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End of the Trail

End of the Trail
End of the Trail 43:13

Produced by Sara Hulse, Asena Basak and Clare Friedland

[This story first aired on May 26, 2014. It was updated on Feb. 28, 2015.]

PRESCOTT, Ariz. | July 2, 2008. The serenity of a warm Arizona night is shattered by a panicked phone call to 911.

"This all starts that Carol Kennedy's on a phone call with her mother. Next thing you know, the mother hears her say, "Oh, no," and all of a sudden, the call is disconnected," said Joseph Moura, a private investigator and CBS News consultant.

911 Operator: Sheriff's Office, can I help you?

Ruth Kennedy: I was on the phone with my daughter and she screamed and said "Oh no" and the phone's gone dead. Can you go check?

"And the next thing you know the police arrive. Somebody looks through the window and sees a dead body on the floor, sees blood all over the place," said Moura.

Lying in a pool of her own blood was 53-year-old Carol Kennedy savagely beaten to death.

"The person who killed her knew her and -- and was very upset with her," Moura said. "There's no reason to whack her seven, eight times over the head with a club ... It was a horrific crime scene."

The murder of Carol Kennedy had a devastating impact on her friend and neighbor, Jan Wheeler.

"I think it was really extremely shocking. You just don't expect something like that to happen here," she told "48 Hours" correspondent Maureen Maher.

"I didn't know anything about it until the next morning ... And there was the yellow tape across," Wheeler said, "I stopped. And I said, 'Hey, my good friend lives there. Is-- is everything OK? And they said, 'No. It's not.' They said, 'she's dead.'"

Carol, the mother of two, had been a teacher and a therapist, working with addicts at a local women's clinic. She was mostly known around town as an artist - a printmaker. She spent hours in a studio working alongside fellow artists like Barb Wills.

"Printmaking is ... a fine art form that brings the disciplines of drawing, painting, graphic arts, all into one arena," Wills explained. "To me, her artwork gave her her voice. ... nobody was judging her, nobody was hurting her."

The bitterness of her divorce from Steve DeMocker could be clearly seen in her work, according to another friend, Betsy Petit.

"And I think for her, it definitely showed, especially the colors," Petit explained, "much darker, much moodier."

Steve DeMocker was the oldest of nine children.

"He was a fun-loving person," his sister, Mary DeMocker, said. "He wanted to have fun. And you wanted to be around him."

"He taught me how to canoe, and swim, and ride a bike. And he was just-- the best big brother you could ask for," said Michael DeMocker.

"He is a very gentle, non-violent guy," said another sister, Sharon DeMocker.

It is why his family was so shocked when police claimed they had a strong circumstantial case and arrested him in October 2008, three months after Carol's murder.

"Carol Kennedy's body was discovered lying in a pool of her own blood," prosecutor Joe Butner said at trial.

At DeMocker's trial, the horror of the crime was hard for some to reconcile with this successful stock broker sitting at the defense table.

"When I met him, he -- he was clearly in -- in shock. Clearly had, was trying to hold his family together," said Rich Robertson, an investigator for DeMocker's defense team.

Robertson walked "48 Hours" through Carol's home.

"So what do we know about Carol's activity that night, what was she doing?" Maher asked Robertson as they stood in the kitchen.

"Well, when Carol got off work, probably about 5:30 in the afternoon, she went to the store, bought some salad -- came home and went for a run," he replied.

Robertson saw the gruesome crime scene within days of the murder.

"It was clearly a violent crime scene," he said. "Just the blood spatter on the wall, on the desk, it was just all over. I mean, it was -- it was all the way to the other wall."

"How do you have this much blood and there's no bloody footprint, no bloody fingerprints or handprints anywhere? Maher asked. "I mean, it's like a ghost came in."

"Right," said Robertson.

Defense lawyer Larry Hammon insists there was no record of any violence throughout the DeMocker's marriage.

"Someone might say, 'Well, a great theme here is that this was -- this was a -- very contentious divorce,' which causes most of us to think, 'Well, it must've been violent. There must've been threats. There must've been protective orders,'" said Hammon.

"And was there any of that?" Maher asked.

"No. Not at all. None," said Hammon.

"No," said Robertson.

"Ever any threat of violence anywhere?" Maher asked.

"No. No," said Hammond.

