PHOENIX - The former boyfriend of an Arizona woman accused of fatally bludgeoning her husband with a hammer said the woman had told him a few weeks before the beating that she wanted to hire a hit man to kill her husband.
Allen Flores testified Thursday that Marissa Devault told him that her husband, Dale Harrell, was physically abusive toward her and that she didn't want Harrell in her life anymore.
Flores said Devault wanted to either hire someone to kill Harrell at a casino or she was going to kill Harrell herself in a casino hotel room and would explain to police that her husband tried to rape her after a night of drinking.
"I kind of chalked it up to an odd flight of sarcastic fancy," Flores told jurors at Devault's trial.
Prosecutors say Devault killed Harrell several weeks later in their home in Gilbert in an attempt to get an insurance settlement to repay nearly $300,000 in loans from Flores, a business management consultant who is about 20 years older than Devault.
Harrell suffered multiple skull fractures in the January 2009 attack and died at a hospice nearly a month later of complications from his injuries. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Devault.
Devault claims she killed her husband in self-defense and told investigators that he had physically and sexually abused her in the past. But prosecutors contend that the attack on Harrell was premeditated and say Devault has given conflicting accounts of her husband's death. They also say the people Devault alleged were witnesses to the abuse didn't back up her claims.
Flores said he made a series of loans to Devault totaling $294,000 and that Devault kept telling him she had money coming to her from a $1.8 million insurance settlement from her father's death and a $7 million trust that her father had set up.
But Flores said he later discovered that Devault's father wasn't dead. Still, he bailed her out of jail and loaned her another $50,000 after her arrest.
Prosecutor Eric Basta asked why he kept lending money to her after Harrell was attacked.
"I cared very deeply for her," Flores said. "She was in serious trouble."
Defense attorneys, who haven't yet gotten a chance to question Flores during the trial, are expected to highlight an immunity agreement Flores made with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony.
Authorities say they found child pornography on Flores' computer while they were investigating the case. Prosecutors granted Flores immunity on the child pornography allegations. Without such an agreement, Flores was expected to invoke his right against self-incrimination.
Prosecutors say the immunity agreement doesn't prevent authorities from filing pornography charges against Flores. Instead, they say the agreement bars authorities from using any statement that Flores makes during the murder trial in a pornography case.
Flores' testimony is scheduled to resume March 3.