Sheila Polk: The Case of the Left-Handed 7 Wood

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Story by Sheila Polk, Yavapai County Attorney.

Drive north on Williamson Valley to Bridle Path and you will arrive at the house of one of Prescott’s most notorious murder scenes. The murderer, once a well-to-do stockbroker named Stephen DeMocker, is serving a life sentence in the Arizona State Prison. His victim was his ex-wife, Carol Kennedy, an artist, and avid gardener.

Sheila Polk is in her 20th year serving as the Yavapai County Attorney. Her office prosecuted the case against Stephen DeMocker for the first-degree murder of his ex-wife, Carol Kennedy.

On the evening of July 2, 2008, Carol was in her Prescott home chatting on the phone with her mother thousands of miles away in Nashville. Suddenly, her mother heard Carol exclaim, “Oh, no!” and the line went dead. Carol’s mother called the police when she and other family members couldn’t reach Carol.

Law enforcement arrived at the house to find Carol in a pool of blood, her skull shattered by at least seven blows to the head. The county medical examiner would later testify that the blows were similar in shape to a golf club.

The subsequent investigation revealed a motive and a vast array of circumstantial evidence. Although the golf head cover for a left-handed Big Bertha 7-wood was recovered, the golf club itself was never found.

After many legal delays, the trial finally commenced in a Yavapai County courtroom in downtown Prescott. Tragically, the original trial judge, Judge Thomas Lindberg, a long-time highly respected colleague of mine, collapsed on the bench during the trial. He was soon diagnosed with glioblastoma and passed away eighteen months later.

A second trial began and the Yavapai County Attorney’s prosecutors laid out the evidence for the jury: the nasty divorce; DeMocker’s obligation to pay $6,000 monthly alimony payments; his growing debt; his $750,000 insurance policies on Carol’s life; and Carol’s daily routine of a run in the woods behind her home. The scene was staged to look like Carol had fallen from a reading ladder in her living room, striking her head on the corner of a desk. Uncharacteristically, DeMocker was out of mobile phone contact during the hours of Carol’s death. Shoe prints and bicycle tread marks located near Carol’s home matched DeMocker’s footwear and his bicycle tires, and DeMocker himself had scratched arms and legs.

A forensic exam of DeMocker’s computer revealed the purchase of books on how to evade authorities. DeMocker’s girlfriend would eventually lead detectives to DeMocker’s getaway bag with a burner phone and clothing stashed near the 8th hole of what is today called the Capital Canyon Golf Course.

From the county jail, DeMocker arranged for an associate to send an anonymous email to the sheriff claiming that gang members had killed Carol. DeMocker also claimed to hear voices through the jail vents telling him Carol was killed by two men from Phoenix.

In 2013, the second jury convicted DeMocker on all counts. Appeals followed, and on July 28, 2017, nine years after the murder, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld the verdicts.

And what of the missing golf club? To this day when I hike the trails north of Prescott, I can’t help but scan the landscape. Somewhere, down a ravine or perhaps buried under a pile of rocks, lies a weathered seven-wood, the murder weapon from one of Prescott’s most notorious murders.

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24 responses to “Sheila Polk: The Case of the Left-Handed 7 Wood”

  1. Paige Price says:

    The “associate” you mentioned was his daughter. The insurance money went to the children they, in turn, chose to use it to pay their dad’s legal fees. A golf club was not identified as “the” murder weapon only that a golf club might have been used as well as other items might have been. The golf club only came into the case after searching the defendant’s house. No DNA or fingerprints were found at the scene. The “missing” shoes had been purchased 2 years prior. The bike tread is of a tire on 80% of mountain bikes sold in the U.S. There was a DNA screw up in the lab which should have ended the trial right there. This was a good story with no evidence that destroyed a family. Too many people in America are being convicted on good stories but no evidence.

    • Sasha Liles says:

      Hi Steve’s daughter!

