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Wed, Dec. 11

'She had a plan for life'
Testimony turns to impact as penalty phase begins

Ariel Allison

Ariel Allison

KINGMAN - Jurors who hold in their hands the fate of convicted murderer Darrell Bryant Ketchner heard how the July 4, 2009 killing of Ariel Allison has affected her family.

"The night Darrell Ketchner murdered my daughter, he destroyed us," said Jennifer Allison, Ariel's mother and Ketchner's former girlfriend.

On that Independence Day, Ketchner showed up at the Allison home on Pacific Avenue in Kingman. He stabbed Ariel Allison eight times, according to testimony, and stabbed and shot her mother in the back of the head.

Ariel was on summer break from college and 21 days shy of her 19th birthday the night she died.

Jennifer Allison, still suffering the lingering effects of her injuries, testified she was 15 years old when she became pregnant with Ariel.

"I was 16 when I had her," she said. "I made a choice to have her and I married her father a year later."

Shawn Allison would die in a car crash when Ariel was 4 years old, her little sister was 2 and her mom was 20.

"It was just the three of us girls after that," she said. "Ariel grew up to be a beautiful young lady. She did gymnastics. She was outgoing and she had a million friends.

"She turned out to be a better person than I ever could have imagined."

Jennifer Allison said Ariel was the leader of the family and the glue that held it together.

Ariel's grandfather, Bob Allison, spoke as a slideshow of photographs played on two television screens in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Rick Williams.

The slideshow included photos of Ariel as a toddler, as a preteen with braces, a high school cheerleader and on her graduation day. There was another one taken at a Kingman park hours before she was murdered.

Bob Allison told about filling in for Shawn whenever Ariel needed a father. In first grade she invited him to a father and daughter breakfast at school.

"She had a plan for life," said Bob Allison. "A real plan. She worked at Sonic and took all the hours she could get. She never forgot to call us on the holidays and our birthdays."

In 2005, when she was 15, Ariel left her mother's home to live with her grandparents. Ketchner had just been released from prison on drug charges and moved in with Jennifer. The two have children in common, but Ariel didn't want to be there.

"She was a neat and organized person," he said. "Her room looked like she was expecting company."

Bob Allison and his wife were in Kingman the day Ariel died and Jennifer was grievously wounded.

At the park, they sat where they normally did during the fireworks show.

There was a lot of tension, he said, and they were glad the police trailer was parked near them. Ketchner had a protective order against him and had threatened to murder Jennifer Allison and all of her children.

He partially made good on those threats.

"That was the last time I saw Ariel alive," said Bob Allison, his voice catching in his throat.

"Our daughter saw the news on Facebook. She said there's been a shooting and we heard Jennifer and Ariel were at the hospital."

Bob Allison said when he saw all the blood in the driveway he knew no good news would be heard when they got to the hospital.

Earlier in the day, defense attorney John Napper told jurors that Ketchner, the son of a prominent optometrist who served on political boards in Kingman, lived in a "hellhole" with an abusive father who repeatedly beat his wife in front of their four children.

He spoke of one incident in particular. According to Napper, Wayne Ketchner couldn't get his wife to stop bleeding after a beating and put her in an ice-filled bathtub.

Eventually, the wife would take two daughters and go back home to Oregon, but she left Ketchner with his father.

"Wayne Ketchner was a hateful, mean, son of a bitch," Napper said to jurors.

Napper said his client lived with a lot of anger and spent his life in and out of prison, but he also said Ketchner was not the "worst of the worst" offenders.

Prosecutor Megan McCoy painted a different picture.

"Sure, the defendant didn't have a great childhood. He wants you to blame his dad," she said.

"He chose his path. This is a man who at 51 (years old) murdered an 18-year-old. He had lots of choices between childhood and 51. He's the father of adult children ... no mitigation can lessen his moral culpability.

"The death penalty is the appropriate penalty. Darrell Ketchner has earned it."

Testimony in the penalty phase of Ketchner's trial continues today. He faces the possibility of death by execution or life in prison.

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