A recent story we heard about first on 'Dateline Investigates', finally motivated us enough to start writing and get this website started. Not to say that we are 100% confident in Mark Duenas's innocence, there isn't much information available on this case. But the entire case is based on motive, opportunity and opinion.
Out of all the cases we've researched in numerous different states, we have the most difficulty finding filed affidavits or other information for cases having taken place in the State of California. Coincidentally, a very good part of the wrongful conviction cases we've come across are based in the State of California. Strange.
First reaction after watching the Dateline on Mark was "Is this lady for real?" The prosecutor responsible for the second trial "The Unbeatable Stephanie Bridgett, Shasta County Senior Deputy DA" basically sat there and smugly explained to "Keith Morrison" during her interview on Friday nights Dateline that Mark is guilty of murdering his wife Karen, because she reviewed the case and she says so, she is 100% confident. A statement that even seemed to surprise Keith; I've seen him look at the convicted this way, but never a prosecutor that I can think of. The narcissism literally oozed from her, it was hard for me to watch and I admit to yelling quite a few obscenities at her.
On the 911 call Mark stumbled on words, was incoherent at times and actually doesn't even remember the call taking place. Understandably if you ask me, the guy just found his wife of 33 years dying in a pool of her own blood. This is where the State claims he made his first "accidental confession". If I were a juror on this trial and that recording was played for me, that one piece of evidence alone would have me questioning honesty and integrity alright, but not that of Mark or his family.
Mark Duenas is a guy that likes to talk and every single time the investigators asked him to, he did so without the presence of an attorney. This tends to be a common factor in just about every case I've researched, the defendants have stated that they were willing to do anything in their power to help the investigation and trusted that the investigators were there to help them and their families solve the crime.
how many times do you hear that same statement? The other side to this is that if the defendant doesn't give the investigators their full cooperation and decides to protect themselves by "lawyering up" it is said they are hiding something, very publicly I might add and must be guilty. This also will tend to have the police focus on that person and not continue to pursue other possibilities. This is a very frustrating, very vicious cycle and I can only pray that none of my loved ones are ever faced with a similar situation. As far as I can tell, unless the perpetrator is found quickly, talk with investigators or "lawyer up", either way the spouse of the murdered victim is fucked but even more so if full cooperation is given in the beginning. "Whatever you say, can AND WILL be used against you in the court of law.
In the first interview with police, Mark hadn't slept for 24 hours on top of losing his wife and life-long best friend and he again got tongue tied, stumbling on his words and again prosecution says he confesses on accident. I believe there is a total of 4 recordings where the prosecution claims he "accidentally confessed." I listened to all of them and each time became more infuriated that prosecution clearly didn't have a case so made their own evidence from nothing.
This also reminded me of one of the earlier cases I read a lot about that also made my blood pressure rise and skin start to crawl; the case of Baby Sabrina and how her parents were treated in the aftermath of her abduction. I will cover this case in a later blog. This type of "investigating" It is almost comical except that because of evidence like this, a man is in prison sentenced to 25 to life for the murder of his wife. Mark seems to be an intelligent, well rounded family man yet we are to believe that he went nuts, stabbed his wife to death and then couldn't stop himself from giving cryptic confessions over and over. If only every murder case could be solved so easily. I'm not buying it. Where is the actual, REAL evidence that gave them the right to take a mans life away from him?
Besides the bullshit "accidental confessions", his clothing from the night of the murder was introduced into the second trial (new evidence but was just as available for the fist trial) because he was covered in blood after finding the love of his life on the floor dying. Keith Morrison asked why this wouldn't be explained away by the fact that he held his wife and tried to save her. Miss Bridgett's response? "Absolutely not", end of sentence. So, I guess her knowing that something is a fact is enough for some? Not me.
Not to mention the fact that the victims aorta was severed during the attack. I've never seen this happen in real life (Thank god!) but from what I hear, a severed aorta causes a person to lose mass amounts of blood within minutes. The worst crime scenes that I've heard investigators speak of have almost always been explained by a severed aorta.
The investigators also found out (from Mark) that a year or so earlier, upon learning of Facebook and being told by a co-worker that just about anyone could be located, he reached out to an old high school friend. The friend is female and he admittedly had a crush 30 years earlier but the two of them had never been more then friends. They shared text messages for several months but never met in person, even when the opportunity presented itself because of the damage and potential hurt it could cause their respective spouses. In the end, both spouses became aware of the text messages, or as this gem of a prosecutor called it, "affair" (you see.. in her eyes, the moment Mark didn't tell Karen about contacting the old classmate it was technically classified as a torrid affair, an affair that from all other accounts caused an all around good guy and father to murder his wife. Again, because she says so). Again, where is your evidence to support this? Opinion doesn't count.. And again ole' Keith looked at her in total disbelief.
