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Dally Case Is Given to Jury for Verdict

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The case against suspected wife-killer Michael Dally was given to the jury late Monday afternoon, concluding seven weeks of testimony in one of Ventura County’s most sensational murder trials.

The panel of eight men and four women is expected to begin deliberations today.

For nearly a week, prosecutors and defense attorneys have meticulously pored over evidence presented during the trial and delivered passionate closing arguments.

On Monday, Deputy Dist. Atty. Lela Henke-Dobroth got the last word.

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She told jurors in a three-hour rebuttal that Dally, 37, committed the ultimate act of betrayal by persuading his lover, Diana Haun, to murder his wife.

Sherri Dally, 35, was kidnapped, beaten and fatally stabbed on May 6, 1996. Her body was dumped in a steep ravine outside Ventura and discovered by a search party a month later.

“The husband she trusted ended that life,” Henke-Dobroth said in her final remarks. “Please see that justice is done.”

The prosecutor urged jurors to find Dally guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy--findings that could trigger a second, penalty phase in which the same jury would be asked to decide whether the former grocery store employee should live or die.

But the jury has another option. It could decide that Dally was unaware of the plan to kill his wife and only became involved after the fact. That theory was offered by defense attorneys who suggested Haun acted alone.

In closing arguments last week, attorney Robert Schwartz argued that Haun was so obsessed with the defendant that she decided to murder his wife and take Sherri Dally’s place.

Haun “pulled the wool” over Michael Dally’s eyes, Schwartz said, adding that, at most, his client could be found guilty as an accessory after the fact.

But in her rebuttal, Henke-Dobroth said the evidence does not support such a finding. She told the jury it would be better to acquit Dally of murder than return a guilty verdict on the lesser charge.

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“That would be an insult to the memory of Sherri Dally and the facts in this case,” she said.

Michael Dally was indicted on charges of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy because those were the crimes he committed, Henke-Dobroth argued. Finding him guilty of a lesser felony, she added, “would be like convicting him of petty theft when he stole the Hope Diamond.”

Henke-Dobroth reviewed key statements by a handful of witnesses who testified about alleged admissions the defendant made after his wife was killed.

The prosecutor also focused on statements Haun made to a co-worker and an employee at a wig shop. She said the remarks suggest Haun was plotting a crime with someone else.

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In the months before the murder, Haun told co-worker Teresa Estrella that she wanted to perform a human sacrifice as a birthday present to a male friend.


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