The trial of a Corbin man accused of murdering his wife and planting the gun to make it appear to be a suicide began Tuesday in Laurel Circuit Court.
Joshua Tate Davenport, 40, was indicted in 2018 on charges of murder – domestic violence, and tampering with physical evidence in the shooting death of Stephanie Steenbergen Davenport outside a residence on North Florence Street off of U.S. 25W.
The morning session consisted of jury selection with opening statements from prosecuting and defense attorneys beginning at approximately 1:45 p.m.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele told the jury that the evidence would show the Davenports’ marriage was on the rocks, and that Stephanie had decided to leave.
The couple had been married less than six months.
As the couple argued in the back yard, things escalated and Joshua used a .38-caliber Rossi pistol, a family heirloom that Stephanie had inherited from her grandfather, to shoot his wife in the back of the head and the chest near the heart.
Laurel County Sheriff’s detectives located the gun under Stephanie’s body.
BJ Foley, Joshua Davenport’s attorney, told the jury in his opening statement, that while the police and prosecutors wanted this to be a straightforward case of murder, the evidence would show that Stephanie Davenport took her own life.
Foley said evidence would show that while detectives claimed Mrs. Davenport was shot in the back of the head, it was actually closer to the right side of her head.
The second shot that struck her in the chest actually made an exit wound some eight inches below the entry wound on a downward trajectory.
“You will see how impossible it was for Josh to have fired that shot,” Foley told the jury.
In addition, Foley told the jury that Detectives Kyle Gray and Chris Edwards claimed that it took both of them to move Stephanie’s body so that they found the gun. Yet, they are asking the jury to believe that Joshua Davenport was able to move the body on his own in order to place the gun underneath his wife.
Foley told the jury that additional evidence would show that Stephanie was suicidal, felt her life had no worth, and had begun using methamphetamine.
“This is a very sad, tragic case of a young woman that took her own life,” Foley said.
Prosecutors began calling witnesses later Tuesday afternoon.
The case is expected to take two to three days to complete.
Joshua Davenport is facing 20 to 50 years, or life in prison if convicted.
The case does not meet the legal requirements for prosecutors to have sought the death penalty.
For the death penalty to be an option under Kentucky law, the case must involve multiple victims, a kidnapping that results in a death, the death of a police officer or corrections official in the line of duty, or an aggravating crime such as first-degree robbery, first-degree rape, first-degree burglary, first-degree arson, or first-degree sodomy.
Police were called to the residence on March 7, 2018 in response to a 911 call made by Joshua Davenport’s mother of an apparent suicide.
Joshua Davenport told police that he had been inside when the shots rang out and he found Stephanie in the back yard. He returned to the home to tell his parents what happened.
Joshua Davenport was on the scene when police arrived and remained so as the investigation continued.
He was initially lodged in the Laurel County Correctional Center, but later transferred to the Whitley County Detention Center while awaiting trial.