Mary Beth Harshbarger found not guilty

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Mary Beth Harshbarger reacts to her lawyer after being found not guilty today in Grand Falls-Windsor. — Transcontinental Media photo

Mary Beth Harshbarger was found not guilty today of criminal negligence causing death in the shooting death of her husband while on a hunting trip outside Buchans Junction in September 2006.

Harshbarger, 45, from Meshoppen, Pennsylvania, has always claimed she thought her husband — Mark Harshbarger — was a bear.

Justice Richard LeBlanc handed down the verdict this morning in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in Grand Falls-Windsor. Harshbarger was extradited to Grand Falls-Windsor earlier this year to answer to the charge.

In a lengthy ruling, Leblanc concluded that the Crown failed to prove Harshbarger displayed a complete disregard for the safety of others, and that the death was “a result of an accident and nothing more.”

Harshbarger did not speak to media following the ruling. Her lawyer, Karl Inder, however, said she simply wanted to return home to be with her children.

Mary Beth, Mark and their two young children, and Mark's brother Barry Harshbarger, were on a hunting trip outside Buchans Junction when Mark was killed Sept. 14, 2006.

The facts of the case state Mary Beth was sitting in the back of a Chevy pickup with her children at her side and armed with a rifle, on a logging road on the evening of Sept. 14, 2006, waiting while Mark and a local hunting guide walked through the nearby spruce woods in the hopes of flushing out a black bear.

At the time, Barry was at a hunter's blind, elsewhere in the wooded area.

The sun had already set, and as Mark and the guide walked back toward the truck, the guide stopped to urinate in the woods. Mark wandered ahead of him, in dark clothing, without an orange hunting hat or vest. As he emerged from the clearing, Mary Beth told police she saw a dark shape that she believed was a bear, and fired.

The Harshbarger family, including three of Mark's siblings, has insisted for years the shooting was deliberate. They say Mary Beth is an experienced hunter and an expert markswoman who knew precisely what she was looking at that day.


Geographic location: Buchans Junction, Pennsylvania, Grand Falls-Windsor

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Recent comments

  • lisa
    September 11, 2014 - 19:28

    I watched the Dateline story and it seemed like Mark's family wanted her to beg them for forgiveness and other things and when she didn't that's when they went to the police. If I didn't have a good relationship with the in-laws I sure as heck wouldn't be begging for forgiveness I would stay the heck away

  • Grace - Vancouver Island
    January 17, 2012 - 03:05

    I watched both the CBC Fifth Estate and Dateline stories. What confuses me is the story around Mary Beth right after she killed her husband. Fifth Estate reported that due to a foot blister, Mary Beth never went to his body after the shooting. Dateline said a hunting guide prevented her from going to the body? Which version is the truth? Weird if she really loved him that she wouldn't find a way to get to his body. I have never killed a husband, but I imagine if I did I would run to his body in shock! In shock and awe (bad joke!)

  • Karen
    October 23, 2011 - 03:54

    His family has obviously gone way, way overboard to try to prove this woman guilty of an incident they never witnessed. Their opinions of relationships have absolutely nothing to do with it. They are guilty of judging another person falsely. Sure ain't biblical.

  • Brandon King
    October 08, 2010 - 20:41

    I am a hunter. When I learned to hunt I learned some cardinal rules that were broken by this seasoned hunter that resulted in the death of a human being. Firstly, you "never" rasie your hunting arms after the sun has gone down. Secondly, you do not point your gun towards the known entrance and exit paths of where your hunting buddies are located, especially if you are waiting for them after a hunt. Lastly, you do not pull the trigger on a target unless you are 100 % sure of what it is! Mary Beth broke all of the rules but she was a seasoned hunter ? Perhaps she was sure of her target. Obviously by not adhering to the strict education given to and learned by all hunters Mary Beth "was" negligent and it did cause the death of another! The crown did a lousy job of proving the case. If she did not murder her husband she was certainly responsible for his death! Responsibility with no accountability should not hold up in a court of law.

    • Prom
      June 29, 2015 - 22:30

      I agree with you 100%...Mark was also an experienced hunter....dressed in inappropriate attire. Two careless hunters...why put all the blame on one? If Mark was dressed appropriately, Marybeth would not shoot or would shoot but not have a case. Further, if the hunting guide was dressed appropriately, Mark should not have gone ahead of him especially that time of evening. I see carelessness on both sides...but who was the more experienced hunter?

  • kay
    October 03, 2010 - 19:47

    Congrats Marybeth,be happy and enjoy your life with your kids,they are all that matter!Keep your head up your a great Mom and a good person!Don't worry you will be old news soon,the news papers,news and people will pick someone else to say things about!

  • Keith
    October 03, 2010 - 13:00

    Justice system failed again. Murderer is free. Shoot a in prison. Wife shoots huband.........good job..go back to USA and enjoy your life. SO SAD but TRUE.

  • dico j.
    October 03, 2010 - 00:32

    she got away with murder..she is suppose to be an experience hunter..shooting at a figure in the dark when she knew her husband and the guide were in those woods. she knew exactly what she was doing...GUILTY!

  • shirley
    October 01, 2010 - 22:04

    I agree, it is over and let her get on with her life such as it may be. She should not have fired at that time of day being an experienced hunter. Her husband was just as experienced and should have known better to have been wearing an orange vest and cap. I'll even go further to say that no one should be allowed to hunt in the woods without the orange vest and hat on at all times. It could have been the other way round and her husband could have shot her given the relationship with her brother-in-law, Even if she was found quilty, she would be free just the same as the time she spent in prison would go towards her sentence, She has to live with the fact for the rest of her life that she took another person's life, namely her children's father, either accidently or on purpose, only she and her God know's the truth which it is.

