COVINGTON, La. — A Slidell woman accused of stabbing her aunt to death in their shared home was found guilty Thursday.
St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Warren Montgomery said 40-year-old Kenya A. Despenza faces a mandatory life sentence for second-degree murder.
She is set to be sentenced Nov. 6.
The victim, Dianne Bercy, was stabbed 56 times sometime overnight on July 28, 2018. Family members found her body several days later when checking up on her. Bercy's car was missing from the home.
Detectives later found the car at University Medical Center in New Orleans, where Despenza had admitted herself for a mental evaluation.
Despenza’s legal team claimed that she was not guilty by reason of insanity. But prosecutors were able to show that Dispenza had checked herself in to mental facilities in the past as a way to get out of trouble.
Psychiatrists determined she was “malingering,” pretending to be mentally ill. “She is a faker,” prosecuting attorney Tiffany Dover said in her closing statement. “There is no other way to describe it. She’s trying to con the twelve of you.”
An insanity defense is only applicable if the accused is incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong because of a mental disease or defect, both during and after the time of the crime.
After stabbing her aunt, Despenza wrapped the body in a blanket that she retrieved from another part of the house, took off her own bloody clothes, showered, and tried to clean blood from the walls and floors of her own bathroom and the victim’s bedroom, prosecutors said.
Cleaning supplies were found on the counter-top of Despenza’s bathroom along with Bercy's blood.
“If you don’t know what you’re doing is wrong, why are you going through all these efforts to clean it up,” prosecuting attorney Angad Ghai asked during the trial.
Prosecutors said Despenza abandoned a plan to dispose of the body when she had trouble moving it. Instead, she got dressed for church the next morning, posted a selfie there on social media, perhaps as an alibi, and then checked herself into University Medical Center.
Bercy was reportedly the only family member willing to house Despenza, who pleaded guilty to stabbing her stepfather in the head during an unprovoked attack in 2016. Despenza fled the scene of that crime, as well, and checked herself into a mental hospital.
Despenza’s own words during recorded telephone conversations with family members provided some motive for the attack, prosecutors said. In a call to her mother, Despenza expressed disdain for the victim and accused Bercy and other relatives of refusing to help her, blackballing her, disconnecting her Internet connection, and making her walk to work.