April 8, 2014 Updated: April 9, 2014 at 8:11 am
Nearly 20 years after being sentenced to life in prison for the double fatal shooting of an El Paso County couple, Timothy Kennedy's new trial and chance at freedom began Tuesday.
Steve Staskiewicz, 37, and his 15-year-old girlfriend Jennifer Carpenter were murdered execution-style in a mobile home in Old Colorado City in March 1991. Kennedy was arrested in 1995 for the shootings, convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Kennedy served 14 years of a life sentence until 2009, when new evidence brought his guilt into question. A letter admittedly written by Charles Stroud, whom public defender Sheilagh McAteer pointed to as a viable suspect, suggested a cover up in the homicides. Additionally, forensic evidence that had waited to be tested until 2008 showed none of Kennedy's DNA was ever found at the crime scene.
In May 2009, El Paso County Judge Thomas Kelly Kane set Kennedy's conviction aside and ordered a new trial, largely due to the newly discovered DNA evidence.
During opening statements Tuesday, lead prosecuting attorney Amy Fitch said Kennedy was the only person with means and motive to kill Carpenter and Staskiewicz. According to Fitch, several residents of the trailer park near 29th and Cimarron streets had told investigators they heard gunshots early in the morning of March 11, 1991, and had seen someone who matched Kennedy's description run out of the mobile home. Fitch also argued Kennedy had struggled with drug addiction for years and would often pawn his property to feed his habit, or exchanged items for drugs with friends and associates.
Although the murder weapon, a .380 handgun, has never been found, the prosecution argued that Kennedy gave Staskiewicz a Davis .380 the day prior to the shootings. Staskiewicz allegedly took it to St. Peter's Dome for shooting practice, where police collected shell casings that were found to be a match to a .380 found in Kennedy's house, Fitch said.
The day after the murders, Kennedy allegedly pawned a .380 handgun and then returned to the pawn shop to buy it back. Investigators later found the weapon in Kennedy's house with the serial number filed away, Fitch said.
The defense portrayed Kennedy as a friendly and level-headed man who had "fallen into rough times," and became addicted to painkillers after a car crash in the late 1980s left him injured. Kennedy and Staskiewicz, also a drug user and seller, quickly became close friends and Kennedy moved into the victim's trailer in the summer of 1990, McAteer said. When Carpenter moved in around the fall of 1990, Kennedy developed an "older brother" type of relationship with her.
In November of 1990, Carpenter was held against her will for several days and sexually assaulted. Charles Stroud and Rebecca Corkins were charged for Carpenter's kidnap, rape and assault. According to McAteer, Carpenter had expressed fear that the couple would have her killed before she could testify against them.
Kennedy loaned the .380 to Staskiewicz so he could protect Carpenter, McAteer argued.
The defense also argued that a woman had told investigators that Corkins had spoken about a plot to have a man named Patrick Dudley kill Carpenter. According to McAteer, a man later came forward and said he had picked up Dudley hitchhiking about 4 a.m. near the trailer park, looking agitated and asking how he could get blood off his clothes.
Kennedy's trial will resume in the El Paso County courthouse Wednesday at 9 a.m.