer, flags in the town square were stored away for another year and the murder trial of Steve Democratico into its fifth fitful month.
The prosecution had amounted to circumstantial bits and pieces to that point. And investigator Mike, she knew that Steve was likely to mount a strong defense of democracies, a very intelligent individual, but he's also a very narcissistic personality. He put those together and you can make it difficult to solve a crime.
Narcissistic. That's what it seemed like to the detective also seemed to him like Steve's girlfriend, Renee Girard, was protecting. You knew more than she was telling. Then Renee broke it off with Steve. And so she interviewed her one more time. And remember the anonymous e-mail that claimed Carol's murder was linked to an illegal drug ring? Oh, boy.
She told me that Mr. De Mocker had informed them during one of their in-person visits at the jail to bring some pencil and paper. There was a glass between them. Mr. De Democracia had brought a document with him that he placed on the glass so that they could view it.
According to Renee, Steve himself wrote that document, then asked his daughter Charlotte, just 17 at the time, to copy it down.
Mr. De Mocker then asked them to send that document, which became known as the anonymous email to Mr. Sears and to the prosecutor's office.
Mr. Sears was John Sears, one of Steve's defense attorneys. Steve's reasoning, according to Steve Sister Sharon, he heard that story from an inmate in that air vent conversation, a desperately wanted to get the story out and investigated.
The death penalty was still on the table.
So Steve was terrified. We were terrified. I can certainly appreciate when you're terrified. Maybe you do some stupid things.
Well, it's when you start making mistakes, and that was a doozy of a mistake and uncovering that fraud led investigators to what they thought was another even bigger one. Remember Carol's life insurance money? Seven hundred fifty thousand dollars worth Steeves.
Defense attorney talked about it during his opening statement displayed beside of any interest to the girls. And the money was paid off because that's what happened in that statement.
Court investigator Mike sashayed by surprise.
We had made contact with the life insurance company several times throughout the investigation, and we had been informed that the life insurance had not been paid out to anyone so that the insurance paid out or hadn't it?
So she took another look much harder. Look at the money trail.
Not only was the insurance paid out, but it was paid to the two daughters, who then transferred it to several accounts, including wire transfers to Mr. de Parent's account in New York, who then wired transferred it back to Mr. DaMarcus defense team.
Remember, Steve DeMarco was a highly paid financial adviser. The prosecutors now believed he was using that expertise to try to get away with murder.
Here's a person that murdered his ex-wife, then collected her life insurance of over 750000 dollars and is using that life insurance to pay his defense team. In the murder prosecution. So then prosecutors added fraud to the charges Steve was facing, but fraud is certainly not what it was, said defense investigator Rich Robertson. These girls voluntarily on their own, believing in their father's innocence, dedicated money that they inherited to defend him. How can that be wrong? The girls decided to use that money for their dad's defense.
There was no. Fraud or the insurance company would have been the first one to say, hey, we got a problem here. So is that just piling on on the part of the process?
The much bigger issue for the defense and investigator Robertson was that phony e-mail and email the attorneys presented in court as real because they said they, too, were duped by Steve. Suddenly, the attorneys are in a in a in an awkward legal, ethical kind of posture and in relationship to their client. So it created an untenable situation for the defense team.
So untenable for these highly respected defense attorneys that they no option, they said, withdrew from the case.
And so seven months in, the judge was forced to declare a mistrial.
Well, we thought we were sprinting to the finish line. We thought that Steve was going to be home in time for Thanksgiving. And suddenly the finish line just kind of moved off into the horizon.
Gut wrenching, said Carol's friend Catherine. It was so emotional of not even a roller coaster, just the intensity of the emotion.
They'd have to start all over again. The money the girls received from their mother's insurance was gone, now gone to pay for the first team of attorney. So since Steve was pretty much destitute, court appointed attorney stepped in. And right away, Craig Williams and Greg Vasic were impressed by how Steve's family supported it.
It's a large family, very educated, very tight knit group.
How uniformly did they support Steve through this process and say very uniformly they're all behind him?
Yes, but one thing after another. As Steve's second trial approached, there was another huge surprise. The source of the DNA found under Carol's fingernails was finally identified.
