Hammer slaying trial: Former boyfriend testifies

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by azfamily.com

Video report by Mike Watkiss

Posted on March 6, 2014 at 12:49 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 7 at 3:35 PM

PHOENIX -- A former boyfriend of a woman accused of fatally bludgeoning her husband with a hammer testified in court Wednesday, telling jurors that on at least two occasions the woman asked him to slap her husband around.

Travis Tatro, a Valley bouncer who claims he met Marissa Suzanne Devault at a strip club where she worked, said Devault told him she was being abused by her husband.

Authorities say the 36-year-old woman hit Dale Harrell over head with a claw hammer as he slept in their suburban Phoenix home in January 2009.

Prosecutors claim Devault killed her 34-year-old husband to obtain an insurance settlement to get out of a deep financial hole.

Another man whom Devault apparently dated while married to Harrell testified earlier in the trial, saying he had loaned her more than $350,000.

Devault initially told Gilbert police her roommate attacked Harrell because he was raping her, but later admitted she swung the hammer. She has maintained that she acted in self-defense.

Tatro told jurors that almost immediately after meeting Devault, whom he also knew by her stage name "Reese's Cup," the two began dating. He said Devault told him she was married and he wasn't bothered by it at the time.

He said in his testimony that he went to the couple's Gilbert home one night to confront Harrell about the alleged abuse.

"He extended his hand when he came in the back door. I was sitting inside and he put his hand out to shake my hand and I told him, 'I don't shake hands with women-beating pieces of (expletive) like that, and he stepped back like he didn't know what the heck I was talking about," Tatro said.

Tatro also said he never observed any signs of physical abuse and that Devault often lied to him.

He said a couple years after their affair ended, Devault told him her husband had died. Devault allegedly contacted Tatro again, saying her husband was abusing her and she needed help.

"I was kind of surprised he was alive still, or again," Tatro recalled.

He said that a week after that conversation, Devault's arrest was all over the news.

The prosecution is nearly finished making its case and the defense will follow.

Devault will likely have to take the witness stand herself to convince jurors she acted in self-defense.

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