The missing Ventura mother whose badly decomposed body was found in a barranca north of the city this weekend was beaten and stabbed to death, the Ventura County coroner announced Wednesday.
Coroner officials said Sherri Renee Dally’s death was “caused by blunt and sharp force injuries indicating that she was beaten and stabbed.” The officials declined to comment any further.
“That’s just a horrible way to die, it’s repulsive,” said Gary Aanerud, a friend of Dally’s who organized a volunteer search party that found the body “on a fluke” Saturday.
Also on Wednesday, authorities said Ventura County Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury is considering personally prosecuting the case if anybody is ever arrested and charged with Dally’s kidnap and slaying.
“Beyond that, we don’t have any comment,” Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Ronald C. Janes said. Bradbury declined to talk about his involvement in the case.
But Janes also said that prosecutor Lela Henke-Dobroth, a top Bradbury lieutenant, would assist the district attorney at trial if he decides to prosecute. Janes said it has been “several years” since Bradbury tried a case.
“I haven’t seen Mike in a courtroom for some time,” said veteran Ventura defense attorney and former prosecutor George C. Eskin, who said he hired Bradbury to the district attorney’s office in 1967. “He was a wonderful trial attorney, he was a model prosecutor.”
But first, Bradbury and his staff need a case to try. No one has been charged with any crimes connected to Dally’s abduction and death. The 35-year-old mother of two disappeared from a city strip mall May 6.
Witnesses saw her get into the back seat of a blue-green car driven by a woman described as short and blond. A volunteer search group Saturday found Dally’s skeletal remains spread throughout the bottom of a barranca off Canada Larga Road, two miles east of California 33.
Investigators are still calling Port Hueneme resident Diana J. Haun their chief suspect. Haun was arrested and jailed for four days under suspicion of Dally’s kidnapping and slaying.
Haun was released May 23 after authorities decided they did not have enough evidence to charge her, even though police seized a bloodstained, blue-green Nissan Altima rented between May 5 and 7 in Haun’s name.
Haun told authorities that she lost her credit cards before the car was rented. Investigators concede that her signature on the receipts seized from the Budget Car and Truck Rental agency at the Oxnard Airport do not match Haun’s usual autograph.
Police also have searched Haun’s Jeep Wrangler and the Port Hueneme home she shares with her mother.
Today, Haun’s public defender, Neil B. Quinn, will ask a judge to unseal those search warrants. Prosecutors argue that releasing the warrants will jeopardize their investigation.
At the same hearing, prosecutor Kevin DeNoce said, he will complain to Superior Court Judge Frederick Jones that Quinn’s representation of Haun is impeding investigators. Quinn dismissed that accusation as a publicity stunt and said Haun is entitled to legal counsel from the public defender’s office even though she has not been charged with any crime.
Haun and Michael Dally, the dead woman’s husband, worked together at an Oxnard grocery store and reportedly had a romantic relationship. Investigators, who say they believe more than one person helped kill Sherri Dally, declined to say if Michael Dally is under investigation.