That would be Mr. Sexo three, the mysterious Mr. Sexo, three, not who anyone expected. How can you trust anything after that? Exactly. It had always been an issue in the case against Steve Tomoka, that one fascinating clue that could break the case wide open. Who was Mr. Sexo? Three. That's what people were calling the mysterious DNA found under Carol's fingernails after she was murdered. One thing for sure, it was not Steve. We're exhausted so many man hours and looked at any and all alternatives.
And then it was during the long months of waiting for a new trial to begin. The prosecution had an idea what if that six three sample was a simple mistake? What if something just got mixed up in the lab? So investigator Mike Sashayed looked up the autopsy done just before Carrolls and submitted a sample from that or retesting.
And nearly three years after Carol's murder, a call from the crime lab sample DNA that we sent had matched the DNA under Carol Kennedy's fingernails. We finally were able to discover and verify who Mr. Sexo three is.
Mr. Sexo three, it turned out, was another dead. So the man lying on the autopsy table before Carol got there, it was his DNA, maybe on one of the coroner's instruments that ended up under Carol's fingernails. Mystery solved. One more doubt removed, said the prosecution.
But for Steve's defense team, it was further proof of a shoddy investigation contamination.
And we found out not only potential contamination, there was actual contamination in this case. How can you trust anything after that? Exactly.
Defense attorney Craig Williams said the case against Steve had an even bigger flaw.
You cannot put Steve Newmaker in that house where there was a horrific murder, a bloody murder. You can't put him in the house. No DNA at all, no DNA, no blood. You don't find any DNA of Carrolls on him anywhere. You don't find any DNA, fingerprints, blood, anything of his in the house. How can you convict him of murder?
But in July 2013, by this time a full five years after Carol's death, Steve was still in jail and the case finally went to trial again. New defense attorneys, a new prosecution team who it soon became clear during the long delay, spent some quality time honing their argument against Steve Earle. Kennedy had no enemies.
This was not a burglary or robbery. No valuables are missing. The overwhelming evidence in this case points to the defendant. And at the close of that evidence, we will ask you to return verdicts of guilty on all charges.
And especially the first degree murder and now the prosecution had more evidence like Steve's Google searches during the month before Carol's death, damaging, to say the least.
There was some information for the term how to kill and make it look like suicide. And there was some information on it on the term how to make a homicide appear suicide. Those emails and text messages, Carol and Steve, arguing in the days before her death, read to the jury, crime scene analyst claimed the blood spatter indicated the killer was left handed with the position that I think is the most comfortable position, I would think that they're swinging from the left.
And Steve was left handed. Remember the golf sock in the garage? It was made, said the prosecution, for a now missing left handed club. So here at last was the state's theory about how Steve killed his ex-wife days before the murder. So the say he dropped off that club at Carol's house, supposedly for her to sell in an upcoming garage sale, but left the golf sock in his garage. And then the night of the murder, he sneaked into her house and used that club to kill her.
Though such a club was never found, the golf sock was evidence that existed, said the prosecution, and the shape of Carol's wounds confirmed it.
Then, to bolster an alibi as his ex girlfriend, Renee Girard, testified for the prosecution, Steve allowed his cell phone battery to die, something he never normally did.
In general, there was there was usually a battery in his phone and an extra battery, either charged or being charged.
Did you ever know him to be turned?
Not have a phone at the ready if you needed to use it, it didn't. But I also revealed that a month after the murder, Steve told her something that in hindsight seemed very significant.
In the evening we take the walk on the golf course and he picked up a bag on the way out the door one evening and as we were walking, told me about the bag and what he was going to do with it, a getaway bag, which she said he buried on a golf course.
And sure enough, with Rene's help, detectives found the bag on the golf course. Inside were cash and clothing and a cell phone and a pen lie. Also, after Steve was arrested, they collected more searches in his storage unit.
They found books about how to cover your tracks and live as a fugitive at an apartment he rented in Scottsdale, Arizona. They found something interesting in the parking garage, I believe is a BMW motorcycle that the detective showed me that was in the parking garage. They believe that he had recently purchased it.
And inside locked cases, they later learned Steve had maps, clothing, hair dye, makeup and fifteen thousand dollars in cash.
Charlot, who still believed her father was innocent. Reluctantly testified for the prosecution put on the spot. She had to agree she knew he was thinking of running and under a grant of immunity.
She admitted that she wrote the so-called anonymous e-mail that claimed Carroll was killed by drug dealers and e-mail dictated by her father.
