Marissa DeVault’s 18-year-old daughter testified on Tuesday in Maricopa County Superior Court and it was full of details that painted her father, Dale Harrell, as an abusive father who constantly physically abused her mother. She described what she witnessed throughout their abusive relationship throughout the years leading up to the murder.
DeVault is charged with first-degree murder for killing her husband with a claw hammer in January 2009.
Rhiannon DeVault Harrell was the defense’s final witness and she was almost at tears when speaking about the fights she observed between her parents in their Gilbert home. She recalls the times when she and her two younger sisters would have to push their dressers in front of their doors to prevent their parents barricading the door during their violent fights.
” Life at home was tumultuous,” she told the jurors.
She specifically remembered a December 2008 incident in which Harrell threw a box of Christmas ornaments and striking her mother on the wall then slamming her into a glass coffee table.
When asked on cross-examination by prosecutor Eric Basta if her mother ever hit her father, she said, “she didn’t hit him as often as he hit her.”
She sat in well-mannered posture with her neat blonde curls and elegant sun dress covered with a red blazer. With her hands on her lap, she spoke slowly and paused sometimes between every thought and apologized to the jurors and prosecutor every time she could not give an answer or if her words were too faint to hear.
Rhiannon went on to say that she knew about the infidelity of both her parents and recalls when her father would come home with another woman’s lipstick on his neck, “he smelled of perfume, and it wasn’t my mom’s.”
She talked about her and her sisters relationship with DeVault’s “sugar daddy,” Allen Flores– They would sometimes sleepover his residence and even went to Disney World in Florida with him along with Flores’ son and DeVault.
She also admitted that one Christmas they went to Flores’ residence to exchange gifts and Harrell was jealous and upset that Flores’ gifts were better than his and that it took him awhile to find out the nature of the relationship between DeVault and Flores.
Harrell, 34, was attacked by DeVault, 36, during the early morning of January 2009. She hit one side of his face and temple with a claw hammer while he was sleeping and he died three weeks later. She claims that she was physically and sexually abused by him and it was self-defense.
However, prosecutors say DeVault’s motive for the killing was to collect on his insurance policy.
During the night of the murder, Rhiannon told jurors she was woken up late at night by a weird dream of her dad crying, she peeped outside her room and did not see anything so she went back in her room for the rest of the night. She distinctly remembers hearing the garage door open a couple times but did not wake up until cops were in her home.