Hammer slaying trial: Jurors sent home early after defendant's tearful outburst

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- The trial for a woman accused of fatally bludgeoning her husband with a hammer continued Wednesday, but jurors were sent home early after the defendant burst into tears.

Marissa Suzanne Devault, 36, is accused of hitting 34-year-old Dale Harrell over the head with a hammer as he slept in their suburban Phoenix home in January 2009.

Harrell suffered multiple skull fractures and died in hospice nearly a month later.

Devault began sobbing after a gruesome photo of Harrell's injuries was projected in the courtroom, an outburst that prompted Judge Roland Steinle to send jurors home early for the day.

But the no-nonsense judge warned Devault's attorneys that he would not do that every time the defendant starts crying.

Jurors also saw more footage from Devault's interrogation with Gilbert police in 2009, in which she told a detective her husband sexually and physically assaulted her.

"I wake up to this," Devault said, demonstrating a choking action on the detective, "and I was already having trouble breathing."

As Devault sat in the interrogation room with her arms folded on a table and her sweatshirt hood pulled over her head, the detective told the woman that evidence found at the scene did not corroborate her story.

"It was a really weird night last night," Devault told the detective at one point.

During the interview, Devault sometimes appeared emotional and other times giddy.

She initially told investigators the last thing she remembered was her husband on top of her. She claimed that when she came to, Stan Cook, who also lived in the home, was beating Harrell with a hammer in her defense.

Authorities refuted the story, saying bloodstain patterns on the bed showed Harrell was alone in the bed at the time and Devault repeatedly swung an object over her head.

Investigators said Devault later confessed to bludgeoning her husband, but said she attacked the sleeping man in a rage after he had sexually assaulted her.

Prosecutors, however, claim Devault killed her husband to obtain an insurance settlement to get out of a deep financial hole.

Police said they later discovered she had been dating another man, Allen Flores, for more than two years. The prosecution said she needed to repay a $294,000 loan from Flores.

If convicted of murder charges, Devault could face the death penalty.

The trial will reconvene Thursday morning.