Even DeMocker's girlfriend at the time of the murder, Renee Girard, says that he often spoke fondly of his ex-wife.

"I never saw him act violently ... He is very controlled," Girard told "48 Hours" in her first network television interview. "He -- he shared a lot about his marriage. And he shared it in -- many stories that were heartwarming and joyful. And as something he regretted losing."

Steve DeMocker and Carol Kennedy Jim DeMocker

But Carol's friend, Jan Wheeler, says, in truth, Steve was angry about the divorce.

"Oh, he was furious," Wheeler said. "He was absolutely furious that she would have the nerve to do anything against him, because she never had."

But clearly, Carol had finally had enough -- enough of a husband who by all accounts had become a serial philanderer.

"... towards the end, she was, like, 'You know -- I think I've counted 17 affairs he's had,'" Wheeler said. "... the first one that she was aware of was her midwife ... and they were sleeping together while she was pregnant."

"And so why would she stay with him, then?" Maher asked.

"She loved him," Wheeler replied. "He's just very charming. You know, he will tell a woman exactly what she wants to hear."

"He could be a bad guy from a 'morality standpoint,' if you will, but that doesn't reflect a motive to kill Carol," said Robertson.

"Do you think you can make Steven look like a likeable guy to the jury?" Maher asked Hammon.

"What you may think about him as a good guy or a bad guy ... have nothing to do with this case," the defense lawyer replied.

Caught in the middle are the couple's two daughters, who are called to testify. They have lost a mother, but believe in their father's innocence.

"It was the first time the full family had been together in awhile after the divorce was finalized and it was actually very pleasant," said Katie DeMocker.

Katie tells the court about the last time she saw her mother as the family gathered at the airport to see her off on a trip abroad four days before the murder.

Carol Kennedy, center, shown with her daughters just days before her murder Yavapai County Attorney's Office

"It was very emotional ... there was nothing but expressions of love and gratitude and happiness," Katie said. "I looked back ... my dad had his arm around my mom and my mom had her arm around my sister and they were all waving to me. ...that's the last memory I have of my mother."

Charlotte talked about the last texts she and her mother exchanged on the day her mother died:

Charlotte DeMocker: I had gotten a new job and she was asking me about how my training was.

Prosecutor Joe Butner: Do you remember what the last text message you got back from your mother?

Charlotte DeMocker: I do ... I LOVE YOU in all capitals.

"Have they been supportive of Steven?" Maher asked Hammon of DeMocker's daughters.

"Oh, incredibly supportive. Unanimously supportive," he replied.

John Sears | Defense attorney: Over the last 23 months since your mother died, has your relationship with your father changed in any particular way?

Charlotte DeMocker: I mean it's difficult to stay as close when you can't hug your dad, but we remain as close as possible.

The jury would have to decide if the man described as a loving father could have killed the mother of his children. Defense attorney John Sears tells the court the state has no case.

"It's always the husband. If it's not him, who else is it? They jumped to that conclusion," Sears told jurors.

"Is there any physical evidence, DNA, blood, hair fibers ... anything that matches Steven DeMocker?" Maher asked Robertson.

"There is no DNA of Steve DeMocker anywhere in the house," the investigator replied.

But there is DNA under Carol's fingernails that belong to someone else ... a man whose identity remains a mystery.

"...if he was the attacker, it should've been his DNA ... and it was not," said Robertson.

Still, Joe Butner of the Yavapai County Attorney's Office is emphatic that Steve DeMocker was the only one who had the means, the motive and the opportunity to kill Carol.

"The evidence will show that while Mr. DeMocker was on his bike ride, his cell phone was off," he said at trial.

"By the way, his phone is dead. ... Battery's dead ... All of a sudden, he's outta the grid," Moura said. "Most people say, 'You go outta the grid ... There's a reason why you're outta the grid.'"


Within miles of the serene beauty of Arizona's Red Rocks, Carol Kennedy's life had come to a violent end. Many in the town of Prescott believed her ex-husband, Steve DeMocker, was her killer.

"I think he took everything from her, including her life, everything," said Wheeler.

The autopsy concluded that Carol had suffered seven major skull fractures from a blunt force object --possibly a golf club.

Cop to Steve DeMocker: Someone did it and I don't know who if it wasn't you right now.

Investigators searched Steve DeMocker's home immediately. They found a bag of golf clubs, but one was missing: a Big Bertha 7-wood. While authorities may have strongly suspected the missing club could be the murder weapon, they were never able to find it.