The final piece of evidence that totally blew it out of the water and got Mike and I ranting and raving is the butcher knife. The knife had been placed in the wrong slot of the butcher block (Are you serious?) and COULD have been used to commit a crime like this. Yep, that is actually what she said, a knife like this (average butchers knife, found in every kitchen) "could" have been used to commit a crime like this". No blood, no DNA, no incriminating bloody fingerprints on or near the knife or where it was found, just a knife found in the wrong butcher block slot that might have served as the murder weapon. Pure conjecture. Readers, consider yourself warned, if you are married you would be better off not having any knives in your home.. you just never know what may happen.
A juror from the first trial was interviewed on the show who is a retired Probation Supervisor and former cop. In his own words, the sheriff's office investigation of the murder of Karen Duenas was "Terrible". That jury was 11-1 in favor of acquittal and the dissenting vote was an alternate juror who stated to the others that "This guy is guilty, he has to prove otherwise, and I am not changing my vote. I'm going to hang this jury." Which he/she did. After a campaign by the Duenas family to have the charges dropped, the State did decide to try Duenas a second time, this time with female prosecutor Stephanie Bridgett.
Another dirty move made by the prosecution was to subpoena all the Duenas family members, subpoena'd witnesses cannot enter the court room during trial unless they are testifying. All of them sat in the hall, awaiting updates and their names to be called to testify.. but they were never called to testify. This not only prevented them from viewing the proceedings of the trial but prevented Mark Duenas from presenting a unified front of family members on both sides of his family, Karen's family included, that might have swayed the jury towards his favor. When Bridgett was questioned by Morrison as to her intent, she simply stated, "That would be an unethical use of my subpoena power". No adamant denial, no explanation. shit eating grin and all.
My last thoughts on this for now. The Duenas family seems to be a very large, very tight knit family, in fact one of the couple's sons owns the house right next door. Not one family member or friend has stepped up to back prosecutions theory that Karen was in the process of leaving her husband. In point of fact the entire family is completely devastated that this has happened and publicly begged the state to drop the case after the first failed trial ended. Further, several of the family's friends and neighbors testified for the defense. One in particular spoke of a conversation she had with Karen a week before the crime where Karen excitedly spoke of the "bucket list" she and her husband shared and things they wanted to do, explore and accomplish once all of their children had gone out on their own.
Why would all of these people lie under oath to protect someone that murdered a loved mother and neighbor? THEY WOULDN'T, if anything its the opposite, I've heard of many cases where the witness made bad things up about the defendant to get involved.. They did not find one person that knew him to say anything bad about him and believe you me, they searched; that is quite amazing actually, for man in his 50's.
Lastly and this is coming from a female first but also a "true crime fanatic", if Karen was on her way out the door, a sister, friends, her mother or all of the above would have known about it and this I am 100% confident in saying. Women talk things out, especially when making life changing decisions. I know this and I've seen this over and over in other cases where the husband stands accused of killing their spouse. At first the widower looks like a great man then hear comes the parade of best friends and sisters giving the victims real feelings at time of her death. Being as Mrs. Stephanie Bridgett, Senior Deputy, D.A. clearly thinks that her conclusions and decisions are "the holy word" I could understand if she lacked in close personal relationships with other human beings throughout her life and may not be aware of this. Her treatment of the victims family backs this conclusion as well.
The Dateline story linked along with other references, check it out and tell me what you think, without a doubt guilty of killing his wife or the victim of bad police work and personal opinion? Do you hear “’I got ah, I killed my wife; shit, I’m, blood everywhere.’” (huh?)as the state testified or "I found my wife sick" as defense testified? Or maybe neither but "jeez, at least the second one is an actual statement". you tell me.
Mark Duenas family below speaking on his behalf, in-laws included.
Keri Smith talks about Mark Duenas 911 call
No motive...... all opportunity
Mark Duenas sentenced to 25 years to life in prison
Redding.com- hear calls, is he accidentally confessing over and over
Family of murdered Cottonwood woman testifies in murder retrial
Article written by Lisa Wallace
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