tv Dateline MSNBC April 16, 2022 12:00am-2:00am PDT
great weekend and a good night, i will see you soon. from all of our colleagues across the networks of nbc news, thank you for staying up late with us. she was family! a giant hole was ripped out of our hearts. the first thing that you want is, well police will look at the bad guys right? i was not prepared for what's happened. >> professor, artist, mom. murdered! >> primal scream came out of me. >> she literally broke down. started crying. and hollering. >> the police were quick to question her acts. maybe two quick. >> they focus in right from the very beginning. >> has been always does it right? but what if the husband did
not. >> they don't find any dna, fingerprints. nothing of his in the house. >> did someone else do the real killing? >> i'm wondering what was this man capable of? >> so much tragedy. so much heartbreak. >> it was very emotional for me. >> we just kept waiting for them to figure out that they had it wrong. >> it was the 2nd of july, 2008. early evening at a fine old town called prescott, arizona. some going down, air cooling down. you'll find the evening warm. here at the town's historic rodeo ground, refugees from phoenix to hundred and 50 miles away settled in the stands. to enjoy the cowboys.
at the very same time, at the few hours away on the very edge of town. a woman named carol kennedy, was on the -- sometime after seven, she turned in that are big backyard called bridle path. matching the stone that was in the front yard to mark the turn of the millennium. -- but of course carol kennedy has no idea that this was going to be her last day. but now, it would not be natural at all. >> it's the biggest loss of my life to this day. it's profound, it is piercing. it's constant. >> carol kennedy was in, let's say, a good place in her life. this is her friend, catherine. >> caroline was the epitome of kindness.
and living a life from a perspective of having an open heart and being loving. >> before she became a close friend, she was at prescott college. >> she was very much respected and admired. the collapse was always very full, very difficult to get into. >> why would she like? >> she was magnetic. and always searching for the truth. and, you are just gravitating to her. >> the charisma that pulled her students in. >> yes, she was soft and inviting. >> i'm carole kennedy, i live in prescott arizona. >> we got our sense of her personality in this interview. in which she was asked about her passion for teaching. >> it's a gift for feeling that you get to give seeds to this first row, here. and then they turn around and give it to rows behind them. >> and in fact she shared those passions with a man who was her husband for 25 years.
love of her life, steve. >> they were crazy for each other. >> sharon ands is steve sister. >> she was kind of a natural fit for the family. she was immediately as sister to all of us. >> all of us being the -- family. hired traverse all of them. sharon is a doctor. >> it's an accomplished bunch. my friend said there is not a weak link in this group. >> they got married in his parents backyard overlooking lake ontario near rochester new york. an outdoor wedding for a crumple who loved attention. >> steve was the one who started the adventuring. first there was hiking, skiing, planning, 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 daughters, katie -- and. >> they're amazing.
and i think that is really a testimony to the kind of parents they were. but the girls where their first priority. >> she became the dean of prescott college-y. she 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 to. and there were other changes, more difficult once. >> nobody knows all of what goes on inside a marriage, but i had to talk to both of them about it. and their lives were moved in different directions. >> as much as they still cared for each other, there was 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, time living apart.
steven carroll divorced. it was a long, painful process. and after it was final, carol went to a nearby lake where she called catherine. >> she was sobbing. and at first when she called me it was like. odell! and then i realize that the sobbing and then whaling on the phone was a mixture of things. absolutely. >> time for a fresh start. carol had left seat teaching at that time and was on a new passion. painting! >> heart was flourishing. she went really well with that. and taking up for that. >> she remained close to her doctors, 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 in press that. the long easy days of summer. as she -- . carol passed by the guest college she had rented out as a way to pay her expenses. >> it's 50 feet away from the main house. it has all of its own kitchen, bath, shower, rooms. >> it was comforting in a way to have someone with her on the company on the edge of things. then it was jim mack, divorced father, a bit of an odd duck. but easy to get along with. at least after carroll told her friends. the man did not cause any trouble. >> she was a free spirited surfer dude from hawaii who -- >> but she took him in as a border? >> it was my understanding that he was -- had been diagnosed with cancer. i think they supported each other through a lot of the painful times that they were
both experiencing. >> once inside their house carroll put in a salad for dinner and answered a few emails and settled in for an evening. she picked up the phone and called her mother ruth who lives in nashville tennessee. >> she was an amazing daughter who still called her mother every day. >> ruth was 83 and the call was a nightly ritual. and then at 8 pm, 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. now worried! so she decided to call the sheriff's department. -- >> sheriff's office, how can i help you? >> yes, my name is ruth kennedy. and i am calling from nashville, tennessee. i was on the phone with my daughter and she screamed and said oh no! and the dolphins than dead.