"Obviously the number-one suspect is the husband," Moura said. "But they certainly had just cause to suspect him."

Neither the prosecutor nor the sheriff has ever been willing to speak to the news media about Carol Kennedy's murder. So "48 Hours" asked private investigator and CBS News consultant Joseph Moura to outline the case against Steve DeMocker.

"... he's got some problems with his story," said Moura.

One of the biggest problems : DeMocker was unreachable for five hours the evening Carol was murdered.

"He always had a phone on and charged so that his daughters could reach him any time day or night," said Renee Girard.

...except that night, when according to Steve DeMocker, his cell phone battery had died.

"That becomes a very strong point for the police. And certainly puts the suspicions on Steve DeMocker," Moura said. " ...on a crime you're looking for the motive. But you're also looking -- was there time to do these things? You're looking for that window."

DeMocker admits he went for a bike ride on a trail near his ex-wife's home.

"Now, the situation is -- is he lives eight miles away from here. So why that particular day he decides he's gonna drive eight miles to go bike riding--" said Moura.

Cop: Like I said - the proximity of where the trail is and the ...

Steve DeMocker: I know

Cop: And where you were riding.

Steve DeMocker: I wish I had chosen a different trail.

Cop: I wish you had chosen a different trail also.

Steve DeMocker questioned about death of ex-wife 01:15

And he came back with very visible scratches:

Cop 2 [Notices scratches on DeMocker's legs]: ... from the thorn bushes. Is that where you got that?

Steve DeMocker: Yeah.

"His alibi, remember, is that he's out riding a bicycle ... And he gets a flat tire. So that means he's gotta walk the bike back. So it's very possible he could've scratched himself on the trail," Moura said. "But his problem was things were happenin' at the wrong time, at the wrong place."

Investigators found shoe prints and bike tracks directly behind Carol Kennedy's house that they say incriminate Steve DeMocker.

"There were multiple prints in that area," said Scott Masher, who at the time was commander of the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office. "It was very leafy and sticks were there but you can tell someone had been there."

An FBI expert determined that those impressions came from a specific kind of shoe - a brand called La Sportiva.

Prosecutor Joe Butner: Did you find any shoe that seemed to be comparable to the impressions that you observed from these photos from the crime scene?

Eric Gilkerson: Yes I found one pair of shoes that could have made those impressions.

A receipt showed that Steve DeMocker had purchased a pair in 2006. But investigators could not find them when they searched his home.

"Basically, all they really have is they have ... a footprint that may or may not ... look similar to some shoes that he may or may not have owned," said Sharon DeMocker.

Prosecutors tell the jury another set of impressions found near Carol's house are from tires that have a tread just like those on DeMocker's bike.

Prosecutor Joe Butner: Did you find any dissimilar characteristics difference between them?

John Hoang | Arizona Dept. of Public Safety criminalist: No.

"Now we know it's a very common tire, so 90 percent of the people around here probably have the same tire. But then do 90 percent of the people wear the same type of shoe that left that partial print?" said Moura.

Tracking the trail of footprints outside murder victim's home 01:26

And perhaps most damaging, after Steve DeMocker's arrest, investigators discovered that Carol's ex-husband had conducted some rather interesting internet searches on his computer -- including "how to kill someone and make it look like a suicide."

"That doesn't look good," Maher commented to Robertson.

"Yeah. No, it doesn't look good," he replied. "His position is he was doing research to write a novel."

His sister, Sharon, insists it's true.

"Steve's been interested in writing for a long time. He's actually a really good writer. And he's been working on a manuscript for a long time, long before the murder," she told Maher. "I've been doing a lot of the editing for him, he's talked with a number of us about it."

But the big question remains why? Why would Steve DeMocker kill his ex-wife?

"The divorce was settled on May 27th. The murder occurred on July second" said Robertson.

"They were just resolving the last little details about that divorce settlement. Everything had been decided," said Hammon.

Still, the prosecution was convinced the motive was money. It was 2008 and the economy was tanking - especially in the world of finance.

"Steve liked to spend money," said Girard. "... he liked his things. He liked nice hotels. He liked first-class everything."

Steve DeMocker had a mountain of expenses and now he owed Carol $6,000 a month in alimony.

