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Haun Provides Handwriting Sample as Investigation Unfolds

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Responding to a court order, murder suspect Diana J. Haun gave police and prosecutors a handwriting sample Thursday in the investigation of the kidnap-slaying of Ventura homemaker Sherri Dally.

At the same time, the victim’s husband, Michael Dally, also identified as a suspect by law enforcement sources, voluntarily spent three hours with investigators, police said.

Friends and co-workers have said that Dally and Haun, who once worked nights together in an Oxnard grocery, had a romantic relationship.

The two meetings at Ventura Police Department headquarters overlapped, but the paths of Haun and Dally apparently never crossed, police said.

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Neither Haun, dressed neatly in a black-and-white outfit, nor Dally, dressed casually in red T-shirt and black Levi’s, would comment on their activities.

Thursday’s one-hour session with Haun and three-hour meeting with Dally capped a flurry of activity this week as investigators tried to patch holes in their case to prove who killed Sherri Dally.

The 35-year-old day-care center operator was abducted May 6 while leaving a Ventura department store. Her skeletal remains were discovered in a ravine north of Ventura on June 1. She had been beaten and stabbed.

“I’m very pleased with the way the investigation is going,” said Sgt. Gary McCaskill, a detective with the Ventura police.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, investigators searched the homes of Haun and her sister, Mary Oliver, and of Dally.

“Our investigation led us to look for some additional items of evidence we felt we might discover in the houses that we searched,” McCaskill said.

McCaskill would not say what was seized, but a law enforcement source said the raids were successful: “It was a surgical strike. We knew what we wanted to get, and in large part we got it.”

One item seized, according to a court filing, was Oliver’s personal notebook.

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On Thursday, Haun, a 35-year-old grocery clerk from Port Hueneme, was compelled to produce samples of her handwriting, just as she had done on Wednesday after a judge granted a prosecution motion.

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With the sample, police may address an apparently troublesome element of their case.

Authorities seized a bloodstained, blue-green Nissan Altima matching the description of the vehicle into which Sherri Dally was kidnapped.

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The Altima was rented in Haun’s name, police said, but she said she lost her credit cards about the time of the kidnapping--and investigators initially conceded that the signature on the rental car receipts did not match Haun’s normal handwriting.

Of their session with Dally, a 36-year-old grocery store manager, police would only say that he responded to their request to come to the station and cooperated while he was there. Police then snuck him out the back way and took him home.

McCaskill said it would be inaccurate to say Dally was questioned by detectives. “That would be a misrepresentation. He came to the station in cooperation.”

While authorities would not comment on what they were looking for during searches and interviews this week, one of Haun’s attorneys said investigators have shown a keen interest in a bizarre, anonymous letter sent to The Times and to police on Monday.

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The letter said Dally’s death was the work of British nationalists seeking to embarrass Ventura County law enforcement, and that Dally was not to blame.

“This letter appears to be of interest to everyone,” Deputy Public Defender Susan Olson said.

A source has said that a typewriter was seized from Haun’s house this week, but investigators have declined comment on whether they were looking for a typewriter that could have been used to write the anonymous letter.

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Thursday, McCaskill downplayed any notion that the searches were prompted by the unsigned letter, which was mailed last Friday from Santa Barbara.

“The letter was not the trigger for the search warrants,” the detective said. “There wasn’t a single trigger.”

The pattern of raids this week is similar to that followed by investigators in May, when police searched both the Dally and Haun residences at the same time, 12 days after Sherri Dally was kidnapped.

Haun, who lives with her mother, was arrested shortly after the May 18 search, but released for lack of evidence several days later.

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