PRESCOTT – The defense in the Steven DeMocker murder trial on Thursday put a forensic psychiatrist on the stand to do a post-mortem psychoanalysis of Jim Knapp.
DeMocker is accused of killing his ex-wife, Carol Kennedy, in 2008, but his attorneys have been working to convince the jury that Knapp, who lived in Kennedy’s guesthouse, was not properly investigated and could have been the murderer.
Knapp’s death by gunshot wound in January 2009 was ruled a suicide, but the defense has argued that it wasn’t necessarily self-inflicted.
Omri Berger, M.D., a forensic psychiatrist from San Francisco, was hired by the defense team to study Knapp’s records and “provide a mental health assessment and risk of violence and suicide.”
Berger said his study showed that, as he delved into Knapp’s background, “patterns emerged.” The patterns indicated anti-social traits, borderline personality disorder traits, deceitfulness, and, he continued, Knapp generally showed poor judgment, impulsivity and instability in his relationships.
Nevertheless, Berger said, “Around the time of his death, he didn’t have what we call ‘risk factors’ for suicide.”
DeMocker attorney Craig Williams hit hard the fact that Knapp, at one time, had a melanoma, which he’d had removed, but he continued to tell people he had life-threatening cancer.
“He had reported to multiple individuals that he had stage-four cancer,” Berger said, “and there was at least one instance where he reported that he had stage-three lymphoma,” neither of which were true.
Williams also asked about Knapp’s relationships with women; previous testimony suggested that, when he was rejected, he reacted violently.
A pattern of “overvaluing” the woman at first, then “devaluing” her when the relationship ended, was apparent, Berger said.
Deputy County Attorney Jeff Paupore was unimpressed. Before he spoke with Berger, he said, “I’d never heard of anyone going back after someone was dead and doing a retrospective psychological analysis.”
He also pointed out that Berger didn’t speak to anyone in person about Knapp, but instead relied on a stack of paper records six inches thick, and that this was Berger’s first criminal case as a forensic psychiatrist.
In response, Williams went back over the basics: Knapp claimed to be an orthopedic physician’s assistant, for which Berger said there was no evidence; he said he was a pilot, and again, there was no evidence of that; he told a doctor he was engaged a month after Julie Corwin had broken it off; and a month before his death, he was still telling people he had cancer, but the autopsy showed he did not.
The trial continues Tuesday.