    • PHIL DAIGLE says:

      I feel the same way … his DNA was not found at the crime scene , no murder weapon found, they are not even sure what the murder weapon was .. bike tracks could have been anybody’s as they said trails were used frequently. Steven DeMocker just doesn’t seem like a killer to me , his story is suspect for sure but guy living on the property who kills himself 3 months later and had his finger prints and blood all over the crime scene wasn’t thoroughly investigated in my opinion . Steven DeMocker made a lot of stupid mistakes and had a lot of circumstantial evidence that made him look guilty but not enough IMO to get past reasonable doubt !! RUN THE DNA FOUND UNDER HER FINGERTIPS IN THE NATIONAL DATA BASE AND THIS MAN WILL GO FREE !!

      • Fred Funseth says:

        They did run the DNA under her fingernails. It came back to the man autopsied before Carol. The ME admitted the nails were clipped with unsterilized nail clippers.

    • Didn’t anybody but me realize Sheila (our sterling DA) misspelled DeMocker’s first name?? Little things like misspellings in court documents can lose a case

    • Lori says:

      I totally agree that if people’s only source of information is the the Dateline episode, his guilt seems somewhat flimsy. However, Dateline does not play the recorded phone call between DeMocker and his daughter, Katy, where he is telling her that all of the insurance money needs to be used for his defense. She was suggesting that some money be held back for her sister’s college. His response was that all of it needed to be used for his defense because his “life is more important than Charlotte’s college” (48 Hours). The idea that this recording is left out does leave the viewer with the impression that the daughters’ voluntarily — out of the good of their hearts — gave their inheritance for his defense. To the contrary, he brow-beat them into doing it.

      Dateline also didn’t point out that: 1) that one of his daughters, through her attorneys, wanted to make it clear that she has not publicly stated whether or not she believes that her dad is guilty or innocent; and 2) DeMocker was under investigation for “apparent squandering of millions of dollars from his UBS clients” at the time of the murder (Washington Post, March 5, 2012 “McLean man in middle of wild Arizona murder case”).

      Also, on Jim Knapp (the neighbor): The Dateline episode suggests (through DeMocker’s sister) that Knapp’s alibi was questionable. Specifically — that his son did not know where his dad was when he was supposed to be babysitting him. Apparently, the son actually never said that. He just said that his dad wasn’t sitting right next to him. In addition, it doesn’t appear that the defense ever disagreed with the prosecution’s investigative findings that the perpetrator rode a bike and stored it right behind the house, walked over Kennedy’s own foot steps and then into the house. So, the Knapp theory would require that he had to drive from his ex-wife’s house, get on a bike (or ride a bike back to Kennedy’s house), hide it behind the house, kill Kennedy, clean up, ride the bike back out, go back to his ex wife’s house and then show up right when the first responders did with no blood or scratches and without his son knowing he was ever gone.

      Also excluded from the Dateline episode is that the sister said that when DeMocker was looking up “how to make a homicide look like an accident” only one month before the murder was because he was “writing a novel” and that she had read and edited drafts of that novel (48 Hours episode). However, it doesn’t appear that either DeMocker or his sister ever produced any drafts of that supposed novel. While Dateline mentions that the murder scene looked staged it doesn’t make it clear that the “staging” was specifically to make it look like Carol fell off a “reading ladder”, hitting her head which caused her death (a homicide staged to look like an accidental death).

    • Alex Gates says:

      All I know, Carol was my Teacher. Steve was one of the Deans. I knew they had a young growing family in early 90s. So much love for those girls, they lost both parents. Carol was an angel to me, love to all affected

  2. Ricardo says:

    I just saw the 2 hour ‘Dateline’ TV presentation of this murder…..his DNA NEVER FOUND at murder scene?….police CANNOT put him at crime scene?…hmm.
    After watching this I just wonder if his girlfriend was somehow never really looked at more closely…. she was not discussed much during the show. Even with all the evidence there is something here that does not seem right. Also separately read he lost his case in his appeal to the Appellate Court a couple yrs ago….yet I still have the feeling something is amiss here.

    • Me says:

      Murder of the tenant to look like suicide. I thought the same of the girlfriend and his rich Dr sister. She seems like she would still do anything to get him off. Just my opinion of courses. I hope not.

  3. Kathy says:

    He had no alibi, bike tracks going to her house match, left handed golf club missing…he was a lefty, didn’t want to pay monthly alimony. His story at time of murder doesn’t make sense. Bike ride until you get flat tire; then you go to gym to work out without calling home until after 10 pm. Guilty, with lots of circumstantial evidence. Guy is a. sleaze bag wrapped in an educated, privileged, arrogant body.

