PHOENIX — An Arizona woman was convicted of first-degree murder Tuesday for bludgeoning her husband to death with a hammer in what prosecutors said was a failed bid to collect on a life insurance policy to repay about $300,000 in loans from her boyfriend.
The same jury that convicted Marissa Devault will now decide whether to sentence her to life in prison or the death penalty in the 2009 killing of Dale Harrell.
Wearing a dark pantsuit and glasses, Devault sat facing the jury and remained expressionless as the verdict was read during a brief hearing in Phoenix. Jurors deliberated for five and a half days.
“This was the verdict I was hoping for,” said Amy Dewey, who lived with Devault and Harrell for about four months in the late 1990s and attended the trial as a way to honor Harrell’s memory. Dewey was once a friend of Devault, but their relationship eventually soured.
Alan Tavassoli, one of Devault’s attorneys, declined to comment on the verdict.
A hearing will begin Wednesday to establish whether there were “aggravating factors” in the case, which will determine whether Devault is eligible for a death sentence.
The case had many salacious elements, including testimony about plots to hire a hit man and the fact that Devault was a former stripper who met her boyfriend on a sugar-daddy dating website. But the judge in the case made extensive efforts to keep the trial from becoming the spectacle that enveloped the Jodi Arias case in the same courthouse exactly one year ago.
He warned the attorneys involved that he did not want any Arias trial fanatics on the jury, and he tried to keep certain sensational elements out of the trial. Devault’s past as a stripper, for instance, was barely mentioned during the trial. The case attracted nowhere near the attention of the Arias trial despite some similar circumstances.