RCMP officer looked like bear through rifle scope
GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, N.L. - A police re-enactment of Mark Harshbarger's last movements looked through a rifle scope like those of a black bear, says the owner of a hunting lodge in central Newfoundland.
Reginald White told Mary Beth Harshbarger's criminal trial Tuesday that he viewed the scene through her rifle scope as police tried to replicate what happened when she shot and killed her husband on Sept. 14, 2006.
The 45-year-old Pennsylvania woman is being tried by judge alone in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador on a count of criminal negligence causing death.
Harshbarger has said she shot and killed her 42-year-old husband during a hunting trip after mistaking him for a bear.
The couple was staying at White's Moosehead Lodge near Buchans Junction, N.L., with their baby son and four-year-old daughter.
Mark's older brother Barry, also a hunter, was hunting for bear in a different part of the woods when the single shot split the evening air.
White said an RCMP officer dressed in dark coveralls and moving in the woods shortly after sunset looked through the scope during the re-enactment "like an animal."
He said the object was dark and "about four feet high" as it moved along a rough, rutted trail. It didn't look like a man, White testified.
Under cross-examination, Harshbarger's defence lawyer Karl Inder asked White, a guide and seasoned bear hunter, what animal the object resembled.
"A black bear," White replied.
Mark Harshbarger was wearing dark blue coveralls when his wife fired the fatal shot. Neither he nor his hunting guide was wearing orange vests or caps. The safety gear is not required under provincial rules but White said visitors to Moosehead Lodge are now urged to wear it.
Chris Rowe, a retired RCMP constable, told court that he went to the scene the next day as Mark Harshbarger's body was removed. He said there was "a wound in the centre of his chest."
The death has starkly divided the Harshbarger family.
The victim's father, Leonard (Lee) Harshbarger, travelled from Pennsylvania for the trial with two of his four other children, Dean and Sharon.
They say Mary Beth Harshbarger, a U.S. citizen from rural Meshoppen, Pa., who was extradited to Newfoundland, began a relationship with Mark's brother Barry soon after the killing.
Lee Harshbarger planned to go later Tuesday to the site where his youngest of five children died.
"I do miss him very much," he told reporters. "Oftentimes (I) wake up at night and think about him.
"I'd like to see for myself just what it was like. Being such a short range, I continually wonder: how could that happen that a man was mistaken for a bear at just 60 metres...?"
Court has heard that hunting guide Lambert Greene went into the woods that day with the Harshbargers, Barry, and the couple's baby son and four-year-old daughter.
Mary Beth was waiting by Greene's pickup truck about 60 metres from where Mark later emerged from the darkening woods alone. Greene had stopped to urinate.
Greene testified that Mary Beth, an experienced hunter, had asked whether the two men were going to "flush" an animal from the bush to where she was positioned with her rifle.
Her two children were seated in the cab of the truck.
Greene testified that he understood the accused would shoot an animal if it ran from the brush.
White agreed under cross-examination that provincial rules restrict guides to two non-resident hunters at a time. Greene had gone into the woods with three hunters, and was later apart from two of them.
White, who is also a guide, at first told the court he couldn't remember what Mary Beth Harshbarger said after returning to the lodge following the shooting of her husband.
Her defence lawyer reminded him of a statement he made at the time.
"She said she shot Mark, the love of her life," White then recalled. "And she thought he was a bear."
If convicted, Mary Beth Harshbarger faces a penalty of four years to a life term in prison.
The trial in Grand Falls-Windsor is expected to continue through next week.
Dean Harshbarger told reporters he dearly misses Mark.
"He was my younger brother so ... it's been tough," he said. "And despite the testimony ... hunting is a safe, safe sport if it's maintained with accountability.
"There should be no way that you can shirk the responsibility of positively identifying your target. She didn't have a licence for a black mass," he said of his estranged sister-in-law.
"She had a licence for a bear, a licence for a moose. She shot at neither one of those. She shot at a black mass."