GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR — The trial of an American woman accused of criminal negligence causing death in the shooting of her husband resumes today in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court.
Mary Beth Harshbarger, 45, of Mesphoppen, Pa., maintains she thought her husband, Mark Harshbarger, was a bear when she shot him. The incident happened Sept. 14, 2006 in Buchans Junction.
Harshbarger fought extradition from the U.S. for two years, before being ordered to return to Grand Falls-Windsor to answer to the charges.
Testimony continued to centre around the lighting conditions and what Mark Harshbarger was wearing at the time of the shooting.
The first witness called was Reg White, the owner of the hunting lodge where the Harshbargers, their two young children and Mark’s brother, Barry, were staying on their trip to the area.
Defence Attorney Karl Inder asked White what he was able to see through Harshbarger’s gunscope when he attended an RCMP reenactment of the incident meant to recreate the conditions at the time of the shooting. A police officer wearing similar clothing exited the woods into a clearing where Harshbarger had been found dead.
“What type of movement did you see,” Inder asked.
“I just saw a dark object,” White said.
“What did it resemble,” the lawyer asked.
“An animal,” White replied.
It was also established by the defence that the sun was setting behind Harshbarger at the time of the shooting.
When questioned further, the hunting lodge owner agreed that all hunters — and even berrypickers in the woods at this time of year — should be wearing fluorescent orange clothing of some kind.
White has since adopted that practice for all guides and hunters operating from his lodge.
There is presently no regulation requiring hunters to wear bright clothing of any kind in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Regulations in the province do, however, require non-resident hunters to be accompanied by a guide who as least within earshot. At the time of the shooting, the guide accompanying the Harshbargers was overseeing three hunters.
Also testifying Tuesday was Reg White’s brother, Hayward White.
He has been employed as an inland fisheries officer with the provincial Department of Justice and has worked in that or similar positions for 30 years.
Because there was no phone or cellular reception at the hunting lodge Reg and Guide Lambert Greene went to Hayward’s home to notify the RCMP on the night of the shooting.
Hayward testified it was 9 p.m. when the pair arrived at his Millertown home to tell him of the incident. Millertown is approximately seven kms from Buchans Junction.
Again, the defence questioned the witness regarding the clothes worn by hunters.
When asked by Inder if hunting is a dangerous sport, Hayward replied “yes, especially if you are not wearing fluorescent orange.”
Ironically, Tuesday was the fourth anniversary of the death of Mark Harshbarger.
His parents and brother, Dean, who have attended the trial thus far, were scheduled to visit the site where the shooting occurred Tuesday evening.