At one point, your dad held up a piece of paper to that glass window. And why don't you write down what was on that paper?
Yes. And you did? Yes.
What were you supposed to do with that piece of paper? I was supposed to, um. Write an email with the same substance that I had copied down, I believe in the hopes that it would be investigated further.
What did that mean to you? I mean, did you believe it? I did. I believed that that was what he had been told by someone in the jail and that, you know, it was very emotional for me and I wanted it to be investigated.
So how did you get the information out?
I sent I sent an anonymous anonymous email, Anonymous, so that it could not be traced back to her or her father.
Her older sister, Katie, wasn't aware of the email had come from Charlotte, but she was at the center of the story about life insurance. Steve had signed a disclaimer saying he would not benefit from the proceeds of Carol's life insurance. Well, but Katie was forced to testify. Yes, that wasn't true. My father was just asking me for various things related to that money.
Once Carol's life insurance paid out, Katie transferred her share to her grandparents.
You knew that your grandparents were going to use that money for attorneys fees.
That was my understanding. Some or all of it.
The prosecution called close to 50 witnesses to portray Steve DeBacker as a man who plotted to kill his wife, plotted his escape and used his own children to fund his defense and even hoodwink his lawyers in the court. The case looked strong. The prosecution rested are the state with rest. Now it was time to hear from the defense. And no surprise, it had a quite different theory about Carol Kennedy's murder, a theory that had nothing whatsoever to do with Steve Dimmock or.
That man in the guest cottage. It wasn't a little bit of evidence that we had on Mr. Knapp, it was a mountain of evidence. I'm wondering if what was this man capable of? Was he going to hurt me or hurt my family? I was scared.
Hey, it's Justin and Aaron from the Generation Y, you might have heard of us. We've been around since 2012. Check out this week's episode on Thicky Jay was a 27 year old man who would end up dead while staying at a friend's house. Some witnesses say he turned a gun on himself, while others tell a much different story. Check out new episodes of Generation Y on Apple podcast Spotify or the Wonder app joined Wonder Plus in the Wonder app to listen ad free.
Five years, the state has had five years to put Steve Tomoka at the scene of the crime, but they cannot see anybody paying attention to the bizarre murder case playing out in fits and starts here.
The would have to be a little suspicious of the Democrats behavior after the killing getaway bag, fake email.
Defense attorneys Craig Williams and Greg Pargeter could see that as well as anyone. But was he guilty of murder? Now, they said, rather, he was the victim of some detective's tunnel vision, beginning with a sloppy investigation.
It was kind of a cavalcade of people roaming through this scene that they didn't lock down, tromping through footprints and tromping through the house. And they didn't seal it off correctly to me.
When somebody shows up on the scene and immediately points the finger at the ex-husband and then that's all they ever did. It's always boom, right on him. It was always on him.
The jurors listened to Steve's interview with the detectives, conducted the night Carol was killed. We've got a suspicious death, and right now we don't have any other person. Well, we have no other person right now in which you can hear the suspicion that the defense. And Steve said the attorneys built a cold fear over coming in, he's afraid of what's happening, that the investigation is all on him, they're not focusing on anybody else, anything else. The focus is on him and he's afraid that nobody will believe him.
That's why he buried the getaway bag they said wasn't a sign of guilt. But a terror factor didn't turn up until months after Steve was arrested. He never had any evidence that Mr. Democrat try to use that bag to fully correct.
But he tried to use the bag to flee. Yes, I believe that's precisely what he did. He never fled. We arrested him before he could flee.
Well, you're using a term of art there before he could flee. My question, he was very direct. He did not flee, did he? He was not able to know, OK, there's another term of art. It's a very simple question, did Mr. Democracy flee or not? That's a yes or no question. No, he did not flee, and Steve's sister, Sharon, had a simple explanation for those coincidences the night of the murder, the circumstantial evidence like his dead cell phone battery.
I think most of us have cell phones, can appreciate that later in the day.
It's not uncommon for the battery to go, but their ears perked up when he drew the route and part of it came within a mile of the house and by the time he lived out there for many years. So that was a favorite trail. They also made a great deal of the tracks that they found in the property, the shoe prints that must have been his the tire tracks must have been used. Nobody knows whose those are.