is there anything that you can do? can you go check? >> oh no! those words played back in ruth worried brain. and so began a mystery. and the story, to unbelievable even for some of its most intimate participants. what happened to carole kennedy? >> coming up! that question would take years to answer. not just what happened the carroll, but who was behind it. >> she didn't have any enemies? >> none! man! >> we were just stunned! >> when dateline continues! n dateline continues
i could've waited to tell my doctor my heart was racing just making spaghetti... but i didn't wait. i could've delayed telling my doctor i was short of breath just reading a book... but i didn't wait. they told their doctors. and found out they had... atrial fibrillation. a condition which makes it about five times more likely to have a stroke. if you have one or more of these symptoms irregular heartbeat, heart racing, chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue or lightheadedness, contact your doctor. this is no time to wait. carol kennedy, and her mother
>> she's out there, and she screamed and said, oh no. and then the phone rules dropped, and i'm just at my wits and. >> did you call her, or did she call you when this occurred? >> she called me tonight. and when she calls me every night. i'm 83, and she worries about me. so, we were just having our conversation, then, all of a sudden, she described and said, oh no. now, i haven't been able to get her to answer the phone. so, you know, i'm afraid something bad happened. >> okay ruth. 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? recently divorced? certainly, the operator heard it. >> do you believe that there's any reason that should be concerned if her husband, ex-husband, came back. >> oh, i don't think so. >> okay. >> no, i don't think it's that kind of thing. >> okay. >> family and friends all knew that even after their divorce,
steven carroll still care 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 they enjoy doing, and bringing up katie and charlotte. >> this was hardly the time for reminiscing. carol wasn't answering her phone, and ruth was frantic. >> all right, we will send somebody out to check on her, and we will 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 carole had a border, that offbeat guy, jim nap. but ruth didn't know how to reach him. stephen i want to do, so she called him on his cell phone. when he didn't pick up, she left him this message. >> hey, richard, hi, it's kennedy and nashville. i was on the phone with carole, and she screamed and said, oh no. i can't get her to answer me
back. i'm wondering if you can see what you can find out, and let me know something. >> by that time, it was dark. steve, and carroll's daughter, charlotte, her than boyfriend, jacob, we're, at that moment, at steve's house. waiting for him to come home. jacob was living there while he tried to sort out a few issues with his parents. >> what was a relation like with him, and what was charlotte's relationship like? >> charlotte was very close with steve. he had offered me to stay with him before. trying to figure something out just to make my situation with my parents better. so, i had a lot of respect for him. i definitely looked up to him. >> that evening, steve, an avid outdoorsman, was overdue from a mountain bike ride. it was getting late. really night, actually. >> it was very, very on. he would usually have dinner
pretty light there. it was normal to have dinner at 9:00, 9:30. when he hadn't come home around that time was when we got to get a little worried. maybe he had crashed, or gotten hurt, or something. >> what did you do? >> charlotte called his cell phone, and no answer. >> no answer. >> did it go straight to voice mail? >> yes. >> anyways, hungry for dinner, they went to the store for groceries. >> while we were at the store, it was probably around ten, or 10:15, is when we got a call from steve. he told us, you know, he got a flat tire, and he was at the workout center and was going to finish up his work out there. >> and what, his phone had been off or something? what happened to his phone? >> he said his phone has died. >> while he was out there having a flat tire? >> right. >> steve is in the shower win, charlotte and jake arrive back at the condo. they made a in. or vegetable stir fry. it was late, but then again, it
was a mild summer night. not a care in the world, it seemed. no idea what was happening at the house on bridle path. but >> coming up -- >> i'm getting worried about you. >> panic begins. a daughter rushes to the scene. what would she find? >> she immediately broke down. started crying pretty hard. >> when dateline continues. n dateline continues
july 2nd, 2008, about 11 pm. stephen and his daughter charlotte, and her boyfriend jay, we're eating a very late dinner. >> he had taken a few more bites of his dinner. by that point, charlotte and i were pretty close to being finished. >> that's when steve told them about a strange phone call that she received from her brother. that said apparently her home phone cut out while she was talking to her mother ruth. >> how did charlotte react to that? >> she was worried. >> charlotte said she texted her mother earlier that weekend, and everything had been fine. but now, she called her. >> voice mail. >> hey mom, it sure. i heard from grandmother that something happened and she is kind of worried about you. so i'm just calling to see if everything is okay. and i'm kind of getting worried
about you. so if you want to text me back or call me. just let me know and let me know that you're okay. and everything is okay. >> in the beginning, panic bobbled up in her brain. she and her boyfriend called around to local hospitals. but no one named carole kennedy had been admitted anywhere. >> so this is nighttime, any thought of going over there? >> yeah we talked about it. >> steve was concerned about carroll, of course. but as the national ex husband, he had another concern to. >> steve express that he was not comfortable with it, because they had at finalized their divorce. and she did not want to invade her privacy if she was on a date, or something. so we decided that charlotte and i would go out there and check on her. see if anything was out of the ordinary. >> it was around midnight when they drove to carole's place on bridle path. having promised to call steve the moment they got their. >> do you remember what it was like driving their?
>> it was very quiet. i don't really think that we spoke very much at all on the way there. >> because? >> just nerves. >> little anxious? >> right. >> do you remember pulling up to the house? >> yes. very vividly. >> at that moment charlotte was on the phone with her dad. >> seeing it at the top of the hill, you could see police, the sheriffs lights. all the cars. the worst spots are going through my mind at that point. >> almost the kind of thing to hit you here, before here. >> yeah, you feel it in your stomach first for sure. then we got closer to the house, so the caution tape. and all the people running around. we pulled up and stabbed at the side of the road. two sheriffs walked up on other side of the car.
we rolled the windows down. >> did this person know who you are? >> i think he had asked, the guy who is passing and saying no this is my mom's house. he said i'm sorry to tell you but, carol passed away. at that point, she just immediately broke down. started crying, pretty hard. >> charlotte dropped the phone! failed to pieces. where you frightened? >> scared. a little bit. really more for charlotte. even now, i do not think 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 deal with charlotte. >> and ski? if >> he was taken aback. it was almost kind of disbelief that he did not know what to say, really.
