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DALLY FOUND GUILTY OF KILLING WIFE; FORMER SUPERMARKET CLERK COULD GET DEATH PENALTY IN SENSATIONAL MURDER CASE.

Byline: Don Holland Daily News Staff Writer

To the cheers of spectators, Michael Dally was convicted Monday of kidnapping and murdering his wife - a sensational slaying that could bring the former supermarket clerk the death penalty.

Dally, 37, appearing nervous and pale, nodded at his relatives as he entered the packed courtroom for the 1:30 p.m. reading of the verdict. And while he remained stoic as he was declared guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy, spectators gathered outside the courtroom erupted in shouts and applause.

``I think it was a just verdict,'' Karlyne Guess, the mother of murder victim Sherri Dally said outside of court. ``I think it was a hard decision.''

The Dally case had captivated Ventura County residents since Sherri Dally, a homemaker and mother of two, disappeared from a Target parking lot on May 6, 1996. Spectators were intrigued by stories of the defendant's dalliances with women and drugs, as well as his longtime affair with Diana Haun, who previously was convicted of Sherri Dally's murder.

The eight-man, four-woman jury deliberated five days before convicting Dally of the criminal counts, as well as of committing the murder for financial gain and lying in wait - special circumstances that make him eligible for Death Row. The penalty phase of his trial is scheduled to begin Monday.

Scott Guess, Sherri Dally's brother, said Dally's conviction brings satisfaction in the wake of the tragedy that has ruined many lives.

``I lost my sister two years ago. Now I can say that the world knows what she knew two years ago, on May 6, that her husband, . . . the man she loved forever, is now responsible for her death and the sadness she must have felt that night, realizing a marriage she tried to save was going to end with her death. Now the world knows that, too.''

A smiling Deputy District Attorney Michael Frawley said he was pleased with the verdict but declined further comment, citing a gag order by Judge Charles Campbell.

Michael Dally's father, Lawrence Dally, walked somberly from the courtroom where he attended every day of the six-week trial.

``I'm sure he was surprised as well as I was at the verdict,'' the elder Dally said.

James Farley, Dally's lead attorney, was circumspect in his comments.

``I trust the jury,'' Farley said. ``I believe they did what they thought was right. That's it.''

Donna Morlock, who served as an alternate juror in Haun's trial, said Dally clearly planted the seed that ended with his wife's murder.

``In my mind, I couldn't see how the jury could (acquit Dally),'' Morlock said. ``But there was certain evidence that wasn't presented in his case that was presented in ours, which I feared would make them (vote for acquittal). . . . You know, a lot of people don't get caught and it was nice to see (a guilty verdict). Death is kind of an easy way out. And they never do it anyway.''

Sherri Dally was abducted from a Target shopping center parking lot in Ventura on May 6, 1996. Her dismembered body was found several weeks later in a remote ravine north of Ventura.

Prosecutors charge that Haun dressed as a police detective, complete with a badge and handcuffs, abducted Sherri Dally and then beat and stabbed her to death.

Although their case was built on circumstantial evidence, prosecutors contend Dally planned the murder, with the help of Haun. Prosecutors described Dally as a depraved womanizer who conspired to kill his wife so he could pursue his obsessions with sex and drugs without a costly divorce.

The defense, however, said Haun was obsessed with Dally and acted on her own in kidnapping and murdering her romantic rival.

Deputy District Attorney Lela Henke-Dobroth painted a picture of Dally as a father of two young boys, who put his desire for cocaine and prostitutes before his family and who had nothing but contempt for his wife. Prosecutors said he even manipulated his wife so that she allowed him to keep a satin body pillow with Haun's picture on it in the master bedroom of their Ventura home.

Prosecutors also attempted to link Michael Dally with the practice of human sacrifice in the grisly killing of his wife.

Teresa Estrella testified that Dally's longtime lover, Haun, told her she was a witch and was considering performing a human sacrifice for an unidentified male friend. That friend, prosecutors contended, was Dally.

Henke-Dobroth noted that Sherri Dally once vowed Michael Dally could only take away their two young sons over her dead body.

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos

PHOTO (1--Color in Conejo Edition only) Michael Dally

Faces penalty phase

(2) (Ran in Conejo Edition only) Diana Haun

Convicted previously
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 7, 1998
Words:782
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