He did buy a pair at one point, but he doesn't know if he kept them. He said, I never keep any shoes for more than six months. He ran all the time. No shoes lasted more than six.
And he bought them a couple of years earlier. So, yeah, the bicycle tire, that's the tire that's on 80 percent of all the mountain bikes in the US. It's the most common tire. So there's nothing very distinctive about that. They wanted to be able to tell the jury that it was a match. They were not allowed to do that because, as the expert said, we have no idea if it's a match or not, something that has more.
The defense called its own forensic pathologist to ask if the medical examiner was correct in his conclusion that the murder weapon was a golf club with regards to saying specifically this weapon.
I can't I think the golf club is a as Alfred Hitchcock used to say, it's the MacGuffin, OK? It's the magic device to try to tie it to Steve Newmaker, the golfer, the elitist, the the rich guy who's pissed off. But isn't there scientific evidence to say that's a golf club head that, hey, now, I don't agree with any of that.
And nobody not a single person could say that that was a golf club. They all said it could have been a golf club, but they also said it could have been other weapon.
The defense argued detective should have looked into other suspects to one person in particular, Jim Knapp, the man who rented Carol's guesthouse and arrived at the scene almost immediately after deputies.
Why was he a potential suspect, in your view?
Well, it's like the guy who lights the fire that comes back to watch it burn. And that was our our feeling about Mr. Knapp, because it wasn't a little bit of evidence that we had on Mr. Knapp.
It was a mountain of evidence on him. Knapp said the defense attorney was in serious financial trouble and cooked up a shameless lie to persuade friends to lend him money. He told the jury how Knapp faked cancer.
He got to the point where he was lying about having active cancer and asking people for financial help so that he could take care of his cancer, which they shouldn't have desperately wanted to buy a franchise business, a smoothie store with Carol's divorce money at one point even introducing Carol as his business partner. So was he obsessed with Carol? His behavior with his former girlfriend when she tried to break up with him certainly seemed obsessive to her. She said he wouldn't leave her alone.
Kept sending your e-mails.
I'm wondering, what was this man capable of? What's he going to come up and stalk?
Who was he going to do something mean? Was he going to hurt me or hurt my family? I felt threatened is what it felt like, and I was scared.
More defense questions. How did Jim Knapp's fingerprints wind up on those financial documents that were printed the day of the murder and found slipped inside a magazine sitting on Carol's kitchen counter? And how did Knapp's DNA get mixed with Carol's blood in the sample taken from a doorknob leaving the house? That was evidence number eight or five. They called it DNA expert. So you can see that all the way across that top line.
The numbers are the same as James Knapp. And there are many points of difference with Steve's mother.
Your point was that on each of these analysis, James, that each one of these and see the markers. That's right.
In fact, either Steve DaMarcus DNA nor his fingerprints were ever found at the crime scene. So had police focused on the wrong man all along. And because Steve DiMarco knew that, did he make a foolish mistake like a frightened man? Would the anonymous e-mail, the voicemail that all of that occurs once he's placed in custody, loses hope and becomes desperate? That should not, in our opinion, should not have been introduced in this trial. That's a whole separate trial, whole separate issue.
The defense tried to keep all that out of the trial, did not succeed.
Yeah, because it makes him look like a bad, evil guy who forced his daughters to use their inheritance money to pay. For his eternities, a low, scummy thing to do, but none of that put him in the house. None of that put any DNA on him in his house, car person, anything along those lines.
Judge, at this time, the defense rests. All along.
Steve's family remained rock solid in his corner, as Mr. Sharon said, I want to think the best of my brother.
The other part of it is that no one showed me anything that changes my mind. There is no evidence to say, well, you know, you're not thinking about this. Show me something.
But do you see your own kind of understandable family bias affecting your judgment about these things?
If you can prove to me. That this is what happened. Then that's different, but I'm missing the big evidence that. Says that he was there and now five years after the brutal murder, unbridled Pat. A jury would finally get to decide and Steve would finally get his say. You can't sleep, it was rough on everybody. You really are on pins and needles. The wait for a verdict and a long awaited interview with Steve Tomoka.
There may be nothing else in life to compare to the agonizing hours and days the family waits endures as 12 strangers sit in a locked room that prepared to dictate fate.