heard him choking back some tears a little bit. it is hard. >> right away, steve rushed to carl's house. a detective had a recorder rolling. we can hear charlotte savvy. instead of talking. >> the last time i was out here was -- i don't know. i'm sorry. i don't know it's been a while. >> someone else talk to the detectives, too. the man who showed up just minutes after the deputies got there. jim knack, carols border who had been living in the guesthouse. >> i can't remember anything. >> and jim had a lot to say about carole, and he didn't stop there! coming up! . >> it was, certainly, a gruesome stream. blood drops, shoe prints, they tell a story. so what does this tell you about how she died? >> she certainly -- >> and the man at the guest cottage has a story to. >> i warn you guys, it's just
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happening. pentagon officials confirm, the subsequent, and subsequent fire over the russian warship were, indeed, the result of a ukrainian missile strike. the russian missile cruiser, ultimately, sunk as it was toe to port for repairs. the loss of that vessel, coming as russian forces prepare for an offensive in eastern ukraine. using long range bombers, in an effort to devastate mariupol, as they look to complete -- take complete control of the port city according to ukraine's military. back to dateline. back to dateline just before 9 pm, july 2nd. around the time caroline worried family members were recording foreign messages to each other. a county sheriff's deputy was
dispatched a carole's house on bridle path. found the home dark, eerily quiet. he shown a flashlight through a window. saw bookcase, toppled over, and blood everywhere. that's one investigator, mike, was pulled into the strangest case in his career. the kind of thing he had moved to prescott to avoid. >> it's a quaint, little community, nestled in the pines, and not a whole lot of crime, especially from when i was used to. >> he put in 27 years in the phoenix police. this job, with the county attorney's office, was supposed to be an escape from big city crime. here he was, and the middle of july 9th, looking at one very brutal homicide. >> what did it look like? >> certainly, it was a gruesome scene. not only a large amount of blood, on carole's body, but also, on the furniture that was
nearby. blood spatter, that had been cast off, on to the walls, and other items as well. >> so, that tells you something about how she died. >> she certainly died of violent death. >> something else. as he surveyed the room, he can plainly see, whoever did this is trying to fool them. how did he know? when he looked past the obvious core, he couldn't help but notice things had been moved around after carole was dead. >> there was a ladder that was placed over top of her body. that, along with some of the blood that had splattered on to a bookshelf, and then, the shelf was knocked over. obviously, several minutes after the blood hit it. >> unlikely it was just tottering, and eventually collapsed? >> that could not have happened. >> that's a pretty significant little until there. >> absolutely. >> staging. clear as day, said the
detective. there were even some drops of blood just outside of 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 next door to ranch land, where lots of people went running, and riding their. carol, to. >> horses, animals, people use that area. there were a lot of checks. these tracks were unique. they were fresh. >> they found carols footprints from her job 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. >> you even had a sequence of tracks. >> yes. >> about 50 feet from the main house, you remember, was a guest thought h which carroll had rented out to that tenant, jim. >> jim 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, he was ready with a story. >> he had been babysitting one of his boys and his ex-wife's house when this incident, actually, occurred. >> you have to pin him down on that, and make sure he had proof of, it right? >> that's correct. >> another detective, turning on his recorder, as he rambled on about his relationship with carole. >> she and i, are, sort of, committed to one another to be co-coaches. to coach each other through both our divorces. >> but, he didn't stop there. oh no, he seemed very eager to tell them about carole's ex husband, steve. >> i'll warn you guys, it's just my intuitive take. the guy comes off to me as a very sneaky, manipulative man.
>> so, by the time steve arrived, detectives were already suspicious. 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 mountain bike very often. i'm starting to so, you know, i do some on and off. mostly uygur trail running. i don't have a routine. >> he drew a map of the trail he followed. >> online goes up, and peters out, and there is the trial. >> at one point, the child got within a mile of carole's house. >> the detectives ears perked up, but steve insisted he never went to carole's house. >> i'm happy to give you blood and saliva. i'm happy to give you anything you need. >> so, there's nothing we will find that will tell you there? >> no, i wasn't there. i wouldn't do that. >> steve told the detective he was tired, dehydrated. >> we can fix that. if you need more water, i'll be back to get water. if you need food, giving food,
i'll get you something. you tell me what you want. under asking if you'd be a little bit patient with us and help us through this matter. >> yeah, of course, i want to do that. i'm happy to give you dna. i wasn't there. so, i assume that will be good for me. >> that is true. if it is like you say, then once we do our lab work -- >> i'm just, i'm cold, and i'm tired. >> steve asked, what were they thinking about him? was he a suspect? >> i don't know what's looking suspiciously looks like. i don't, i didn't mean to ask, just about tired. >> no, and, like, here is the whole thing with it. we are certain things in what's going on. like i said, we've got a suspicious death, and, right now, we don't have any other person. >> and you're suspecting me? >> well, we have no other person right now. >> so, it was a long night in that little room. the detective gave steve a blanket, and asked again about
the trial, the proximity of where the trail is. >> where the trail, is where you are writing. >> we showed chosen a different era. >> i wish you would have chosen a different trail also. because, and here's the thing, right now -- >> of course, if i had done it, i probably wouldn't have chosen to right near that. the scene of what sounds like, maybe, a crime. >> 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 writing a rough mountain trail honest bike. detectives photographed him, before letting him go home. >> meanwhile, overnight, other detective 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 carole died from blows to the head, it minister
by some blunt object seven times, in particular, had her. but with what? the medical examiner offered an opinion, that it looks like it might have been a golf club. and one more thing, carol herself might already be telling them who killed her. >> coming up -- >> it's a homes like an aha moment, right? >> it's a moment where you say, oh my goodness, we may have overlooked something. >> the clue the police, almost, missed. will it help them crack the case? when dateline continues. when dateline continues. the #1 choice of dogs. digestive and neurological side effects have rarely been reported. ask your vet for heartgard plus. age before beauty? why not both? visibly diminish wrinkled skin in... crepe corrector lotion... only from gold bond.
