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Defense rests case in Gilbert hammer killing trial

Marissa DeVault listens to former boyfriend Allen Flores testify in the Maricopa County Superior Courtroom of Judge Roland Steinle III, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. DeVault is charged with killing her husband by hitting him in the head with a hammer. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Tom Tingle)

PHOENIX -- The defense has rested its case in the trial of a Gilbert woman accused of fatally bludgeoning her husband with a hammer in 2009.

Closing arguments are scheduled Thursday before jurors get the case of Marissa Suzanne Devault, who claims she killed Dale Harrell in self-defense.

Devault, 36, is charged with first-degree murder, and her trial began in early February. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Authorities contend the January 2009 attack on Harrell was premeditated and say Devault has given conflicting accounts of her husband's death.

Harrell died at a hospice nearly a month after the attack of complications from his head injuries.

Devault told investigators that Harrell had physically and sexually abused her.

Devault's 18-year-old daughter, Rhiannon DeVault Harrell, testified Monday that she and two younger sisters would push their dressers in front of their doors to keep the violence from spilling into their bedrooms.

She described a December 2008 incident in which Dale Harrell threw a box of Christmas ornaments, striking her mother and propelling her into a glass coffee table.

Asked on cross-examination if her mother ever hit her stepfather, Rhiannon DeVault Harrell said, "She didn't hit him as often as he hit her."

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