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3/24/2013 6:00:00 AM
Analysis: Family drama plays out in Kingman courtroom
Ariel Allison
Ariel Allison
Doug McMurdo
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - Murder trials are dramatic affairs. When the defendant faces the death penalty, the drama increases tenfold.

When the defendant is tied to his victims not by blood, but by an abiding history, and the courtroom gallery is filled with spectators who are also bound to the defendant and his victims, the drama takes on a strange, emotionally charged and sorrowful dynamic.

When Darrell Ray Ketchner brutally murdered Ariel Allison and very nearly killed her mother Jennifer Allison on the night of July 4, 2009, he damaged the lives of everyone he ever cared about and everyone who ever cared about him.

Darrell Ketchner took Ariel Allison's life. The wounds he inflicted on Jennifer Allison will plague her for the rest of her days.

His cruel violence did not, however, tear apart his two families. A long-ago affair brought them together. Love, compassion and dignity in the face of a horrific crime have kept them that way.

Ariel Allison's grandparents, Bob and Arlene Allison, and her aunt, Jeanene Allison-Reiland, have sat in the front row throughout the trial.

The late Shawn Allison was Ariel's father. He died in a car crash nearly 20 years ago and left Jennifer with two young children. His parents have played a major role in the lives of their grandchildren and, by extension, the lives of everyone in both families.

Ketchner's daughters, Ashley and Ariel, sat with their mother, but there was a stunning lack of tension in the courtroom.

At one point during testimony, Ashley Ketchner was comforted by Allison-Rieland. Bob and Arlene Allison refuse to say anything negative about the man who murdered their granddaughter. They have taken the high road out of faith and sensitivity to Ketchner's relatives.

Indeed, the two families have been achingly kind to each other, and for good reason: They've all known one another for the better part of two decades. Even the attorneys, prosecutor Megan McCoy and defense attorneys John Napper and David Shapiro, have been gracious with both sides in and out of the presence of Judge Rick Williams and the jury.

To be clear: McCoy is using every legal tool at her disposal to convince jurors Ketchner deserves the death penalty. Napper and Shapiro have done everything in their power to save his life.

While nobody can explain why this tragic chain of events occurred in the first place, it's important to understand how it began.

Widowed at 20, Jennifer Allison and her two daughters lived across the street from the Ketchner family: Darrell, Debbie, Ashley, Ally and Ariel.

The children played together. A tree house in the Allison backyard is a fond memory for them.

Ariel Allison and Ariel Ketchner-Harkness shared more than a first name. The two girls were the same age. They went to the same schools. They played together and grew close.

A few years later, when Darrell Ketchner and Jennifer Allison began their affair and Jennifer became pregnant with the first of three children they would have in common, things became tense between the families, particularly for Ashley Ketchner.

She is the oldest of Ketchner's daughters and a girl who was old enough to know her mother's heart was broken and Darrell Ketchner and Jennifer Allison broke it.

She was angry with both of them for a few years, until she was seriously injured in a car crash at 16 and learned how precious life is and how harmful holding grudges can be.

But the two Ariels were not fazed by the affair or its impact on the two families. They were 7 years old. They were best friends who were lucky enough to become sisters.

Debbie Ketchner, Darrell Ketchner's high school sweetheart and a woman who stood by her troubled man through thick and thin for more than 20 years, handled the betrayal with class, according to her daughters. The Allison children were welcome at her home.

Ketchner-Harkness grew close to Jennifer, especially when her father was in prison - a place he has lived for 15 out of the last 21 years.

Married to a soldier who is about to be deployed to Afghanistan, Ketchner-Harkness, 22, broke down when testifying about her relationship with Jennifer and Ariel Allison.

She was there to ask the jury to spare her father's life, but Ketchner-Harkness clearly struggles with what her father did that night. Like her sister Ashley, Ketchner-Harkness never thought she would ask a jury to keep him off of death row.

When asked if the killing of Ariel Allison and maiming of Jennifer Allison made her angry, Ketchner-Harkness appeared taken aback by the question.

"I was bitterly angry," she said through tears. "I never thought I'd be here today. He took Ariel's life. He ruined Jennifer's life. He ruined his kids' lives. Why wouldn't I be angry?"

Ketchner-Harkness said she ultimately had to let the anger go, and she did so for compelling reasons.

Neither Ketchner-Harkness nor Ashley Ketchner visited their father in jail for a year after the incident.

"I had to forgive him for what he did," Ketchner-Harkness said. "We already lost so much. I missed talking to him. I missed his jokes. Just because he did this and the way he did this does not make him a monster."