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and ask how to get up to a $650 prepaid card there -- with a qualifying bundle. as catherine morris can tell you, no good way to find out your clothes find has been murdered. especially when your friend is as incandescent as carol kennedy. >> it haunts my life to this day. it's profound, it is piercing. it is constant. >> she didn't have any enemies? >> none! none! >> catherine, who by this time lived in atlanta, flew across the country to prescott. >> i need to see it. i needed to be in her home where she lost was. >> she joined other members of carols family at bridle path.
in the very room where carroll died. blood still splattered on the furniture. the mess of what happened, everywhere in that room. >> maybe it's just, you can't imagine. painful. >> did it help? >> it helped. greatly. to put it into perspective of the absolute horrendous brutality. animalistic violence. >> evidence of that was still in the room? >> oh yes! oh yes! >> steve was there too, said catherine. and she remembers him saying something that, to her, did not make much sense. >> he put his arm around me and said, you just want to think it's an accident? don't you? >> and i turned him and said, this is not an accident. >> but so soon after the murder, steve was the only real suspect in the investigation. then, in the following weeks as
friends and family mourned, they peeled back the layers of steve and carols relationship. and soon found evidence that the recent divorce was, we'll know divorces pleasant, but. >> we have emails, and we learned that carroll was very unhappy with the outcome of the divorce. they argued heavily back and forth. up until the day of the murder. >> steve made good money as a financial adviser, and agreed to pay 6000 a month in spousal support. >> when you say somebody makes over $500, 000, you would assume that a 6000 dollar payment a month is not a big deal. but he was spending way more than he was making, he had to borrow money from his parents almost monthly. >> -- >> and the $6, 000, he was going to be able to sustain his
lifestyle. >> mind you, those numbers were for 2008. a year, like a lot of people, people he hemorrhage money in the financial crisis. still, that did not sound like motive. it may have explained why the murder occurred, the way it did at the starting 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, saying he was mountain biking when she died. but look at this! along with two prints near carole's house after the murder, police also found trier tracks. beg tires. >> we 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 the shoe and tire tracks, as they frequently do, but they did take pictures of the tracks. looks a lot like steve's tires, they felt. and with no matching shoes, they discovered that steve might have a pair that might match. and then, the curious business of the murder weapon. or possible murder weapon. remember the coroner's report suggesting she may have been hit with a golf club? well, investigators heard that. and something clicked in their memories from when they first searched thieves house. >> there were golf clubs in his garage! >> so let's go back and sees them, right? >> yes. seize them and examine them. to determine if these golf clubs were used as the murder weapon. >> so it sounds like, and law moment. right? >> it's one of those moments that you go, oh my goodness! we may have overlooked something. >> so they return to steve condo. sees the golf clubs from the
garage. and tested them, but could no find any 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 go south on a shelf. and when they looked at the photos, there was. but when they searched the garage a second time, it was gone. >> and the shelf itself had, apparently been rearranged. >> was it possible that now the missing girl struck belonged to a different golf club? when that was no longer around? when used to kill carole kennedy? did steve knowing that he was a suspect get rid of that because it was incriminating evidence? seems like every investigative trail that they followed lead right back to the person they had suggested all along. carol's best friend knew who that was. >> i didn't believe steve did it, but i couldn't think of anybody else that could
possibly do any harm to carroll. and >> and so, three months after carole was killed, they arrested steve on the 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 child was -- . a woman who you all loved! >> it was a total shock. they do not understand. if they knew him, they would see how wrong and 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 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,
to see the wheels turn plane fully slowly in this process. so we left and we are standing out in the corridor. then they were just starting to bring steve out. and we were like, let's just -- . so, we, started singing we wish you a merry christmas! and, we could see that there were some tears in steve's face. >> steve's family went to. they believe he was innocent. that someone else must have killed carroll. and their belief only grew stronger after, >> 9-1-1 what is your emergency? >> a 9-1-1 call, this time, to the prescott police department. >> the doors open. it looks like there is a gunshot hole in the window. and there is a shell casing inside. and the bedroom door is closed. >> coming up!
husband always does it great? >> they focus only on one person right from the beginning. >> a thumbprint, a smear of blood, and here's the bombshell. neither one belonged to steve. >> there were a lot of red flags that were concerning. >> when dateline continues! n dateline continues blurry near vision. wait, what? it sounded like you just said an eye drop that may help you see up close. i did. it's an innovative way to... so, wait. i don't always have to wear reading glasses? yeah! vuity™ helps you see up close. so, i can see up close with just my eyes? uh-huh. with one drop in each eye, once daily. in focus? yep. [laughs] like, really? really. vuity™ is a prescription eye drop to help you see up close. ow! wait, what? wait. wait? wait, what? see for yourself. use vuity™ with caution in night driving and hazardous activities in poor light. also, if your vision is not clear, do not drive or use machinery.
