After a non-jury trial, Monroe County Judge John DeMarco acquitted Daren Venable on Thursday of both murder and lesser manslaughter charges in the Jan. 15 slaying of fellow University of Rochester student Jeffrey Bordeaux Jr.
Judge DeMarco determined Venable made every effort to retreat and was justified in believing that deadly physical force might be used against him. He stabbed Bordeaux four times with a knife after Bordeaux punched him repeatedly at the Delta Upsilon fraternity house on the U of R campus.
Authorities say the quarrel between the two 20-year-old men erupted over Venable’s new girlfriend, whom Bordeaux had dated.
“This verdict deserves our respect,” U of R President Joel Seligman said in a statement following the announcement of the decision. ”No one who was not in the courtroom throughout the entire proceeding can fully appreciate the full extent of evidence that was presented to Judge DeMarco.”
When the verdict was delivered, some of the victim’s relatives shouted out in anger and charged from the courtroom.
“This is terrible. You cannot justify this!” said Pastor Dennis Bordeaux, the victim’s great-uncle.
At a late-night party in the U of R’s Delta Upsilon fraternity house on Jan. 15, a quarrel erupted between the two 20-year-old men over Venable’s new girlfriend, whom Bordeaux had previously dated.
When Bordeaux saw the couple hug each other, witnesses say the suburban Rochester man confronted Venable angrily. As he backed up, Venable then pulled a folding knife from his pants pocket and held it behind him in a defensive posture.
But when Bordeaux pushed him down on a couch and punched him repeatedly in the face, Venable stabbed his bigger opponent four times in the chest, including once in the heart, witnesses told police.
Prosecutor Raymond Benitez maintained in closing arguments Monday that Venable had only a few blood spots on his clothes, which cast doubt on his self-defense claim that he was pinned beneath Bordeaux when he stabbed him. The defense countered that Venable made every effort to retreat but was forced to act when attacked by a former friend who was legally intoxicated.
The judge said he inspected the clothes and found them covered with blood. And the blood marks, he said, corroborated Venable’s contention that he was lying on his back when he stabbed Bordeaux. In deeming Venable’s actions as justified, the judge said he didn’t consider lesser charges of manslaughter.
The large brick colonial where the stabbing took place sits on the university’s quadrangle.
Neither man belonged to Delta Upsilon. Venable, who’s from Brooklyn, belonged to another campus fraternity. Bordeaux was a scholarship-winning political science major who was on the school’s track team and was to begin studying in Shanghai in February.