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Diana Haun Charged in Slaying of Sherri Dally

Crime: Port Hueneme grocery clerk bludgeoned her lover's wife with an ax and stabbed her, prosecutors say. Victim's husband remains a suspect.

August 03, 1996|DARYL KELLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Grocery clerk Diana J. Haun was charged Friday with murdering Sherri Dally, her lover's wife, by bludgeoning the Ventura homemaker with an ax and stabbing her with a knife after a May abduction at a Ventura department store.

The day after Haun's arrest, prosecutors formally charged the Port Hueneme resident with kidnapping and first-degree murder under so-called special circumstances of premeditation and lying in wait, which would allow her to be put to death if convicted.

In the criminal complaint, prosecutors state for the first time that they think "an axe, or other blunt object" and "a knife, or other sharp object" were used in the crime.

They also maintain that Haun "personally inflicted great bodily harm on Sherri Dally" by using the weapons.

Haun, 35, is scheduled for arraignment on those charges at 9 a.m. Monday at the county courthouse.

Dally, a 35-year-old homemaker and day care center operator, was abducted May 6. Her skeletal body--skull bludgeoned and upper torso stabbed repeatedly --was found by a search party of friends June 1 in a ravine north of Ventura.

Following Haun's arrest Thursday morning while working behind the deli counter at Vons in Port Hueneme, a police spokesman said investigators believe at least one other suspect was involved in the crime.

Police Lt. Don Arth, who leads the investigation, said he thinks another suspect was involved before and after the kidnapping and slaying. But he would not say whether authorities think Haun committed the actual physical crimes by herself.

Dally's husband, Michael, 36, remains a suspect in the case, authorities said.

"We have not eliminated Michael Dally from our investigation," Arth said.

Haun was booked into Ventura County Jail on Thursday morning after police took her into custody without incident. She was being held Friday on $1-million bail.

It was the second time Haun has been arrested in the case. She was first jailed May 18 on suspicion of murder but released four days later for lack of evidence after prosecutors decided not to file charges.

Prosecutors said they will make the case stick this time.

"We've filed a complaint, and we'll follow through," Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Holmes said. "We're in the business of backing up our allegations. That's what we do for a living."

Neil Quinn, the deputy public defender who has represented Haun since May, said Haun will plead not guilty Monday. "She is innocent when she pleads not guilty," he said Thursday, cautioning the police and public not to judge his client until the facts have been presented in court.

Quinn could not be reached for comment Friday.

Haun has professed her innocence in an interview with The Times. Michael Dally has also said he had nothing to do with the death of his wife of 14 years.

Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury may try the Haun case personally, going to trial for the first time in more than a decade, Holmes said Friday. But a final decision will not be made until the case reaches the Superior Court, he said.

If the defense is successful in an expected effort to move the trial out of Ventura County, that would likely keep Bradbury off the case, Holmes said. "It would be extremely difficult for Mr. Bradbury to follow the matter out of county," he said.

However, Ventura County judges have granted change of venue motions only twice in 25 years, Holmes said. The last, the trial of Theodore Frank--convicted of killing 2-year-old Amy Sue Seitz of Camarillo--was heard in Orange County in 1981, he said. Two Native American activists, Richard Mohawk and Paul Skyhorse, were acquitted of killing a cabdriver in Simi Valley in the mid-1970s after their case was moved to Los Angeles.

Even as Haun is being arraigned Monday, a county grand jury is expected to begin hearing the case against Haun in an early morning closed session, where witnesses have been subpoenaed to appear.

Ventura County prosecutors routinely seek grand jury indictments in murder cases, avoiding lengthy preliminary hearings and preventing defense attorneys from getting an early preview of their case before full trial in Superior Court.

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