Hammer Killer

By: Brittany Ellinger & Christopher Butts

Case Summary

On the night of January 14, 2009 Marissa Devault struck her sleeping husband, Dale Harrell, multiple times in the head with a hammer. On the same night she attacked her husband she told him that she wanted a divorce. He was mad about that and choked and raped her that night as well. She told police that she had snapped and could not remember how many times she hit her husband. Her friend, Stanley Cook Jr., who was staying with them heard the screams and took the hammer out of Devault’s hands.

The trauma to the head caused him to go to the hospital for head surgery. He died three weeks later in a hospice from a blood clot in his lungs that stopped his heart. Devault claims it was self defense. Devault said she did it because she was tired of him choking her and raping her for 9 years.


Forensic experts were able to use blood splatter to link the hammer to Marissa Devault. They were able to look at the cast off to find out that there was multiple hits. They were also able to find out how hard he was hit by the medium velocity blood spatter. They were able to see that the blood drops were shaped into tear shapes with points. They were also able to tell where the weapon was placed at after it had all the blood on it because of passive stains that left blood behind. They were able to tell where she was due to the lack of blood splatter on certain spots of the wall. Experts say this happens when there is somebody or something that blocks the blood from hitting the wall.

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Self Defense or Murder?

Murder because he was sleeping when the attack happened. In her testimony she said that she was just walking out of the bathroom and snapped. She said nothing about him attacking or raping her in the few minutes prior to attacking him. Psychologists say that she has battered women's disorder and PTSD which also lead us to believe that she attacked him for not reason.
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