    • Armchair says:

      Crazy case. Crazy because while there was solid circumstantial evidence pointing to the defendant, and while he had a motive and did other things that seemed to incriminate him, there was no direct evidence of him being at the scene of the crime. We never hear his explanation of what happened to the missing golf club. The investigators did not seem to take a very hard look at the oddball renting the cottage next to the victim’s house–a man who seemed to have a bit of an obsession with the victim. We are told in the Dateline show that his DNA, mixed with blood, was on a door handle leading from the victim’s house to his cottage. Wouldn’t that be a hugely significant finding? I would think so. And his fingerprints were on papers in the victim’s house–papers said to be printed out on the day of the murder. That would also seem significant. And then he shot and killed himself, apparently. Why? All of that info would make me, as a juror, wonder about who actually committed the crime. I also wonder why the ex-husband defendant would tell his girlfriend at the time about a getaway bag he hid in a hole at a golf course. Tough case–as there is evidence pointing at both men.

      • Kat says:

        I love the sister and others say there’s no evidence. I have never seen so much evidence on one of these shows. An innocent person doesn’t go through all the trouble and lies. He took a shower after arriving late home to get rid of blood. It’s clear he wore his golf shoes he bought that were never found and gloves. And also it’s so clear that the tenant didn’t kill himself!!!! The husband was setting up his “supposed suicide” plan the very next day when he told Carols’ best friend that he knew she was thinking that Carol had committed suicide. He assumed that she and everyone else at the house that day grieving were so stupid they would believe that and once they found out it was a murder they would believe it was the tenant fault because he had supposedly committed suicide of guilt. The tenant was so right on when he knew and said that the ex was sneaky. He was going to do the suicide looking murder much sooner but just didn’t expect to be locked up so fast. So just like the anonymous letter he also had to find someone to take care of the tenant part of his plan. This guy is clearly easily able to convince many people from his own parents kids and attorneys to lie and deceive. It wouldn’t take much time at all to look at his families money trail to see who they paid to off the tenant. I am shock how his computer searches “how to make murder look like suicide” never lead to them investigating the poor tenants MURDER!!!!! Even his very own attorneys that had to release themselves once caught KNEW the tenant had been murdered six months later. I am not surprised that he planned all of the crazy over the top stuff and thought that his money and power could get the innocent poor tenant who they said may have mental problems or been obsessed locked up and charged and he would get everything he wanted. He is a psychopath, greedy, evil murdering adulterer who clearly showed he would go to any length possible to get what he wanted and at the expense of his kids and family. Over and over he/they tried EVERYTHING they could to get him off with murder. They were so willing to commit fraud/lie to save this POS that they didn’t care at all what they had to do or say or clearly hurt to do it. I am so mad that apparently no one gave a second thought to the poor man who was killed to help the rich guy and his rich family get him off. BYW THESE DETECTIVES CARED MORE AND PUT MORE WORK IN THAN ANY I HAVE EVER SEEN. Clearly they cared about the right person being charged not just closing the case. I am so empresses and grateful for them doing their job correctly instead of what I see lots of times (the Bronx 6 is just one example of many I see all the time). And the poor kids tried and believed so much in their dad and it was heartbreaking at sentencing when you could tell they knew he had don’t it and had to deal with forgiving him. I feel terrible for them and how he used and abused them and their kindness with no regard for what may happen to them if caught.

        • David Couch says:

          I believe when you do something wrong you should pay for it regardless of what the circumstances are. I believe sometimes the people close to you don’t want to believe it family or no family but God knows your heart and the truth came out that he was found guilty this is one position I wouldn’t want to be in. I think when you put evil in anything that you do the outcome is inevitable.This was a 50/50 chance to get him off but it was true facts in the case that had him found guilty and also money greed and lies too and deceit. The jury seen the motive in this case and the final outcome was guilty on all charges.

        • Prescottonian says:

          Sorry but your theory is not even plausible. DeMocker was already in County Jail when the tenant committed suicide.