contact your doctor immediately if you have sudden vision loss. most common side-effects are headache and eye redness. ♪ ♪ okay, this is a freezer, not a time capsule. sometimes the house itself can tell you how a young homeowner is turning into their parents. -not those two. -yep, they're gone. -forever? -yep. that there is progressive's homequote explorer website, where i compared home insurance rates. we don't need to print the internet. some are beyond help. i will give you $100 if you can tell me what this is. -scotch egg. -it's a meatball. progressive can't help you from becoming your parents, but we can help you compare rates on home insurance with homequote explorer. we've got a lot of work to do. steve was in jail, charged with
first degree murder, for his ex-wife's violent death. he pleaded not guilty. private investigator, rich robertson, joined his defense team. right away, saw what he believed, was an elemental mistake by detectives. >> they had put together their story, their version of events, almost immediately. >> husband always does, it right? >> in reality, they focused in on one person, and they had a story, and that is what they moved on. they zeroed in on steve, right from the beginning. >> roberts and said, detective should've taken a much closer
look at another man and carroll's life. jim. the man who lived in the guesthouse, showing 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, they viewed steve. that they saw jim as a friendly witness, and they say steve as a suspect, frames the way they investigate. so, anything having to do with jim becomes excusable. explained. it's just not something you have to worry about, because he's not our guy. >> and yet, look for an example of these crime scene photos in carole's kitchen counter. the magazine, sitting on it. slip inside, between the pages, were financial documents, printed the very day carole was murdered. >> that became important. his thumb print is on those
financial documents. >> what was jim doing with those documents? and, something else. perhaps, very significant. >> there was blood on the doorknob of a door, that lead from the main house, into the backyard garage. >> the blood, becoming evidence item number 805, collected days after carroll's death. and, whose dna was mixed with carole's blood? gyms. >> just like the thumbprint, the question becomes, when did jim's dna get put on that door handle? >> robertson, clearly, had his suspicions. and, steve sister, sharon, did to. >> you felt, all along, that jim should have been the suspect, and he wasn't? >> he should have been investigated. it was very concerning. >> they told him that he was at
his ex-wife's place, miles away, babysitting his son. >> didn't they find out the alibi was, in fact, pretty solid? >> no. actually, it was not. what the suns said was that, yeah, they had gotten a video, and the sun was watching it. he didn't know where dad went. >> he wasn't sitting beside him in the room? >> no, dad was not watching with him. so, he doesn't know where data 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 the solid alibi wasn't. 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 or one point, and it had been removed. so, no, he didn't. >> steve's family even recorded
this video, after the murder, in which jim said things about carole they found deeply disturbing. >> because, carol, i've lived a life like an old married couple. >> he was actually rather obsessed with carole. i have emails that he's written about how wet he and carol sherr is more than anyone could picture. that no one will understand the bond that they have, and how close they are to each other. he referred to her, to some people, as his girlfriend, but she never had any romantic interest in him. >> and 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 carroll rebuffed him, and he got angry? the detectives didn't ask those questions, said steve's family. soon, it was too late. six months after carroll's
murder, a 9-1-1 call from a condo, where jim went to live after carole was killed. >> we can infer 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. >> who are you doing a welfare check on? >> jim. >> jim knapp was dead. gunshot wound. the medical examiner ruled it a suicide. >> i was stunned. then it was one of those moments where it just sort of took my breath away. it then, when i found out that there was no note. and, as i learned about the details of what the scene looked like, that 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 were drawers pulled out, staging. >> staging, in other words. just as the investigators believe someone stage the scene of carols murder. was jim carroll'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 corals death, steve's attorney received an email. the center, anonymous, the email read, i can tell you really what 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 is said the murder was meant to look like home invasion robbery gone bad. this wasn't one craze 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.
coming up. will this be the evidence that steve had been waiting for? >> well, i almost hate to ask you this, but can you explain why are emotional here today? >> because i spent a year not knowing what happened to carole, and being accused of it. >> when dateline continues. when dateline continues some home fragrances can be... overwhelming. air wick fresh new day fills your space with fragrance that's always fresh, never overpowering. air wick. connect to nature.
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>> someone 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. >> reporter: the attorneys arranged for a meeting, an opportunity for steve to tell law enforcement what he heard so they can investigate. they showed him the mysterious email. listen to his reaction. >> sorry. >> well, i almost hate to ask you this, but can you explain why you're emotional today? >> because i spent a year not knowing what happened to carol and being accused of it. that's what's happened right now. >> reporter: there was more than the e-mail to go on. remember the dna the medical
examiner found under carol's fingernails? turned out it wasn't steve's. or jim knapp's. police called the dna, "evidence item 603." but to defense investigator rich robertson, it represented much more. >> evidence item 603 became mr. 603. it was a male's 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. >> reporter: jim knapp. the anonymous e-mail. mr. 603. steve's family and attorneys thought investigators should focus more on all of those things. instead, it seemed to them, prosecutors had already made up their minds, and steve would go on trial for murder. summer 2010. two years after carol kennedy's
murder, american flags were draped in ancipation of the annual rodeo. and june 3, the county attorney opened his case against steve. 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 had taken the death penalty off the table though the attorney told the jury the case was no less condemning. >> i will ask you to find the defendant guilty of first degree premeditated murder. >> first he said steve had motives and not just that $6,000 a month in alimony. no, carol, said the prosecutor, was worth a lot of money dead. >> the evidence will show that at the time of her death, that steven democker was the owner
and beneficiary of two life insurance policies, the total value of those life insurance policies was $750,000. >> steve and carol's daughters were in court sitting behind and supporting their father. defense investigator rich robertson -- >> to have your father accused of killing their mother, and for them to not believe it, you can't imagine what that must have done to how they viewed things. it's just got to be a horrible experience. >> in his opening statement the defense attorney was quick to address that life insurance money. >> 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 signed over any interest to the girls. any money that he was paid. that is what happened. >> and they called the first witness. >> did she have a habit of
things that she did when she came home from work? >> 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 month 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 carol had screamed, oh, no! >> and you said that oh, no a certain way with a certain emphasis. was that the way that she said to your recollection? >> she said, oh, no! basically that's the way it came out. >> did she scream it? >> it really was not a scream. i'm sure it was because i was so rattled myself. she just said oh, no. all she said and basically in
that tone of voice, like it was more dismay. >> reporter: this was very difficult for ruth, as you can imagine. >> she was everything a mother would want in a daughter. she was a good mother. >> reporter: charlotte, the younger democker daughter, was living with steve that summer. was in steve's house the night of the murder when he was unreachable for 5 hours and said his cellphone was dead. >> your father, did he normally have spare batteries with him? >> sometimes in his car. >> did he carry them in the car and also in his briefcase? >> it's possible. i don't know. >> normally, he was reachable by way of his cellphone, right? >> yes. >> reporter: 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. >> reporter: and then the prosecutor asked charlotte's, by
then, former boyfriend jacob about the weird business of the golf club cover. the golf sock that appeared in a photo in steve's garage, 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 head sock cover 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. >> reporter: implying, said 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 lindberg left the bench at lunch break and suddenly collapsed.
