Marissa DeVault, 36, a mother of three, has pleaded not guilty to the January 2009 attack on Dale Harrell, claiming self-defense. Authorities say she repeatedly struck Harrell, 34, over the head with a hammer as he slept in their suburban Phoenix home. Harrell died about a month after the attack, which DeVault says was triggered by years of physical and sexual abuse.
But prosecutors have attempted to paint DeVault as a cold, calculating killer. On her interrogation tape, made hours after the killing, she was seen laughing awkwardly about the events that night.
“Um, I saw a hammer go into Darrell’s head,” she said.
Prosecutors are also focusing on pictures showing perfectly manicured nails and light bruising, little evidence of a struggle. Prosecutors claim that her motive was life insurance money to pay back her alleged boyfriend, from whom she borrowed about $300,000.
"The cold, hard truth is the defendant planned to kill Dale, and she did it," prosecutor Eric Basta said in closing arguments. "The motive was money."
DeVault’s defense is similar to the one claimed by Arias, convicted last year for brutally killing her longtime lover, Travis Alexander. The case is even happening in the same courtroom as Arias’ trial, Maricopa County Superior Court.
DeVault’s trial began in early February, and now her fate is in the hands of the jury. Just like Arias, whom she reportedly befriended in jail, she faces the death penalty if convicted. Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in May.
ABC News Chief Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams said he believes DeVault will be convicted of at least second-degree murder, but he expects her to be spared the death penalty.
“Marissa DeVault’s daughter did testify that she had witnessed her father abusing her mother,” Abrams said. “If the jury finds the claims of abuse credible, that could lead it to arrive at a compromise verdict, and avert a first-degree murder conviction.”