An Arizona woman 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.
The jury that convicted Marissa Devault in the January 2009 killing of Dale Harrell had spared her the death penalty in late April and instead handed down a life sentence. It was up to a judge to formally impose the sentence and decide whether Devault would have a chance at parole.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Roland Steinle heard tearful pleas for leniency from Devault’s three daughters, but he picked the harsher punishment.
Steinle said he rejected Devault’s claim that she committed the murder because she was a victim of domestic violence and instead noted that he believes she killed him out of greed. “There is nothing in this record of the defendant that would justify parole,” Steinle said, adding that he didn’t believe she was remorseful.
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 said she killed her husband in self-defense 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.
Devault, wearing a jail uniform, sat in the courtroom’s jury box as Harrell’s relatives asked the judge to deny her the possibility of parole. Devault tilted her head and bit her lips as she tried to fight back tears during her daughters’ comments to the judge.
The daughters cried throughout their plea to the judge that their mother should be given the lenient sentence.
Rhiannon-Skye Devault-Harrell, Devault’s oldest child, said even though her mother attacked her father, he would still have loved her.
“My dad was much stronger than you think, and if he wanted to leave, he would have,” she said.
Devault made a brief statement before sentencing.
“I wish I had known all the things I know now so I could make healthier choices,” she said.
Harrell’s relatives described the pain they have suffered from Devault’s actions.
Melinda Artrup, Harrell’s sister, said Devault took away her brother’s chances to witness milestones in his daughters’ lives, such as graduations and weddings. She expressed frustration at Devault’s portrayal of Harrell as an abuser.
“She tried to taint my brother’s name,” Artrup said.
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.
Prosecutors 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.
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.