"But it did become clear that he was in significant debt. What, to most of us, would seem insurmountable," said Girard.

While his family admits that he did borrow money from them to make ends meet, they are adamant it was not a motive for murder.

"He took hits. But his career was solid. He had great earning capacity. And-- and he would have rebounded as did everybody else," said Sharon DeMocker.

Still, Carol's death would be a windfall.

"And was there a life insurance policy involved, that he would've benefited from?" Maher asked Hammon.

"There also was a life insurance policy that he had no interest in and hasn't benefited from," he replied.

There were, in fact, two life insurance policies totaling $750,000 -- both payable to Steve DeMocker. But the defense claims not only is money not the motive, there's another suspect.


From the moment Steve DeMocker was charged with his ex-wife's murder, his family not only felt a profound loss ...

"It's like, OK we lost Carol. Now we lost Steve," said Sharon DeMocker.

... his parents also lived with the fear of having their son put to death.

"I kept going over the moment. And I could picture a clock at a quarter of 12:00 and 10 of 12:00 and five of 12:00, counting down, knowing now he's going down the corridor, now they're putting him on a gurney, now they're starting an IV that will pour poison into his system," Janice DeMocker said. "And that was what I went to sleep with at night."

The death penalty was taken off the table before the trial began, but Steve DeMocker still faced life in prison. Adding to his family's pain was their belief that authorities missed a key suspect: Jim Knapp, a friend of Carol Kennedy's who was living in her guest house.

Knapp was quick to arrive at the crime scene. And investigators recorded their conversation with him as he pointed a finger directly at Steve DeMocker.

"It was an ugly divorce," Knapp told police. "My intuitive take on it is ... the guy comes off to me as a very sneaky manipulative man."

"The first thing he said is, 'You know, she's got this crazy ex-husband. And I -- I have a feelin' it was probably him,'" said Sharon DeMocker.

Jim Knapp might have had a reason to disparage Steve. Sharon DeMocker says there was a rumor around town that Jim Knapp wanted to be more than just friends with Carol.

"What concerned us was that he was very enamored of Carol," she told Maher.

That's why Steve DeMocker's defense team wants to know why investigators didn't take Knapp in for questioning or search his residence.

"--he wasn't looked at all that night," said Rich Robertson, an investigator for the defense. "They never looked at his clothing. They never really inspected his truck."

Authorities had a good reason not to suspect Jim Knapp. Unlike Steve DeMocker, Knapp had an alibi.

"They realized that Knapp's alibi was he was babysitting his son at his former wife's house," said Moura.

But even if the investigators had wanted to question Knapp again, they wouldn't get the chance. In a bizarre twist, he was found dead five months after Carol's murder. His death was ruled a suicide.

"Some people would say because Knapp committed suicide, that it was a conscience of guilt in reference to his participation and bein' the murderer of Carol," Moura said. "Unfortunately, he's not alive. We can't ask him that question."

Two weeks into the prosecution's case, there is a stunning development. Steve DeMocker's trial comes to an abrupt halt when Judge Thomas B. Lindberg collapses in his chambers from a brain tumor.

During the delay, DeMocker's girlfriend, Renee Girard, has a surprising change of heart and ends their two-year relationship.

"I always wanted to believe that Steve had nothing to do with this. And I always felt conflicted about that. About whether he had done it or not," Girard told "48 Hours."

Girard is having second thoughts about her boyfriend's behavior on the night of Carol's murder.

"His break with routine," she said. "...being out without a charged battery for his phone... Being out without a flat-tire kit to change his tire ... when he was the master of preparation for any outdoor adventure."

Thanks to new information from Girard, investigators literally unearth a crucial piece of evidence: what they say is a "go-bag" stashed in a field outside DeMocker's house. Girard says he had packed it in case he had a chance to make a run for it.

"He was very constantly gripped with fear -- fear of being arrested. And he was obsessed with plans to flee ... saying 'I'm afraid I'm gonna be arrested for a crime I didn't commit,'" she said.

DeMocker's ex- girlfriend raises suspicion 01:50

And then more damaging information came from Girard. Remember what DeMocker's attorney told "48 Hours":

Maureen Maher: Was there a life insurance policy involved, that he would've benefited from?

Larry Hammon: There also was a life insurance policy that he had no interest in and hasn't benefited from.