Well, as anyone who's watched the TV show, I can tell you, unfortunately, the reality is really similar. You really are on pins and needles waiting for that verdict that you don't know what it is and you have no control over strangers who are going to decide who don't know your brother. Now, this family of highly educated professionals knew the case for and against Steve as intimately as any attorney on the third day of deliberations. There was nothing for them to do but sit together, watch their phones, and then as they prepared to leave a coffee shop in Prescot news a jury had reached a verdict, but it was 4:00 in the afternoon, apparently quitting time.
And the judge decided they'd all have to wait until morning to hear what the verdict was.
Katie and Charlotte, comforted by Steve's parents, his siblings, and another night to wait and wonder, what did the jury decide?
It was rough on everybody. It is. And that's just horrible at that nervous energy than it is to the you can't sleep where we're thinking, well, are they just stretching this out?
Was it torture? Sure. I mean, we we just want them to go ahead and let him go now.
Then the next morning, the clock struck 9:00. It was time when they came back into the room. Could you tell? Yeah.
Didn't have a good feeling.
It's never good when they come back in the room and they look at the family, we the jury really accounts for five days after your verdict, how you feel.
Guilty, guilty on all counts. I feel we were just stunned that it wasn't the right verdict. The law didn't support the verdict.
Defense investigator Rich Robertson didn't think so either. The biggest shock to me was that they came back unanimous and came back unanimous fairly quickly. It was disappointing and still is called Steve Decker devastated. Steve's innocent and Steve wants to continue to fight and and prove his innocence. That's what his mission is now. But is he innocent, investigator Mike? I believe in my heart and soul that Steve Democracia killed Carol Kennedy.
He thinks often, he said, about the daughters, about the impact on them. While my heart goes out to them, you know, you have to recognize that this is all because of one man's actions. Carol's friend, Catherine. I never wanted to believe that Steve was capable of doing this. And the jury has made their decision. I accept their decision. I agree with their decision. I'm so glad it's over. I'm so relieved because so many of us have been dragged through it for the last five and a half years.
Katie and Charlotte were back in court at their father's sentencing. And in spite of everything, the state's case against Steve, how Steve used Charlotte to create that phony email evidence then paid for his defense with life insurance money Carol intended for her daughters. In spite of all that at their father's sentencing, they asked the judge for leniency.
I ask because I would like the opportunity to someday walk again with my father freely and outside, speak openly and honestly with him, and find ways to heal the pain of this prolonged nightmare. I believe in healing and forgiveness because that is the way that I was raised. As for me, I can promise that I will never forget the memory of my mother. She lives in me every day and will for the rest of my life. The additional pain of the reality that we now face is very difficult for me to grasp the knowledge that, like my mother, my father may never attend my wedding or see my children born or even watch me graduate.
It feels like losing a parent all over again. This excruciating punishment is almost as difficult for me as I know it must be for him.
Steve professed his innocence. I did not kill Carol. We loved each other for more than 20 years, our marriage was over, but not our affection for each other. I would no more have harmed her than I would harm my daughters by taking her from them.
Leniency was not forthcoming. The judge sentenced Steve DeMarco to natural life plus 20 years, no parole, no hope of a life ever outside prison walls. All along, we've been asking for an interview with Steve. He was willing, the sheriff wasn't. But finally, after the sentencing, we were allowed a brief telephone interview from state prison.
They went to a string to amplify, to exaggerate the evidence that had been misrepresented. That was the only way they were able to achieve it. And it's just wrong. Well, you're looking ahead here to an appeal process that will take quite some time.
At the minimum, you know, appeals are hard to win. You could be, in fact, in prison for the rest of your life. Are you prepared for that?
I'm as prepared as anyone can. This really is to become a burden. So I guess I wind up here for the rest of my life. I will try to find some way to be of of the world.
Interesting thing about Steve Democracy. He's an extremely articulate man, can he possibly be sincere to? All we can know with certainty is that Carol never again have the chance to be useful, although scratch that, maybe she will. And one thing that she always sort of said to us, as long as I'm living in this world, I am always here for you and with you. And I think she should have rephrased that no matter if I'm here living or in heaven, I'm always with you because I feel her in my heart.
I feel her when I'm doing certain things. And her presence certainly lives on. The Meet the Press Chuck Todd cast, it's an insider's take on politics, the twenty twenty election and more candid conversations with some of my favorite reporters about things we usually discuss off camera. Listen for free wherever you get your podcast.