it was a brain tumor. and everybody waited for 5 weeks until a brand new judge was appointed, so they could pick up with 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 bag please. >> reporter: detective theresa kennedy showed it to the jurors and the judge explained a stipulation made by the attorneys. >> on july 5, 2008 -- >> reporter: turned out, days after carol's murder, steve gave the golf 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. >> reporter: so was the curious case of the migrating club sock an attempt to cover up a murder, or a bit of confusion. an investigative dead end? prosecutors weren't done, mind you. they next tried to tie steve to the crime scene. they 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's bike. >> the tread on this tire is similar to the tread we observed of this tire track. >> and did you find any discernible differences between them? >> no i did not. >> reporter: 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. >> reporter: a la sportiva pike's peak. records showed 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 knapp and illegal drugs. so, even as the trial went on, investigator mike sechez was interviewing and re-interviewing witnesses. including steve's girlfriend,
renee girard. >> it was obvious to me that she was very protective of mr. democker. >> reporter: steve began dating renee when he was separated from carol. they were together during that tumultuous time, steve's divorce, carol's murder, his arrest. renee had always stood by steve and his family but sechez had a feeling. >> we were pretty convinced that she knew more than she was telling us. >> reporter: sechez knew something else too. during the trial renee broke up with steve. so on the eve of her testimony sechez interviewed renee again about that "anonymous e-mail." what he discovered? explosive is not too big a word. coming up -- >> steve was terrified. we were terrified. >> the email trail, the money trail. a winding trail of surprises was about to change this case.
that was a doozy of a mistake. >> uh-huh. >> when "dateline" continues. hu. >> when "dateline" continues these are the mowers i was telling you about. and right now, you'll find everything your lawn and home needs this season. [ food sizzling and happy family chatter ] at great prices for the season. stop by lowe's now, for your happiest spring.
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>> reporter: mornings dawned cooler in the arizona mountains, the summer flags in the town square were stored away for another year. and the murder trial of steve democker ticked into its fifth, fitful month. the prosecution had amounted to circumstantial bits and pieces to that point. and investigator mike sechez knew that steve was likely to mount a strong defense. >> mr. democker is a very intelligent individual. >> mm-hm. >> but he's also a very narcissistic personality. you 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 him. knew more than she was telling. then renee broke it off with steve. and sechez 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. democker 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. democker had brought a document with him that he placed on the glass, so that they could view it. >> reporter: according to renee, steve himself wrote that document. then asked his daughter charlotte, just 17 at the time, to copy it down. >> mr. democker then asked them to send that document which became known as the anonymous e-mail to mr. sears and to the prosecutor's office. >> reporter: "mr. sears" was john sears. one of steve's defense attorneys. steve's reasoning, according to steve's sister sharon, he'd heard that story from an inmate in that air-vent conversation and 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. >> uh-huh. >> reporter: and uncovering that fraud led investigators to what they thought was another, even bigger one. remember carol's life insurance money? $750,000 worth. steve's defense attorney talked about it during his opening statement. >> he disclaimed, he signed over any interest to the girls and the money was paid out to the girls. that's what happened in this case. >> reporter: that statement caught investigator mike sechez 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. >> reporter: so, had the insurance paid out or hadn't it?
sechez took another look, a 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. democker's parents' account in new york, who then wire transferred it back to mr. democker's defense team. >> reporter: remember steve democker was a highly-paid financial adviser. the prosecutors now believed he was using that expertise to try to get away with murder. >> here is a person that murdered his ex-wife then collected her life insurance of over 750 thousand 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, was that just piling on, on the part of the prosecution? >> yeah. >> reporter: the much bigger issue for the defense, said investigator robertson, was that phony e-mail. an e-mail the attorneys presented in court as real. because, they said, they, too, were duped by steve. >> suddenly, the attorneys are in an awkward legal ethical kind of posture and -- in relationship to their client.
and so it created an untenable situation for the first defense team. >> reporter: 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. >> we thought we were sprinting to the finish line. we thought that steve was gonna be home in time for thanksgiving, and suddenly the finish line just kinda moved off into the horizon. >> reporter: gut wrenching said carol's friend katherine. >> it was so emotional of -- not even a roller coaster. just the intensity of -- of the emotion. >> reporter: 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 attorneys. so, since steve was pretty much destitute, court appointed attorneys stepped in. and right away craig williams and greg parzych were impressed
by how steve's family supported him. >> it's a large family. very educated, very tight-knit group. >> how uniformly did they support steve through this process? >> i'd say very uniformly. >> they're all behind him? >> yes. >> reporter: 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 603." coming up -- >> we had exhausted so many man hours and looked at any and all alternatives. we finally were able to discover and verify who mr. 603 is. >> the mysterious pl 603, not who anyone expected.
