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WY: Harshbarger’s dad speaks out about verdict

October 2, 2010

The father of the man killed when he was mistaken for a bear said he was dissappointed in the ‘not guilty’ verdict rendered Friday (Oct. 1) for his daughter-in-law, Mary Beth Harshbarger.

The 44-year-old Meshoppen woman had been on trial Sept. 13-24 for the Canadian crime of criminal negligence causing death, specifically that in 2006 of her husband Mark.

His father, Leonard Harshbarger, 77, of Sweet Valley, said Friday the verdict “didn’t make sense to me.”

The older Harshbarger had received the news via a fax at his home where he had returned Monday after two weeks of being in Newfoundland.

He said during testimory, Mrs. Harshabarger had positively admitted the circumstances of the case and that she realized she shouldn’t have been firing a weapon after dark so when he rendered the verdict he did, “It was very upsetting.”

“The judge not being a hunter suggested he did not understand some things about hunting, so I’m sorry he ruled as he did,” Harshbarger, a 30-year-veteran of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said. “Frankly, it isn’t okay for hunters to break the law.”

He said he was grateful and not a little surprised that most of the townspeople in Grand Falls-Windsor where the trial was taking place seemed obsessed with the idea that Mrs. Harshbarger would be found guilty of criminal negligence.

“They must all be shaking their heads now,” he said. “We all seemed so sure that justice would be served in my son’s death.”

Mr. Harshbarger said the Crown would have 30 days to appeal the verdict.

He spoke with prosecuting attorney Karen O’Reilly Friday after the verdict, and was told the Crown would review the opinion and make a decision as to whether to appeal or not.

He said being back in Canada where his son died almost four years to the day, brought back some difficult memories for him.

He did go back to look first hand at the site at Buchan’s Landing, Newfoundland, where his son was killed.

“It was very emotional and really tough,” he said, noting that just the circumstances of being in the spot at the time of day and place where his son died convinved him even more that his daughter-in-law was negligent.

“It just seems so unreasonable that the judge could render the verdict he did,” Harshbarger said. “It’s very disappointing.”.

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