In 2012, Rebekah Mellon, a 31-year-old mother of one, was charged with the first-degree murder of her husband, who was found shot to death in the family's Phoenix home.
In a bizarre twist, the shooting was recorded on video, thanks to the family's indoor surveillance system.
When the case goes to trial later this year, the sordid and gruesome details are likely to capture the public's attention. Compared to men, women rarely commit murder and make up only 11 percent of all homicides.
But when women kill, the crimes tend to be personal — and dramatic.
Arizona is home to some of the most notorious and bizarre female killers. For your bloodthirsty delectation, New Times has compiled a list of our state's 10 Deadliest Deadly Women.
10. Wendi Andriano
Wendi Andriano appeared to live a happy life with her husband, Joseph, 33, in an apartment complex in Ahwatukee. But in 2000, when Joseph fell ill with terminal cancer and ceased working, Wendi became burdened and resentful, prosecutors would later say. She began frequenting bars and engaging in extramarital affairs, while at the same time scheming to kill her husband and profit from his death. After obtaining a life-insurance policy, she researched and ordered poison on the internet. On October 8, 2000, after Wendi had slipped pesticide into her husband's soup, Joseph suffered a heart attack and Wendi called 911. But when paramedics arrived, she turned them away. Apparently Joseph hadn't died fast enough. So Wendi hit him over the head with a barstool 23 times, then stuck a knife in his neck. Wendi later claimed she was physically and psychologically abused by her husband, although none of her friends had ever observed any signs of abuse. The jury didn't buy her story, and on December 22, 2004, she was sentenced to death, making her one of only two women on Arizona's death row. (Fun fact: Nationwide, women make up less than 2 percent of the death-row population.)
9. Marissa DeVault
On January 14, 2009, Marissa DeVault, then 31, crept into the master bedroom of the Gilbert home she shared with her husband, claw hammer in hand. While Dale Harrell, 34, slept, she slammed the hammer into his head, caving in his skull. Then she called police. Dale Harrell was found on the blood-soaked bedroom floor with multiple skull fractures, clinging to life. Initially, Marissa claimed Dale had been beaten by a burglar. Then she tried to pin the crime on the couple's roommate, who — cue bizarre twist no. 1! — obligingly confessed to the crime. Three weeks after the bludgeoning, Dale died at a hospice after his family agreed to remove life support. Not long afterward — cue bizarre twist no. 2! — Marissa was found, beaten, in a field near her home. She said she'd been out jogging when she was accosted by an unknown assailant.) Eventually, Marissa confessed to having beaten Dale, claiming it was in self-defense and that he was physically and sexually abusive to her and had molested the eldest of their three daughters. The trial made national and global headlines, with stories that compared the case to that of Jodi Arias. (More on her below!) On April 8, 2014, a jury found Marissa guilty of first-degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
8. Pamela Phillips
A beautiful blond socialite, Pamela Phillips lived a lavish lifestyle with her millionaire husband, Tucson developer Gary Triano. Gary had made millions investing in Arizona casinos, then lost it all to a gambling habit and the real-estate crash. Pamela filed for divorce and moved to Aspen, Colorado, where she got a job in real estate. When she met boyfriend Robert Young, Pamela hatched a plan to kill Gary and collect on a $2 million life-insurance policy in order to maintain her extravagant taste for the good life. On November 1, 1996, Gary climbed into his Lincoln Town Car at a Tucson golf course when a pipe bomb exploded. Police said Pamela had offered Young $400,000 to carry out the hit. The boyfriend was convicted of the murder, but Pamela fled to Europe. Once extradited, she stood trial, and on May 22, 2014, at the age of 56, she was sentenced to life without possibility of parole.