Well, not exactly. Girard told investigators that was a lie. Even though Steve DeMocker -- charged with Carol's murder -- could not directly receive the $750,000, he gave instructions to his daughters to transfer all of it to his defense attorneys.

"Everybody along the way said, 'Yes, it's OK to release this money to the girls.' What they didn't know, what nobody knew, none of the officials knew, was that the money would be used for Steve's defense," said Girard.

Based on this information from Girard, authorities reviewed Steve DeMocker's jail house phone calls.

Steve DeMocker to Katie DeMocker: You need to understand this ... and I do understand ... is not unreasonable... Sweetie, you can't hold anything aside.

They learned that older daughter Katie, in fact, had argued with her father to save some of those funds for her younger sister Charlotte's education:

Steve DeMocker to Katie DeMocker: If it all has to be used for defense it has to go to defense. My life is in the balance and it's more important than Charlotte's college.
“We may need every penny of it" DeMocker says of insurance money 01:56

But Renee Girard's biggest revelation is about an anonymous email. It would have a dramatic impact on Steve DeMocker's defense when the trial finally resumes.

"He called a few days before visitation," Girard said. "And said that he had found out some information about how Carol had been killed."

During a jailhouse visit, Steve DeMocker told Girard and his daughter, Charlotte, that a mystery voice he could hear through a vent in his cell told him who was really involved with Carol's murder.

"What had the voice told him?" Maher asked Robertson.

"-- people were looking for Jim Knapp, because Jim Knapp was involved in some kind of a prescription drug ring and that these people were coming to look for him either to collect money or -- or get something ... and that they had gone into the house and encountered Carol instead of Jim Knapp," he replied.

Steve DeMocker wrote down the details he had heard and showed his visitors the note. DeMocker then asked if one of them would drive 100 miles south to Phoenix to send an anonymous email with the new information to both the defense and the prosecution.

"48 Hours" interviewed Steve DeMocker in prison by phone:

Maureen Maher: Why would you involve Charlotte ... That -- that's just really baffling from a parent's standpoint.

Steve DeMocker: As a parent, in retrospect, I am appalled that I did that. ... But I was terrified. We were terrified. ... all I can say is I was in jail accused of a crime that someone else had committed. The police were bungling it.

DeMocker insists that he absolutely heard a "voice in the vent" telling him why Carol was killed.

Steve DeMocker: ... here come these accounts ... of Mr. Knapp's role in Carol's murder. And I don't know if they're true. ... But I certainly want them investigated.

"Do you believe that that? Do you believe that he really heard a voice through the vent?" Maher asked Robertson.

"Yes," he replied.

"You do?"

"Yeah. I-- I think there was enough information there that-- I mean, I-- I really have no-- it's just more of the-- a gut feeling. There's a lotta chatter that goes on in-- in these-- in the jails and for a -- lots of different reasons," Robertson replied.

Charlotte carried out her father's wishes, but when it is revealed that Steve DeMocker was behind that not-so-anonymous email sent by his daughter, a mistrial is declared on Nov. 12, 2010.

It would take another three years to get this case back in front of a jury.

"I don't think anybody involved in this case ... could have anticipated all the twists and turns that this case has taken.


Five years and one mistrial later, Steve DeMocker remains behind bars, more than ready for his new day in court.

"He's kept a good attitude, he's kept hope," said brother Michael DeMocker.

With the new trial comes a new defense attorney: court appointed Craig Williams.

"They cannot put him in the house. And I felt good about that and having known Steve, I firmly believe he didn't kill her. And I felt that a reasonable jury would say, 'Well, you can't put him in the house, with this much blood?'" Williams told Maher.

For years, forensic evidence seemed to strongly suggest that there might be another suspect in the murder of Carol Kennedy -- remember that mystery DNA found under her fingernails? By the time the second trial begins, the state has finally determined it belongs to 68-year-old Ronald Birman. But how are Birman and Carol connected? Birman's autopsy was performed on the same day, on the same table as Carol's.

"The DNA under Carol's fingernails belonged to the person they did an autopsy on an hour-and-a-half before Carol's autopsy," said Robertson.

"Are you kidding? Did they not wipe the table down afterwards? This is a homicide investigation," said Sharon DeMocker.

The defense claims Carol's real killer may never be found, because the crime scene was so badly compromised.

