Several deputies who helped secure the Duenas home the night of the murder were called to the stand. They detailed to the jury what they saw when they arrived at the scene of the crime and their roles in securing the home.
Mark and Karen's son, Casey Duenas, who still lived with his parents, described what he saw the night of the murder. Casey, a baseball player at West Valley High School said both of his parents attended his double-header baseball game earlier in the day.
That was the last time the couple was seen in public together. He said nothing seemed out of the ordinary and after the game he decided to go to the movies with friends. He said when his friend dropped him off at home the light to his mom’s room was off so he decided not to tell her he was home. He quickly fell asleep and shortly later was roused by his father frantically telling him to get up and go get his brother that something had happened to his mom.
Scared, Casey threw on clothes and did what his father asked. Brother, Jason, a volunteer firefighter who lived next-door said he heard footsteps on the stairs and his work pager going off at the same time. When Casey told him his parents needed help Jason ran next-door and arrived to find his mother covered in blood.
When it was his turn to make a case, defense attorney Powell was quick to point out that a speeding car was seen leaving the neighborhood that night and tracks were found around the home. Earlier in the trial the prosecution called several people who live in the area to the stand who claimed they heard a scream the night of Karen’s murder, however, Powell called the Duenas’ next-door neighbor, Crystal Jackson, who said she never heard a scream.
Jackson testified that she had spoken to the couple prior to the murder as they did yard work. She said they appeared happy and talked about a plan to get some debt paid off and even had a bucket list.
Powell said the prosecution treated the case like a puzzle, picking and choosing pieces they wanted to fit, singling Mark out from the beginning. He used the example of an investigating deputy telling the public there was nothing to worry about following the days of the murder. He said Mark had been fully cooperative with the investigation and wanted to help investigators.
The trial initially expected to last weeks ended up only lasting six days. The jury debated for almost three of them. On the third day they told Judge Bradley Boeckman they did not believe they would be able to come to a conclusive agreement. However, Boeckman sent them back to discuss more. By the time they were finished the jury said they were hopelessly deadlocked nine to three in favor of acquittal.
Boeckman declared and mistrial.
Mark and Karen’s family who had filled the courtroom everyday were devastated at the outcome. Shortly after a mistrial was declared they tearfully gathered in the hallway to address media.
“This family is close, both sides. Always have been and we're in support and we don't see any reason not to be. It's not over, we're going to continue to fight through this, we'll stay together and try to get to where this needs to be,” said Karen’s brother, Joe Tenney.
“This is belief in this human being. This is not question in our hearts,” declared Mark’s older sister Teri Ortiz as she fought back tears.
The prosecution said they did not have a comment after the ruling because it was an ongoing case.
The second trial began about two months later on Oct. 1, 2013.
This time there was a new prosecutor for the people. Deputy DA Stephanie Bridgett would handle the case and on the few times the court met before the second trial she said she planned to call more witnesses and anticipated it lasting longer. Jury selection also lasted longer due to the amount of attention the case had been given. Bridgett went over the same points told in the first trial, but she presented more pieces of evidence.
A knife from the Duenas’ was shown to the jury that was never seen in the first trial. Experts testified it could or could not have been the murder weapon. Experts also testified blood would be easy to wash off a knife because of its non-porous surface. The screen that the prosecution claimed had been cut was also brought in and shown to the jury. When jurors listened to the infamous 911 call, Bridgett had each juror listen to the first 13 seconds with headphones.
Many family members of the Duenas and Tenney families were also subpoenaed. The defense continued to maintain that Mark had been singled out from the beginning and that law enforcement had failed to look into other suspects. That suspicious car in the neighborhood the night of the murder and tracks found around the home were overlooked.
He argued that Mark’s relationship with another woman was nothing but innocent. Finally after nearly a month the attorneys rested their cases.
After a day and a half of deliberations the jury came back late Friday afternoon, Nov. 1 and said they had a verdict.
As the verdict was read Mark Duenas stared straight ahead as the dozens of family members that filled the gallery broke down in tears. As he was being led away by bailiffs back to jail Mark maintained his innocence telling several investigators sitting in the front row, “I didn’t do it.”
After the verdict was handed down, Mark’s attorney Ron Powell, reacted, “Retrials are hard, the people have every argument you've made, every question that you've asked they have the benefit of that going in.”
The DA told a different story.
“I read it fresh from the beginning and just presented it my way.”
Bridgett said she believed blood found on the clothes, not visible to the naked eye was one of the most damaging pieces of evidence. “His clothing and the fact that no one saw visible blood on the clothing but after extensive work was done by the Department of Justice it became obvious there was blood all over those clothes,” she said.
“It's been a long time waiting for this to happen for Karen and I think that there was justice today.”
On Dec. 6 Mark was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Several members of Mark and Karen’s family spoke in his support, including Mark himself, against the advice of his attorney and the judge.
He said, “I never thought I would be blamed for this. Never in a million years and this is how it turned out.”
Mark’s attorney, Ron Powell, filed an appeal.
Outside the courtroom Bridgett responded to Mark’s comments.
"I think it's very sad that he's going to make that type of statement. It just continues to manipulate the family into believing that he didn't commit this crime, that we know that he committed, that there's overwhelming evidence that he committed, and that the jury found that he committed. It's just sad that his family has to go the rest of their life feeling that they were wronged."
A Family United
Throughout the trial Mark and Karen’s family has been supportive of Mark’s innocence.
Shortly after his sentencing with time to rest, the family reflected on the whole ordeal.
“There's just a lot left out,” said Karen’s niece Keri Smith.
“And it's hurtful; it's hurtful to make these quick judgments. There's more than one person damaged by this thing. All his sons, all his family and we're people too,” said Mark’s older sister Teri Ortiz.
It was Christmas Eve when the two women talked about what the family has gone through over the past year and a half.
They said they were trying to be strong around the holidays because that’s what Mark would’ve wanted.