PRESCOTT, AZ - A stockbroker was convicted of first-degree murder Friday in the bludgeoning death of his ex-wife, drawing a case that a judge said had a "tortured history" closer to an end.
Steven DeMocker, 59, of Prescott was found guilty in the circumstantial case that lacked any direct evidence tying him to the death of Carol Kennedy.
He also was convicted on six other charges related to her death.
Yavapai County prosecutors said DeMocker went to Kennedy's home in 2008 and killed her with a golf club to cash her insurance policy at a time when he was deep in debt and wanted to avoid paying alimony.
The defense countered that authorities didn't properly investigate Kennedy's death and tried to direct attention to a man who lived with her at the time but who has since died.
Defense attorney Craig Williams said he was disappointed with the verdict. Members of DeMocker's family declined to comment.
Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk said it was apparent the jury grasped the complexities of the case. Polk thanked prosecutors and law enforcement for delivering justice.
DeMocker is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 13. He could receive either life in prison or life in prison with a chance of release after 25 years on the murder charge. He could face additional time behind bars over the convictions for burglary, conspiracy, tampering with evidence, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and two counts of fraud.
DeMocker scanned the courtroom as he walked in, smiling slightly as his eyes moved past his daughters and parents. He showed little reaction when the verdicts were read. Afterward, DeMocker's family lingered in the courtroom hugging each other and wiping away tears.
Kennedy's mother, Ruth, declined to talk to reporters.
The trial, which began in mid-July, followed years of courtroom turmoil and had "some would say, a long and tortured history," retired Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe told the jurors before dismissing them.
DeMocker's first trial ended abruptly in late 2010 when his legal team quit, citing a conflict of interest. Earlier that year, the first judge in the case collapsed due to a brain tumor. Another judge briefly oversaw the case before retiring. Donahoe was appointed in 2011 to preside over the trial.
Prescott resident Linda Smith, whose daughter went to school with Kennedy, sat in on both trials and was relieved to see DeMocker was convicted.
"I definitely felt he was guilty," she said. "I think he's a dangerous man."
Other court-watchers said defense attorney Williams delivered energetic closing arguments that cast some reasonable doubt. But they said prosecutors painstakingly laid out a timeline that put DeMocker at the scene.
"If Craig Williams couldn't persuade (jurors), no one could," said Anne Sasse, who once had Kennedy as an adviser and DeMocker as an instructor at Prescott College.
Prosecutors argued the case without having a confession, eyewitnesses or direct evidence tying DeMocker to the crime. They told jurors that circumstantial evidence should be enough to send him to prison. As Friday's court hearing ended, sheriff's Det. Ross Diskin removed a bicycle from court that prosecutors say DeMocker rode to Kennedy's house to carry out the killing.
The non-murder charges against DeMocker stemmed from allegations that he arranged to have an anonymous email sent to lawyers claiming drug gang members killed Kennedy. DeMocker also had floated a story about a voice in the vent at the Camp Verde jail after his arrest that said his ex-wife was "killed by two guys from Phoenix." Investigators concluded DeMocker concocted the account.
After Kennedy's death, DeMocker tried to claim a $750,000 life insurance payment but the carrier wouldn't make the payout directly to him because he was a suspect. The insurer instead gave the payout to his daughters after DeMocker disclaimed it. DeMocker's mother testified that it was used to pay defense attorneys in his first trial.