7. Marjorie Orbin
A former Las Vegas showgirl, Marjorie Orbin had been married six times by the age of 34 when she wed wealthy art dealer Jay Orbin. For the next decade, Marjorie appeared to live in domestic bliss, having a son named Noah and remodeling her North Phoenix home. Secretly, though, Marjorie was unfaithful to her husband, who traveled nearly half the year for his job. In the summer of 2004, she had two affairs — one of them with Noah's 18-year-old karate instructor, the other with a 60-year-old bodybuilder she met at the gym. After Jay Orbin went missing on September 8, 2004 — his 45th birthday — Marjorie began liquidating his assets and moved her boyfriend into the house. A month later, a 50-gallon container was found abandoned on the side of the road on a vacant desert parcel of land. Inside, a transient discovered the disemboweled torso of a man. He'd been sliced above the belly button and below the knees, still clothed in a pair of bloody denim jean shorts. The torso was determined to be that of Jay Orbin. While suspicion immediately fell on Marjorie, she wasn't arrested until police obtained surveillance video of her at a Lowe's purchasing the Rubbermaid container in which her husband's torso was discovered — which they were able to trace right down to the UPC code she'd unwisely left on the container. On October 1, 2009, Marjorie was sentenced to life without possibility of parole. The rest of Jay's body has not been found.
6. Valerie Pape
Marjorie Orbin wasn't the first — or even the most famous — female killer in Phoenix to dismember her husband. In 2000, Scottsdale salon owner and French citizen Valerie Pape was caught tossing the headless, limbless body of her husband into the Dumpster behind an East Mesa supermarket. Days after the discovery, Valerie, dubbed the "torso killer," admitted to police that she dispatched 60-year-old Ira Pomerantz during a fight. Prosecutors say the motive was a strained relationship, debts, and Valerie's extramarital affair. Although she refused to talk to detectives about the dismemberment or what had become of the rest of Pomerantz's remains, police discovered that she had purchased a reciprocating saw at a Scottsdale hardware store. On October 10, 2002, Valerie pled guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. In February of this year, Valerie was released — and promptly deported to France.
5. Shari Tobyne
Shari Tobyne shot her husband of 35 years, hacked apart his body, and scattered the remains across three separate Arizona counties. In November 2009, Dwight Tobyne, 57, was in the process of divorcing Shari and was scheduled to move out of their Scottsdale condo. Meanwhile, his wife purchased a handgun and went to a gun club to learn how to shoot. Sometime between November 24 and November 28, police say, Shari walked into the master bedroom of their condo and shot Dwight, who was lying on the bed. Wrapping his lifeless body in bedding, she dragged it to the garage where she dismembered it, stuffed the pieces in the backseat of her car, and disposed of them. In December, body parts were discovered by three separate hikers in Maricopa, Pinal, and La Paz counties, but they went unidentified for more than six months. Shari embarked upon a ruse to convince Dwight's family and friends that he was still alive, using his phone and e-mail account to send messages. Finally, in July 2010, Dwight's adult children became suspicious and reported him missing. When DNA connected the body parts to Dwight, Shari admitted to the killing, telling detectives she'd planned to commit suicide, Dwight had tried to stop her, and the gun fired accidentally. Shari pled guilty to murder, and on May 19, 2013, she was sentenced to life in prison, plus 31 extra years for related charges.
4. Shawna Forde
Shawna Forde needed money to fund the border-watch militia group she co-founded. So she teamed with two fellow Minutemen, Albert Gaxiola and Jason Eugene Bush, to rob a man they thought was a local drug dealer. Just after midnight on May 30, 2009, claiming they were agents in search of fugitives, Shawna and her accomplices talked their way into the home of 29-year-old Raul Flores Jr. and his wife, Gina Marie Gonzalez, who lived in a house in the rural Arizona town of Arivaca, 13 miles from the Mexican border. When the intruders found no drugs in the house, they attempted to slaughter the family, killing Raul and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia Ylianna Flores. Gina was shot three times but survived the attack. During the trial, prosecutors portrayed Shawna as the ringleader, showing text messages that implicated her in the crime. On February 22, 2011, a Tucson jury convicted Shawna of the murders and sentenced her to death. (Her accomplices were found guilty, as well; Jason Bush also received the death penalty.) She is one of two women out of more than 120 inmates on Arizona's death row. No woman has been executed in Arizona since Eva Dugan was hanged in 1930.
