Sentencing set for Arizona woman convicted of fatally beating husband with hammer

Jacques Billeaud / The Associated Press
June 5, 2014 11:28 PM

Marissa Devault listens to testimony during her sentencing, Friday, June 6, 2014, in Phoenix. Devault, convicted of fatally beating her husband with a hammer, will spend the rest of her life in prison, a judge ruled Friday as he denied her request for a chance at parole after serving 25 years. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Mark Henle) MESA OUT MARICOPA COUNTY OUT MAGS OUT NO SALES

PHOENIX - A judge is expected to formally impose a life sentence on an Arizona woman convicted of fatally beating her husband with a hammer.

The purpose of Friday's hearing is to determine whether Marissa Devault (dehv-WAH') will spend the rest of her life in prison for the January 2009 killing of Dale Harrell or become eligible for parole after serving 25 years.

The jury that found Devault guilty of first-degree murder spared her the death penalty and instead imposed a life sentence.

Devault's attorneys are seeking the lesser sentence, arguing that their client has no criminal past, has deep remorse for the killing and sought counselling to understand why her actions were harmful. Her daughters are expected to ask Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Roland Steinle to impose the more lenient sentence.

It's unclear whether prosecutors are seeking the more severe sentence.

Prosecutors say Devault, 36, killed Harrell in a failed bid to collect on a life insurance policy to repay about $300,000 in loans from her boyfriend. Devault says she killed her husband in self-defence and told investigators he had physically and sexually abused her in the past.

Harrell, 34, died nearly a month later at a hospice because of complications from his head injuries.

The prosecutor said there were no records to support Devault's claim that she was sexually abused in the past, though Devault's children had testified that she and Harrell had hit each other in the past.

Shortly after the attack, Devault told investigators Harrell attacked her as she slept in the couple's home in Gilbert and choked her until she was unconscious. She also told police that when she woke up, she saw another man who lived at their home beating Harrell with a hammer.

Devault later confessed to attacking her husband, saying she pummeled him in a rage as he slept after he sexually assaulted her.

During the sentencing phase of her trial, Devault spoke directly to jurors, sobbing as she said she was sorry for her actions and the pain she has caused Harrell's family and that her actions will always shadow her three daughters.

The key prosecution witness was Devault's former boyfriend, Allen Flores, a businessman who met Devault on a sugar-daddy dating website and loaned her about $300,000 during their two-year relationship.

Flores testified that Devault wanted to either hire someone to kill Harrell, or kill him herself and tell police he tried to rape her after a night of drinking.

Devault's attorneys attacked Flores' credibility, noting he was given an immunity agreement on child-pornography allegations in exchange for his testimony. The child pornography was found on Flores' computer during a search that was part of the murder investigation, authorities said.


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