The first day of a highly anticipated trial started in Grand Falls-Windsor Monday with emotional testimony from a hunting guide.
Mary Beth Harshbarger, 45, of Meshoppen, Pa., was extradited from the United States to Newfoundland and Labrador in May to answer to a charge of criminal negligence causing death in the shooting of her husband, Mark Harshbarger. She maintains she mistook her husband for a bear when she shot him Sept. 14, 2006.
In Newfoundland Supreme Court in Grand Falls-Windsor Monday, the first witness called in the case was Lambert Greene, a former schoolteacher who has eight years of guiding experience.
Greene was acting as a guide for Mark and Mary Beth Harshbarger who, along with their two small children, were hunting at a lodge near Buchans Junction in the centre of the province.
Greene described the evening of the shooting, when he and Mark were working their way out of the woods on foot. He said Mary Beth had been waiting at a pickup truck on a nearby woods road.
The guide had stopped for a moment to urinate and Mark continued on.
In his testimony, Greene indicated he heard a gunshot, followed by a loud “screech’ or “scream.”
He called out to Mary Beth, asking if she had shot her rifle.
“She said, ‘yes.’ I said, ‘What did you shoot at?’ She said, ‘I shot at a bear, did I get him?’ ‘No … You got Mark,’” Greene recalled.
Mary Beth then asked if her husband was all right, Greene said.
“I said, ‘No, he’s dead,” Greene told the court.
The guide recalled Mary Beth was hysterical, saying over and over “I shot my love, I shot my husband.”
Greene then took the children and Mary Beth to a bear stand where Mark’s brother Barry had been hunting and together they returned to the hunting lodge where Greene notified authorities of the death.
Much of the questioning of Greene involved the amount of light at that time of day and the physical makeup of the terrain where they were walking.
The incident occurred near sundown and the area was scarred by skidder tracks. Skidders are large pieces of heavy equipment used by loggers to remove timber from the forest. At times, their huge rubber tires can leave ruts up to three feet deep. The wooded area opened up to an open patch, where grass up to three feet tall was growing.
Mary Beth Harshbarger was composed and stoic throughout most of the guide’s testimony, but silently wiped tears away as Greene relayed the details of the shooting.
Mary Beth left Canada after the incident in 2006 and charges were later laid in the case, based on two re-enactments performed by RCMP.
She returned to this province having fought extradition for nearly two years and was granted bail in June.
She has remained in custody since then, however, never posting the $200,000 required by the court.
If convicted of the charge, Mary Beth could be sentenced to at least four years in prison.