"There is photography of the deputies standing down the hall. And the dog is right there with them. They tromp through that crime scene without any care of what they're preserving. Why didn't they seal that whole thing off?" asked Williams.

With no physical evidence to convict or exonerate Steve DeMocker, the prosecution points to his alleged motive: money. Email between the former couple show they were still arguing over money despite defense claims that the divorce had been settled.

"Email on June 15: 'I will not be pushed any further, Carol. You have extracted all you will extract from me. You get to start clean, while I dig out of a staggering hole," prosecutor Steve Young read in his opening statement.

Carol's friend, Jan Wheeler, believes Steve DeMocker was trying to solve his money problems by manipulating his ex-wife.

"He would -- play these reeling in games with her," she explained. "One of the very last conversations I had with Carol ... she was just absolutely in tears, I mean, just sobbing. ... I was, like, 'Carol, now what?' And she said, 'Now that the divorce is final, he has come to me last night, and said, "Let's put this marriage back together."'"

"And he just wouldn't go away," said Maher.

"Wouldn't go away," said Wheeler.

Steve DeMocker's attempts to insert himself back into Carol's life seem to be confirmed by yet another woman -- his longtime business partner and lover Barbara O'Non.

O'Non testified that she spent the night with Steve in a Phoenix hotel room just five days before Carol's murder:

Barbara O'Non: He said he was texting with Carol because Katie was flying to Africa that day. And they were going to spend the day shopping.

Prosecutor Jeff Paupore: And that was news to you?

Barbara O'Non: That was news to me ... I felt like I had been ... fooled one more time. Here they were still back together ...

"It seemed like the theme of the second case was to dirty up Steve enough that ... jurors would believe that he could have killed her," Robertson said. "They had to do all of these things ... that made him -- look like a bad guy --"

"He kinda was a bad guy though," said Maher.

"So that they would believe. But again, none of that -- there's no-- there's no violence in his history," said Robertson.

Maureen Maher: In the court of public opinion, people say, you know he cheated on her an awful lot ... that speaks to their moral character. What do you have to say in response to that?

Steve DeMocker: I guess (chuckles) all I can say is if every spouse who cheated ... wound up accused of murder we'd have a problem. ... I regret the mistakes I made during our marriage... And it has nothing to do with any -- any capacity for murder.

As she testifies at this second trial, daughter Charlotte suggests her mother was the one with a temper.

Craig Williams: Did you ever see any violence?

Charlotte DeMocker: No.

Craig Williams: Did you ever see anyone throwing anything or doing anything like that?

Charlotte DeMocker: I very vaguely remember my mom actually throwing something. I don't recall what it was. I think it was something heavy. That was the only argument where there was ever anything physical.

Steve DeMocker's attorneys insist that Carol's tenant, Jim Knapp, could be the killer - that he's the one with a history of intimidating women. An ex-girlfriend of Knapp's, Julie Corwin, testifies that she became afraid of Knapp after their break-up.

"His last words in one of his emails was 'you are not getting off that easy' and I didn't know what that meant. It just left me hanging, I felt scared. I didn't know if he was going to come up and shoot me," Corwin told the court.

"... the evidence is way, way, way stronger against Jim Knapp than it is against Steve DeMocker," said defense attorney Williams.

Finally, after nearly $2 million spent in taxpayer's money, the jury is about to get the case.

"That's what happened to Carol," prosecutor Jeff Paupore said in his closing argument, beating a rolled up carpet with a golf club. "Her skull was shattered like an eggshell. ... This is a beating murder by someone who had everything in the world to gain by getting rid of her."

"Absence of evidence is not evidence. If you cannot put him at the scene, if you cannot make sure that you have DNA, blood, hair, something to tie Mr. DeMocker to the murder of Carol Kennedy, you got no case," Williams said in his closing argument.

"I know I wasn't at her house that night ... And I'm innocent," Steve DeMocker told Maher.


As the jury deliberates and the hours turn into days -- it is now a waiting game. Kathy Reay and Tricia Greer were on the jury.

"There were questions in the jury room," Greer explained. "... a couple of the jurors who wanted to talk about alternate scenarios."

"They just had to be convinced that there was nobody else, because the girls had already lost so much," said Reay.

After three days -- on Oct. 4, 2013 -- word of a verdict has family and friends returning to court. For Carol Kennedy's mom, Ruth Kennedy, justice would be seeing her former son-in-law spend the rest of his life in prison.