But Ketchner-Harkness had another reason to forgive her father, one that can only be seen as a healthy choice. She didn't want to bring that kind of baggage into a marriage.

"I wanted closure before starting life," she said. "I know he loved Ariel and Jennifer and he's sorry for what he's done."

Ketchner addressed members of both families on Thursday, just before closing arguments began. He didn't ask for mercy. He didn't ask for forgiveness. He simply told them he was remorseful for all he took from them.

While the murder trial of Darrell Ketchner has been full of epic drama and tragedy, the blended family has shown how strong bonds keep families tied together through the worst of times.

Instead of letting Darrell Ketchner's merciless and barbaric act tear them apart, they have allowed their horrible losses to strengthen them.

Now, it's time for a jury to decide his fate. Deliberations begin Monday. The jury has two choices, life without the possibility of parole or death by execution.

Whatever jurors decide, Darrell Ketchner's two families will survive.

Related Stories:
• Death penalty for Ketchner

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, August 16, 2013
Article comment by: hate rude people

Ya so what the family's are close its the families business not kingmans and also you hoping he gets the death penalty cool we don't care about your dumb comments nor want to have to see or read them our worlds are upside down don't you people get it LeAve it alone!!!!!!

Posted: Friday, March 29, 2013
Article comment by: asdf hjkl

I agree with most people that the information in this article is private and none of my business. But I read it all thoroughly just to make sure that you weren't putting a sensational gossipy spin on the piece. I can say that I applaud the writer of this article for attempting to highlight the strength and moral characters of the Ketchner and Allison family. Truly they have been dealt several shocking hardships, and people in Kingman will gossip about it forever. Hopefully, this article will put some of that gossip to rest. When a tragedy strikes in Kingman, Kingmanites whisper to each other that the family it happened to is somehow doomed for more hardships, like they can never recover after what happened. If a young person from that family does or doesn't do well in life, people say "I just feel so bad for that family, you know after what happened, it's not surprising." It's poor social behavior, but it has just always been the case with small town gossip for as long as Kingman has been a town. Hopefully that is changing as Kingman grows. I think the writer at least tried to show that is not the case with Ketcher and Allison families, that there is nothing to gossip about anymore. That they will choose love and time to heal their injuries and take the higher moral ground. I don't even know these families, but this article has given me even more reason to have the highest amount of respect for them. I'll never read another story about Darryl Ketchner again. It's over, it's done with. Let's leave these families in peace and hope that time can heal them and give them comfort and hope for a better future.

Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013
Article comment by: Frank ,understand this

It doesn't matter where the information comes from or who gave it. It called a respect issue. The journalist should have had enough respect for the family not to write the story in the first place. The miner should have had enough class not to allow the story to be printed in there paper. It comes down to what will people read? What will sale the worthless paper. As far as your opinion, I do not give 2 hoots what it is. The difference between you and I is the fact that I try very hard to respect others as I would want too be respected.

Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013
Article comment by: our own worst enemy MR.C.

As one who is a outside observer and relying entirely on the article's written in the miner regarding this case. Darrell Ketchner is more then deserving of the Death Sentence.

"But" if i were to have a vote he wouldn't receive it Not because of any words of remorse he may have spoke. But the words spoken by those close to him, who despite everything, they and they alone still have compassion for this man I could not and would not destroy them further.

Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013
Article comment by: Frank Lee Speaking

@Stop already enough is enough

So what do you think.......that the paper pulled any personal information out of thin air? Hey, maybe the reporters are mind readers! Sorry Skeezix, any information they have printed is likely from court records and transcripts or from interviews with family members and/or friends.

So your shocked and troubled......but you still read it, right?

Get back to me when either family has appointed you as official spokesperson. But even then, I won't care.

Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013
Article comment by: Mind your own business

I agree with " Stop already".
Leave these people alone they are going through enough and they don't need this or any other reporter to put there personel family history in the paper. We don't need to see this this is private between the family try and respect that !!!

Posted: Sunday, March 24, 2013
Article comment by: mark anano

Both of these families have endured. Keep your heads up! There's many more of us out there that want you to succeed in life. Good things will come just keep your heart in the right place. All of this current reality can be adjusted to a new reality. Make it happen inside of you first. Just part of life's journey. Forgive my comments if they are out of line.

Posted: Sunday, March 24, 2013
Article comment by: Stop already enough is enough

I understand that a killing someone is news. What I do not understand is why do you so called journalist have to put the victims private life in your paper for people to read. What does there personal history have to do with what this monster did. In my opinion, I would not want my life story plastered in the media for people too see. Its none of anyone business. I feel bad for the victims and there family for having to go through the event in the first place. The last thing they need is for your classless stories about them exposed for all too read.
Enough is Enough

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