        • Amber Garcia says:

          First there’s no evidence to place him at the scene of the crime the detectives messed up the whole investigation by just making it about the husband. If they would have investigated the man who lived in her guest house more. I think she walked in on him being in her house he hide and then he attacked her when she saw that magazine on her counter. Did they look through his house for evidence especially when they found his fingerprint . I think the DNA under her nails matched the dead corpse before her.. Then why did they claim they had no match when they first tested it.. Sorry but it would have matched that dead corpse right away the first time they ran it.. Hello jurors failed to convict on evidence of the actual crime scene and DNA. I would have never convicted him he wasn’t at the crime.. THERE FOR HE NEVER KILLED HER.. THE REAL KILLER is OUT THERE.. I bet in 10 or so years they will find new evidence to show he wasn’t the killer.. A detective or someone will finally admitte they locked up an innocent guy because of the bad investigation they did.. The judge to not see that his own kids still don’t believe he did this couldn’t give a less sentence he just based his sentencing off of pictures thats not right for the judge..obvious he was and probably most jurors had their mind made up that they were gonna give a guilty verdict just from her pictures.. A sad sad truth many go to prison who are innocent.. sorry for both family’s loss..

  4. Jennifer Robbins says:

    REASONABLE doubt….. how can the jury not find doubt of ANY kind in this case???? I understand that alot if the circumstantial evidence is definitely damning BUT actual evidence, putting him AT the crime was not found!!! This is not how our justice system should work…. your belief isn’t enough… you can think he is definitely guilty but how can you definitely decide with that evidence! Even if he is guilty, I do not see how, after 5 years, the DAs office could never clearly put him at the murder. This kind of case and outcome scares me for all of us who might be peripherally involved in these kind of horror nightmares.

  5. Linda says:

    Coinincidences don’t happen…Stephen DeMocker brutally murdered his ex-wife…he’s where he should be for the remainder of his life.

    Very sad for all involved.

  6. William E Williams says:

    I wrote the first book about the investigation; yes there was a peculiar renter in the guest house who was really never looked at; he was asked to move out and later his death in a cheezy Prescott apartment was ruled a suicide, even with multiple spent shell casings from various guns found on the floor. I also posted the phone call with the daughter and Steven on Youtube. But to this day, me – a 50 year veteran of journalism – I’m not sure Steven is guilty.

  7. Michelle says:

    Ugh, just saw this re-run episode in it’s entirety. I find it hard to that they found Steve guilty! There was no evidence placing him at the crime scene! I immediately found the neighbor HIGHLY suspicious, as he was obsessed with Carol and his DNA was found at the crime scene, even on Carol’s financial documents (WTH). The neighbor’s ex-girlfriend even testified that he became extremely violent when she wanted to break up with him. The neighbor even eventually committed suicide! Makes me sick to think that an innocent man may be spending the rest of his life in prison.

    • Michelle says:

      (continued) I also want to add that Steven volunteered to give DNA and blood samples because he knew he wasn’t at the scene…I’m an avid watcher of Dateline and other true crime shows, and have NEVER seen a suspect do that if he had committed a serious crime, especially one so violent, with blood splatter.

  8. Ggus says:

    They stated on dateline that he made 500k per year and needed to borrow from parents each month. 500 k is abt 42k per month FYI. He should have netted at least 21k after deduction and taxes. But he couldn’t afford 6k for her …. So where did all his money go? Seriously asking.

    He also couldn’t afford his lawyers after his first lawyers withdrew bc they were part of the fraud that he entangled them in.

    He used his victim’s life ins to pay his bills. I make less than 100k. I don’t understand how you blow that kind of money all the time. Very strange.

    Does anyone know exactly what he was doing with his money to have messed up his cash flow to that degree?

    • Savant says:

      He was a money manager, 500k was not his take home pay. A large part of that was equity comp he received, not actual income. That’s how bonuses work in the finance industry. All his finances came out in the trial — he was footing the bill for two mortgages and expenses for both his daughters (one who was already in university). If I recall, seemed like he had no problem affording her alimony but the state spun the alimony thing into some big burden.

      The state always seemed like they were throwing as much as possible at the wall to see what would stick. Poor guy was railroaded.

  9. He’s guilty as hell !!! Any man that would take the insurance money from his girls one still in school is sorry as they come !!!

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