For Steve DeMocker's family, it would be seeing him walk free.

The verdict: Guilty. Steve DeMocker is convicted in the murder of his ex-wife, Carol Kennedy.

"To hear the words ... I simply couldn't believe it," brother Michael DeMocker said. "Then my thoughts went to the girls ... Oh, my God ... we thought this was going to be the end of the nightmare and it's just the beginning."

"When they said guilty, Steve turned around and for a moment we were looking right at each other," said mother Janice DeMocker.

"What did you say to him?" Maher asked.

"We'll keep fighting. We'll keep fighting," she replied.

To this day, Steve DeMocker says he is baffled at how he could be accused -- let alone convicted -- of killing his ex-wife.

"If you did not kill her, Sir, why do you think you are in jail right now?" Maher asked Steve DeMocker.

"Well, that's the million-dollar question," he replied. "It was so difficult to imagine that 12 people could look at that evidence, and come up with a verdict beyond a reasonable doubt."

"I loved her," convicted killer tells "48 Hours" 02:29

"The pieces of evidence that started to sway me was definitely the shoe prints, because that type of shoe was very rare," Reay said. "The fact that his phone was turned off was very unusual for him. ... The scratches concerned me."

"We heard about the internet searches that he had done on how to make a homicide look like a suicide," said Greer.

"And nowhere in the testimony did we see anything that would convince us that he was trying to write a book," added Reay.

And if pointing the finger at Jim Knapp was supposed to raise reasonable doubt with the jurors, it didn't work.

"We went through Mr. Knapp's timeline carefully," Greer explained. "And we just could not make that work. Mr. Knapp did not kill Carol Kennedy."

On Jan. 24, 2014, Steve DeMocker, wearing the chains of a convicted killer, is back in court for sentencing.

"If you want us to abandon Steve ... You need to show us a drop of DNA in that house, a drop of Carol's blood anywhere on his body, his bike, his car, his home -- a witness, a video, something before we'll even begin to think that this is anything less than the conviction of an innocent man," brother Michael DeMocker told Maureen Maher.

Steve DeMocker addresses the court for the first time and refuses to accept the jury's verdict.

"I did not kill Carol. We loved each other for more than 20 years ... to believe me capable of violence against her is to doubt Carol's own judgment of me. ... I would no more have harmed her than I would harm my daughters by taking her from them," he said. "I'd like to thank my family and I'd like my daughters, in particular, to know how proud I am of the strength and grace with which they have faced both the loss of their mother and the loss of their father. I love you both."

The girls' love for their father is evident when they beg the judge for mercy.

"So much of what I value in myself I learned from that man. This is the same man who is accused today of killing my mother. Frankly the lack of facts and lack of evidence in this case do not permit me the luxury of drawing such conclusions," Katie DeMocker said. "You are faced with the question of whether to give my father the ability of parole in 25 years. I ask you that you do."

"I ask that you not force the permanent loss of a second loved one, but rather allow us to look forward to a time when our pain may slightly diminish and when we may heal together again," Charlotte DeMocker addressed the judge.

But the prosecutor will have none of it.

"This defendant is a murdering, lying thief no matter what anyone else says about him today, he deserves the maximum sentence," Jeff Paupore told the court.

As the judge announces the sentence, he has some harsh words for Steve DeMocker.

"The thing I can't get by is this horrific crime scene. I saw these pictures and I don't know if I'm going to be able to erase these from my mind," Judge Donahoe addressed DeMocker. "This was a premeditated murder. It was a brutal murder and from all appearances the motive was money. ... So on count 1, murder in the first degree, the sentence I'm going to impose is natural life in prison."

Steve DeMocker will spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole. For his two daughters, it is a double tragedy.

"They've lost a lot," aunt Sharon DeMocker said of her nieces. "And they have just shown so much strength and grace through all of this. They will do well, just because of who they are."

"As for me, I can promise that I will never forget the memory of my mother. She lived in me every day and will for the rest of my life," Katie DeMocker said. "She loved people to a fault and saw the best in everyone, always. She forgave easily, sometimes too easily. ... The world was a better place for the life that she shared with it, and I am a better person for having been loved and cared for by her."

Charlotte DeMocker graduated from college in 2014 with a degree in finance.

Katherine DeMocker will finish law school this year.

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