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.
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 18 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 7-wood, the murder weapon from one of Prescott’s most notorious murders.