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i'm dara brown. pentagon officials have confirmed the explosions and fire board the russian flagship were the result of a ukrainian missile strike. it ultimately sunk. and more than 150 palestinians were injured following clashes with israeli police friday at a holy site. violence taking place over the ramadan and easter. now back to "dateline." >> reporter: it had always been an issue in the case against steve democker: that one fascinating clue that could break the case wide open. who was "mr. 603"? 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 exhausted so many man hours and looked at any and all alternatives. >> reporter: and then it was during the long months of waiting for a new trial to begin, the prosecution had an idea. what if that 603 sample was a simple mistake. what if something just got mixed up in the lab? so investigator mike sechez looked up the autopsy done just before carol's. and submitted a sample from that for re-testing. and? nearly three years after carol's murder, a call from the crime lab. >> the sample dna that we sent had matched the dna under carol kennedy's fingernails. we finally were able to discover and verify who mr. 603 is.
>> reporter: mr. 603, it turned out, was another dead soul, 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. we found out not only potential contamination, there was actual contamination in this case. >> how can you trust anything after that? >> exactly. >> reporter: defense attorney craig williams said the case against steve had an even bigger flaw. >> you cannot put steve democker 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 carol's on him anywhere. you don't find any dna, fingerprints, blood, anything
that is his in the house. how can you convict him of murder? >> reporter: 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, had, during the long delays, spent some quality time honing their argument against steve. >> carol kennedy had no enemies. this was not a burglary or a 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 first-degree murder. >> reporter: 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 the term "how to make a homicide
appear suicide." >> reporter: those e-mails and texts messages, carol and steve arguing in the days before her death, were read to the jury. a 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. >> reporter: 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, said the state, 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 it 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 cellphone battery to die. something he never normally did. >> in general, there was usually a battery in his phone and an extra battery either charged or being charged. >> did you ever know him to be -- to not have a phone at the ready if he needed to use it? >> i didn't. >> reporter: renee also revealed that a month after the murder, steve told her something that in hindsight seemed very significant. >> in the evening we would take a 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. >> reporter: a getaway bag. which she said he buried on a golf course. and sure enough, with renee's
help, detectives found the bag on the golf course. inside were cash, clothing, and a cellphone, and a pen light. also, after steve was arrested, they conducted 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 it was a bmw motorcycle that the detectives showed me that was in the parking garage. they believe that he had recently purchased it. >> reporter: and inside these locked cases, they later learned, steve had maps, clothing, hair dye, makeup, and fifteen thousand dollars in cash. charlotte, 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 carol was killed by drug dealers. an e-mail dictated by her father. >> and at one point, your dad held up a piece of paper to that glass window and wanted you to 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 write an e-mail 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 an anonymous e-mail. >> reporter: anonymous. so that it could not be traced back to her or her father. her older sister katie wasn't aware the e-mail 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. but katie was forced to testify that wasn't true. >> my father was asking me for various things related to that money. >> reporter: once carol's life insurance paid out, katie transferred her share to her grandparents. >> but you knew that your grandparents were going to use that money for attorneys' fees? >> that was my understanding, some or all of it. >> reporter: the prosecution called close to 50 witnesses to portray steve democker 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
and the court. the case looked strong, the prosecution rested. >> your honor, the state would rest. >> reporter: 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 democker. coming up -- 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. >> he got to the point where he was lying about having active cancer and asking people for financial help. >> i'm wondering what was this man capable of? was he going to hurt me or hurt my family? i was scared. >> when "dateline" continues. ws
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had five years to put steve democker at the scene of the crime, but they cannot. >> reporter: anybody paying attention to the bizarre murder case playing out in fits and starts here in prescott was apt to be a little suspicious of steve democker's behavior after the killing. getaway bag? fake e-mail? defense attorneys craig williams and greg parzych could see that as well as anyone. but was he guilty of murder? no, they said. rather, he was the victim of some detective's tunnel vision, beginning with a sloppy investigation. >> there was kind of 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.
