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SPECIAL REPORT: The Sherri Dally Murder Case

Marriage, Family Were Everything to Sherri Dally

Husband Michael was the love of her life. Friends say she doted on him despite his infidelities.

June 30, 1996|ANDREW D. BLECHMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Sherri Dally died brokenhearted.

She loved her two little boys, and she loved her husband Michael. But she was losing Michael to another woman.

"Inside, Sherri wasn't a happy person," said Michael's niece, Heather Murray, 17. "Inside she hurt."

Until her brutal death, Sherri did everything she could to hold on to the only man she loved since her junior year in high school, including losing weight, changing her hair and sewing him shirts.

When Michael moved in with Diana Haun last year for five months, Sherri even stopped by their residence, picked up his car, washed and waxed it and then returned it, Murray said.

"I used to look at her and say, 'My God, how do you do it?' and her only response was, 'Because I love him so much.' I was shocked how many chances she gave him," Murray said.

John Avila, who has known Michael since elementary school and still calls him Butchy, recalled Sherri's devotion to her husband.

"Butchy never had to make a meal," he said. "If he was going to work at 2 a.m., Sherri got up to cook for him at 1. If he needed to eat at 4 a.m., she was up at 3 a.m. . . . And yet she still felt she wasn't good enough.

"She earned heaven the hard way. No doubt about that."

Born in Lancaster, Sherri moved with her parents to Ventura when she was a child. As a youngster, Sherri joined Indian Guides and was an active member of the 4-H Club, winning three second-place awards at the Ventura County Fair for raising a rabbit and a seeing-eye dog, and for sewing a dress.

Sherri met Michael at Ventura High. She was a junior, he a senior.

"She never looked at another boy after she met Mike," said Sherri's grandmother, Claris Guess. "He was the one person in her life. He was her one and only love."

Three years later, they married. They had two sons, Devon, 8, and Max, 6. She quit her job as a checker at Vons and started a day-care business.

By all accounts, the marriage was a mixed bag. Friends and family speak openly of Michael's conduct.

"There's no doubt he saw other women," Avila said. "Everyone knew about it. Butchy has a wild side."

"He's a macho-type person," Guess said. "It's his personality. It came out more as he got older."

For Sherri, marriage was all about family.

"Her whole life was focused around Mike and the boys, making them happy," said Michael Dally's niece, Hannah Murray, 19. "She was the doting wife every guy wants."

*

"Is there a word stronger than 'devoted'?" asked John Avila's wife Leslie. "She was more devoted than anyone I know."

Friends recall how her kindness spilled over into her backyard day-care business.

"She loved my children as if they were her own," said Linda Hunt. "She even cooked them dinner and sewed them flower-print shirts and shorts."

That Sherri spent what was probably the last morning of her life running errands for her family doesn't surprise anyone who knew her.

She had just taken her boys to school and stopped by Target to buy her mother a nightgown for Mother's Day.

Some friends and even family say they were surprised by Michael's behavior after her disappearance.

"He doesn't seem to be the concerned, grieving husband," Sherri's grandmother said. "But you wouldn't expect him to be the grieving husband he might be if he didn't have a girlfriend."

"He doesn't seem remotely concerned," Avila said. "I don't understand his saying he was too busy to help with the searches. I have four kids, a wife, a mortgage, two dogs and the whole nine yards, and I still put in a lot of hours searching for Sherri."

"I don't know what to make of it," Heather Murray said of her uncle's actions since Sherri's disappearance.

For Sherri Dally, it would have amounted to one more indignity.

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