Murder Was Birthday Present, Jury Told
A witchcraft-practicing supermarket clerk gave her married lover a human sacrifice as an early birthday present by murdering his wife, a prosecutor said Monday in opening statements.
But a defense attorney said defendant Diana Haun, blinded by obsessive love, was duped by Michael Dally to unwittingly participate in a plot but did not actually kill Sherri Dally, 35, a mother of two boys.
The conflicting portraits of Haun, 36, emerged at the start of her trial on charges of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy. She could face the death penalty if convicted.
The case is being heard by 12 jurors and six alternates bused in from neighboring Santa Barbara County because of the publicity in Ventura County.
Dally, 36, will be tried later. He too could face the death penalty if convicted.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Frawley opened his case by saying that Haun, who once aspired to be a model and took acting classes, used those skills to disguise herself as a security guard, abduct Sherri Dally in a parking lot and drive her to a remote canyon where she was killed.
“The defendant had other skills as well,” Frawley said. “They included witchcraft, black magic, spells and human sacrifices.”
Haun confided her plans to a co-worker, he said.
“She wanted to do a human sacrifice as a birthday ritual for a male friend,” said Frawley, adding that although Haun did not identify the friend, it clearly was her lover of two years. Dally’s birthday is May 21.
Frawley cited receipts and canceled checks showing that Haun purchased handcuffs, a badge, a tan pantsuit and a blond wig in the days before the killing.
Witnesses described seeing a woman in a blond wig and that kind of outfit encountering Sherri Dally in a Target store parking lot on May 6, 1996, and leading her in handcuffs to a Nissan Altima.
The Altima was rented in Haun’s name and was later found to have blood in the back seat, Frawley said.
Haun longed to have Michael Dally to herself and wanted to raise his two sons, Frawley said.
“The defendant, Diana Haun, wanted to take Sherri Dally’s place,” said Frawley, noting that Haun carried a photo of herself with Dally and the boys.
Haun’s attorney, Neil Quinn, denied that she purchased handcuffs and the badge but conceded she bought a wig, a hatchet and tan pantsuit. He said she lied after the killing to cover up for Dally, but he denied she was the one who stabbed and bludgeoned Sherri Dally, whose skeletal remains were found June 1, 1996.
Quinn went so far as to say the jury could reasonably find her guilty of being an accessory to murder--which is not charged--but he rejected any possibility that she be convicted of murder.
“Diana Haun will be shown to be not guilty,” Quinn said. “But also not innocent--not innocent of complicity, not innocent of responsibility, not innocent of legal responsibility to some respect, but not [guilty] to the charges.”
Quinn displayed transcripts of love letters by Haun in which she described Dally as her “soul mate” in this life and in past lives. She wrote at length about plans to live with Dally and his sons--plans that did not include Sherri Dally.
“She was blinded by love for Michael. She allowed herself to be duped . . . without knowing what his deadly, fatal intention was,” Quinn said.
The defense lawyer denied that the woman in the tan pantsuit was Haun, noting discrepancies in the description of the abductor and the fact that nobody identified Haun.
“Her role, ladies and gentlemen, was to get some stuff for Michael,” Quinn said.
Suggesting that even a wig wouldn’t disguise her, the attorney said a wig would be put on Haun “and you will see whether it changes her appearance.”