3. Winnie Ruth Judd
On October 18, 1931, Winnie Ruth Judd, a 26-year-old secretary from Phoenix, arrived at a Los Angeles train station with some gruesome luggage in tow. A baggage handler noticed what appeared to be blood dripping from one of Judd's trunks and asked her to open it. Inside, detectives would later find the bodies of Judd's two roommates, Agnes Anne LeRoi, 32 and Hedvig "Sammie" Samuelson, 24. Samuelson had been sliced into three pieces. Four days later, Ruth was arrested. The press promptly dubbed her the ''trunk murderess," perpetrator of one of the most sensational crimes of the 1930s. She admitted to shooting the women but claimed she'd acted in self-defense when they attacked her during an argument. Prosecutors, however, contended that Ruth shot the pair out of jealousy over attentions paid to them by her (married) boyfriend, Jack Halloran. Ruth was initially sentenced to death by hanging, but after it was determined that she suffered from mental illness, she spent the next three decades in an Arizona mental institution. She escaped six times from the Arizona State Hospital for the Insane in Phoenix. After the sixth escape, in 1963, she fled to California, where she worked as a maid for a wealthy family. She was finally caught in 1969, but wound up winning a parole two years later. In the 1990s, then-New Times editor Jana Bommersbach wrote a series of stories, and later a book, detailing evidence that Ruth was wrongfully convicted. But in 2014, a handwritten letter surfaced, in which she confessed to the crimes. Winnie Ruth Judd died on October 27, 1998, at the age of 93.
2. Doris Ann Carlson
Doris Carlson and her husband, David, were broke. To solve their financial problems, Doris hatched a scheme to murder David's mother so the couple could collect his inheritance and the proceeds from a life-insurance policy. Mary Lynn Carlson, 53, had multiple sclerosis, and Doris became her personal nurse. She also hired two hitmen. On October 26, 1996, Doris drove John McReaken and Scott Smith to her mother-in-law's Peoria residence, providing them with knives and gloves. While Smith served as the lookout, McReaken sneaked into the house and stabbed Lynn in the chest 10 times in a bungled attempt to kill her. Lynn did not succumb to her fatal injuries for some six months. On June 27, 2002, Doris was sentenced to life without possibility of parole. McReaken, who did the dirty work, got life. Smith got 10 years for second-degree murder. David Carlson was found to have been in on the plot to murder his mother and got life for his role in the conspiracy.
1. Jodi Arias
Meet Arizona's most notorious deadly woman. In 2013, aspiring photographer Jodi Arias was convicted of murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, a 30-year-old motivational speaker and devout Mormon. On June 9, 2008, Alexander's severely decomposed body was discovered crumpled in a shower stall in the master bathroom of his Mesa home. He'd been shot in the face, stabbed 27 times, and his throat was slit from ear to ear. Though Arias' obsession with her ex led to suspicion, she told a fantastical tale about two mysterious black-clad intruders who'd murdered Alexander in his home and let her escape unharmed. Then she changed her story, claiming she killed Alexander in self-defense after he attacked her when she dropped his new digital camera during a steamy shower photo shoot. And then digital copies of handwritten letters appeared, purportedly authored by Alexander, confessing pedophilic fantasies. In the end, Arias' undoing was a damaged digital camera found inside the washing machine in Alexander's home. When Mesa's crime lab recovered deleted images from the camera's card, they found pornographic photos of Arias on the last day of Alexander's life — and images of the young man before and after he was slaughtered. The salacious details of the crime and sordid sexual testimony captured the public's attention, and her trial was covered across the country. On May 8, 2013, a jury convicted Arias of first-degree murder. She narrowly avoided the death penalty and on April 13, 2015, she was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
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