>> reporter: 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. >> and you're suspecting me. >> well, we have no other person right now. >> reporter: in which you can hear the suspicion, said the defense. and steve, said the attorneys, felt a cold fear overcoming him. >> he's afraid of what's happening, that the investigation is all on him, they're not focusing on anybody else, anything else that focuses on him, and he's afraid that nobody will believe him. >> reporter: that's why he buried the getaway bag, they said. wasn't a sign of guilt, but of terror. in fact, it didn't turn up until months after steve was arrested. >> you never had any evidence that mr. democker tried to use that bag to flee, correct? >> that 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, yes. >> well, you're using a term of art there "before he could flee." my question to you is very direct.
he did not flee, did he? >> he was not able to, no. >> okay. there's another term of art. it's a very simple question. did mr. democker flee or not? that's a yes or no question. >> no, he did not flee. >> reporter: and steve's sister sharon had a simple explanation for those coincidences the night of the murder. the circumstantial evidence. like his dead cellphone battery. >> i think most of us with cellphones 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 on bridle path. >> well, he lived out there. for many years. so that was a favored trail. >> they also made a great deal of the tracks that they found in the property. the shoe prints that must've been his, the tire tracks that must've been his. >> 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 months. >> and he bought them a couple years earlier, is that right. >> yeah. the bicycle tire, that's the tire that's on 80% of all the mountain bikes in the u.s. 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 experts said, "we have no idea if it's a match or not." >> something that has more or less -- >> reporter: 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, ah, specifically this weapon, i can't. >> i think the golf club is a -- as alfred hitchcock used to say, it's the mcguffin, okay? it's the magic device to tie it to steve democker, the golfer,
the elitist. >> sure. >> the rich guy who is pissed off about -- >> fine. but isn't there scientific evidence to say that's a golf club head that hit it? >> no. 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 another weapon. >> reporter: the defense argued detectives should have looked into other suspects too. one person in particular. jim knapp. the man who rented carol's guest house 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 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. >> reporter: knapp, said the defense attorneys, was in serious financial trouble and cooked up a shameless lie to persuade friends to lend him money. they told the jury about 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 he actually didn't have. >> he didn't have. >> reporter: they said knapp 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 this 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 her e-mails. >> i'm wondering what was this man capable of. was he going to come up and stalk? 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. >> reporter: 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 a sample taken from a doorknob, leaving the house? that was evidence item #805. they called a 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 democker. >> your point was that on each of these analyses, james knapp matches each one of these, and steve democker doesn't. >> that's right. >> reporter: in fact, neither steve democker's dna, nor his fingerprints, were ever found at the crime scene. so, had police focused on the wrong man all along? and because steve democker knew that, did he make a foolish mistake like a frightened man would? the anonymous e-mail, the voice in the vent, 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, a whole separate issue. >> reporter: 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 attorneys, 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. >> thank you. >> reporter: all along, steve's family remained rock solid in his corner. as sister sharon said. >> i wanna 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 thinkin' 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. >> reporter: and now, five years after the brutal murder on bridle path, a jury would finally get to decide. and steve would finally get his say. coming up -- >> 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. when "dateline" continues. when "dateline" continues. bun to see the signs of hope all around you? what if you could let in the lyte? discover caplyta. caplyta is a once-daily pill, proven to deliver significant relief from bipolar depression. unlike some medicines that only treat bipolar i, caplyta treats both bipolar i and bipolar ii depression.
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>> reporter: there may be nothing else in life to compare to the agonizing hours and days a family waits. endures. as twelve strangers sit in a locked room and prepare to dictate fate. >> well, as -- as anyone who's watched a 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. >> yeah, and you have no control over it. >> uh-huh. >> strangers are gonna decide. >> uh-huh. >> who don't know your brother? >> uh-huh. >> reporter: 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 prescott -- news. the 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, had another night to wait and wonder what did the jury decide? >> it was rough on everybody. >> it is. and it's just horrible. with that nervous energy then is to the -- you can't sleep. >> we were thinking, "well, are they just stretching this out?" >> was it torture? >> well, sure, i mean, we -- we
just want them to go ahead and let him go now. >> reporter: 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 won't look at the family. >> we the jury duly empaneled and sworn find the defendant, steve democker, guilty. verdict count 2, guilty. for count 3, guilty. >> reporter: guilty on all counts. >> how'd it feel? >> we were just stunned. it's -- it wasn't the right verdict. the law didn't support that verdict. >> reporter: 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. >> how did steve take it? >> devastated. >> steve's innocent. and steve wants to continue to fight and prove his innocence. that's what his mission is now.
>> reporter: but is he innocent? >> reporter: but is he innocent? investigator mike sechez. >> i believe in my heart and soul that steve democker killed carol kennedy. >> reporter: 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. >> reporter: carol's friend, katherine. >> 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. >> reporter: 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 e-mail evidence and 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. to 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.
>> reporter: steve professed his innocence. >> i did not kill carol. we loved each other for more than twenty 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. >> reporter: leniency was not forthcoming. the judge sentenced steve democker to natural life plus 20 years. no parole. no hope of a life ever outside prison walls. all along, we'd been asking for an interview with steve. he was willing. the sheriff wasn't. finally, after the sentencing, we were allowed a brief telephone interview from state prison. >> the lengths that they went to string -- to amplify, to exaggerate the evidence, to even misrepresent it, that was the only way they were able to achieve this conviction. and it's just wrong, keith. it's just wrong.
>> you could be in prison the rest of your life. are you prepared for that? >> i'm as prepared as anyone could be. what is really hard, you become nothing but a burden. so i guess if i'm here the rest of my life, i will try to find some way to be of use in the world. >> reporter: interesting thing about steve democker. he's an extremely articulate man. can he possibly be sincere, too? all we can know with certainty is that carol will never again have the chance to be useful. although, scratch that. maybe she will. >> 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 to, "no matter if i'm here living or in heaven,
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i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." they found each opts and their own tropical island. >> we saw love in the waters. that's it, that will be our spot for the rest of our lives. >> she said, it's like living in a postcard. >> a picture-perfect life until she disappeared. >> you were calming, leaving messages? >> texting. and we started wondering. >> why would she just leave? >> i called her best friend, did she have a man i don't know about? is something going