DeVault: Another Arizona Woman on Trial for Capital Murder
Who is Marissa DeVault?
Marissa DeVault, 36, is currently on trial in Maricopa County, Arizona for first-degree murder, accused of killing her husband of nine years. She is the mother of three children, one of whom she bore before her marriage to Dale Harrell on September 6, 1999. The three children, Khiernan and Daihnnon Harrell and the eldest, Rhiannon lived with DeVault and Harrell. According to court filings in DeVault’s murder case, Rhiannon’s biological father gave up his parental rights to her. Apparently Harrell never formally adopted her.
DeVault, Harrell and the three children lived at 2149 E. Maplewood Drive, Gilbert, AZ where DeVault admits she killed Harrell though she says it was in self-defense.
How did she kill her husband?
DeVault allegedly attacked her husband, Dale Harrell, with a claw hammer on January 14, 2009 while he was asleep in bed. She claims he had just sexually assaulted her. Harrell died on Februrary 9, 2009 from complications related to the severe injuries to his skull. DeVault was charged with attempted second-degree murder on January 14, 2009. Those charges were elevated to first-degree murder after Harrell died. A grand jury then indicted her for first-degree premeditated murder on February 27, 2009. The State filed notice of its intent to seek the death penalty on April 16, 2009.
Who is the other man in DeVault’s life?
The State says DeVault was having an affair with Allen Flores for at least two years before Harrell’s murder. According to documents in the public file, DeVault met Flores in 2007 through an online dating service. By the time of Harrell’s death, DeVault was in debt to Flores for $362,000. She signed a promissory note in 2007, and again in 2009, to be paid by December 31, 2009. Since 2007, she had allegedly been telling Flores a false story about coming into a large inheritance.
DeVault took out a $500,000 life insurance policy on her husband on January 1, 2009, just two weeks before the fatal attack.
Why is the other man so controversial?
According to court filings in DeVault’s murder case, Allen Flores claims that by December 2008, he started to get suspicious of DeVaul and began to document her statements in case he was harmed. Police seized Flores’s computer after Harrell died. In addition to finding relevant evidence to prosecute DeVault, investigators also found images of child pornography.
Apparently because it needs Flores’s testimony to prove its case against DeVault, the State gave Flores limited immunity related to his possession of child pornography in exchange for his testimony. Possession of child porn is a felony that could land him in prison for up to 21 years, or more depending upon the age of the children depicted in the images. The limited immunity means that the State cannot use his statements during DeVault’s trial in the event the State decides to prosecute him.
At DeVault’s trial, the defense will be able to elicit the immunity deal and the underlying crime but not much more than that unless Flores denies that he possessed the illegal material.
How was DeVault injured the day after her husband died?
It appears that DeVault was desperate for money. She had her own life insurance policy that would pay $500,000 in the event she became paralyzed from a spinal injury. On February 10, 2009, she asked her roommate, Stanley Cook, to paralyze her. Cook says he told DeVault that he could paralyze her by shooting her in the spine but that he feared too much damage to her. Instead, he beat her about the head and ankle with a sledgehammer. DeVault told police that she was attacked while out jogging. (Cook allegedly attacked her in her bathroom after she took painkillers. He then carried her outside where she was later found.)
What is DeVault’s defense at trial?
Like Jodi Arias, DeVault is claiming self-defense and says she suffers from Battered Women’s Syndrome. DeVault spoke to investigators for about three hours during which she reportedly gave details of assaultive conduct by Harrell. Some of the same psychological and computer experts who testified for and against Jodi Arias may take centerstage in DeVault’s trial.
Early in the investigation, Cook told police that he assaulted Harrell, not DeVault. DeVault now says she is the one who attacked Harrell. The physical evidence does not support Cook’s involvement in the attack on Harrell on January 14, 2009 though Cook apparently did beat DeVault on February 10, 2009.
Court filings that describe DeVault’s defense refer to it as self-defense, domestic violence, and third party defense.
How does this case qualify for the death penalty?
The State is alleging that DeVault killed her husband for financial gain. Financial gain is a statutory “aggravator” that, if proven, could ultimately result in a death sentence. The State says the evidence of financial gain is the $500,000 life insurance policy she took out on her husband days before attacking him with a hammer. Further evidence is the $362,000 debt she owed to Allen Flores.
When did the trial begin and how long is it expected to last?
Jury selection began Wednesday, January 22, 2014. Since a jury needs to be death-qualified, it could take a few weeks to seat twelve citizens plus alternates. Testimony is expected by early February, and the trial could last through May. The trial will meet four days a week; there is no court on Friday. Judge Roland Steinle is presiding.
Beth Karas – Wild About Trial