The Hammer Killer

By: Emily Shultz and Brandi Moore

Summary of The Case

Marissa Devault told police she killed her husband, but she said she acted in self-defense. Marissa Devault, 36, is on trial for the slaying of Dale Harrell in January of 2009. Harrell suffered severe head injuries from a hammer attack. He died a few weeks later. She claims the attack was self-defense.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case. The trial, which began in early February, is expected to last until May.

Blood spatter evidence

Convicting Evidence

Harrell, 34, suffered multiple skull fractures in the attack at the couple's home in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert. He died nearly a month later at a hospice of complications from his head injuries.

During the sentencing phase of her trial, Devault spoke directly to jurors for 11 minutes. She sobbed and wiped away tears as she said she was sorry for her actions and the pain she has caused Harrell's family.

She also said her actions will in some way always shadow her three daughters. "I am supposed to protect you, and instead I hurt you," Devault said.

Shortly after the attack, Devault told investigators Harrell attacked her as she slept 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.


But the testimony affected the jury members as they pondered whether DeVault, 36, should spend her life in prison or take a one-way trip to death row.

On Wednesday, after three days of deliberations, the jury chose life.

On June 6, after hearing from the victims and DeVault's family, which in this case are the same people, Judge Roland Steinle will decide whether DeVault gets natural life in prison or if she will have a chance for release after 25 years.

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