  • Jimmie no front teeth
    October 01, 2010 - 17:23

    That sound in the background is banjos playing: binga-bing-bing-bing. Duelling banjos to seranade her home to the backwoods of the Appalacians. Let's hope she and her itchy trigger finger stay away from Newfoundland forever. Don't y'all ever come back now, y'hear!

  • My opinion
    October 01, 2010 - 15:19

    The charge was criminal negligence causing death - how is it ok to shoot at something if you don't know what it is? This man was killed because of her negligence and she should have been found guilty of the charge. Another Newfie joke of a court case!

  • Pearl
    October 01, 2010 - 15:13

    None so blind as HE (yes, you, MEN) who will not see: it's open season, and the target is YOU

  • Jack
    October 01, 2010 - 14:19

    If the roles were reversed maximum sentence, that's how marxism works

  • Roderick B
    October 01, 2010 - 14:09

    I am glad this case is over and the verdict is one I thought it would be from the very beginning.Accidents happen daily around the world and this was a most definite accident.One parent dead is more than enough for these poor children to endure. Placing Mrs. Harshbarger behind bars will not bring your son back.It was a terrible tragedy that went wrong I think.

  • Neutral
    October 01, 2010 - 13:52

    I'm not really sure how to feel about this verdict. On one hand, it is believable that it was just an accident, although I do have to agree with Christine that she shouldn't have shot at any target at that time of day. The part of the whole situation that made me really think that maybe it wasn't an accident was when it was revealed by Mark's father a while back that she started a romantic relationship with one Mark's brothers. It just seemed a little suspicious to me. If it was truly an accident, I am glad that the children have there mother back. It is tragic enough to lose one parent let alone have both taken from you.

  • darls
    October 01, 2010 - 13:45

    Newfoundland justice system at it's best god how could there be no evidence ...seems pretty clear to me....sign the check Danny...let's see....6 or 7 months.....=....6 or 7 million......someone needs to get some comptent people in our justice system....

  • Derek
    October 01, 2010 - 13:44

    Was the shooting deliberate??? Probably not. Was there carelessness on Mary Beth Harshbarger's part???? I definitely think so. Anybody who claims tio be an 'experienced' hunter and 'expert markswoman' should have most certainly exercised a much greater degree of care and discretion before firing her weapon. A conviction on a careless use of a firearm charge should have been the very least this woman should have received.

  • nasty nate
    October 01, 2010 - 13:10

    Now was this just not the exact same waste of time and money I said it was going to be? What's the bill to the tax payers for this?

  • Louis Humphreys
    October 01, 2010 - 12:36

    Well...she knew what she was doing afterall - she's gotten away with murder.

  • Huh??
    October 01, 2010 - 12:32

    'the Crown failed to prove Harshbarger displayed a complete disregard for the safety of others'. That's crazy, she knew there were people in the woods, and her defense is that she saw something, wasn't sure what it was but shot anyway, and that's not disregard for others. The guide is lucky that nature called or he'd be dead instead. There must be some kind of intellectual deficiency required to be a member of our justice system.

  • California Pete
    October 01, 2010 - 12:29

    I told you so in an earlier comment it is like the movie " DIVORCE ITALIAN STYLE " It was neglegens so some extended time in jail woud have been apropiat therefor now I think I will move back to newfy land if I ever want a divorce. And then with no Jury ??

  • WS
    October 01, 2010 - 12:00

    This is insane! You shoot a rifle in the dark at a target you can't identify and it's considered an "accident?" What if I got behind the wheel of a car and drove through an intersection with my eyes closed? Also an accident? This woman is a murderer, plain and simple.

  • AK
    October 01, 2010 - 11:32

    Good for you! Now you can get on with your life and take care of your children! Hope you can find peace now.

  • Amy Harshbarger Sward
    October 01, 2010 - 11:08

    The Crown may have let her walk away from what she has done but know that someday she will answer to God, the judge of all judges, for her actions... and I do not believe he will be so quick to let her go free without paying for her actions.

    • RDC
      October 02, 2010 - 19:05

      I wonder what the ruling would of been if it was Visa Versa? Mark shooting Mary Beth and collecting over a half a million and so on?

  • Christine
    October 01, 2010 - 10:56

    Finally this woman can go home to her children!! I hope the Crown lets this case rest!! The evidence was clear to me that she should not have shot at that time of day and I am sure she regrets that dcision. But at the end of the day there was no evidence to support a conviction.

    • Holyrood Bear Hunter
      October 01, 2010 - 12:39

      My wife and I hunt bear in central Newfoundland. Due to this verdict I will be sure that we are on good terms before going on any more hunting trips. There is no way in hell that experienced, ethical hunters should or would shoot at "black masses" especially knowing that loved ones are walking in the woods somewhere nearby. This sets a very dangerous precedent with the courts that if you want to "off" your spouse or hunting buddy just wait till it's near dark and give it to 'em. No need to identify your target or to wait a few minutes to see if the bear is female with cubs in tow or even what type of animal it is. Basically it's a licence to kill.......anything without facing any consequences. Just kill it and see what it is after it's down. This woman is guilty of a crime whether she intended to kill her husband or not. The only way she should have gotten away with this is if her husband had been wearing a bear costume, then she could say she thought he was a bear. IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET

    • NLgirl
      October 01, 2010 - 14:04

      How can someone mistake their husband for a bear??? She's guilty!!

    • Elrando
      October 01, 2010 - 21:53

      When you're shooting a gun aren't you supposed to "know" what you're shooting at, not just "think" you know. This is rediculous, not even negligence, completely rediculous.

    • Randy
      October 02, 2010 - 06:28

      WOW! Druken, Dalton, Murrin, apparently they were the wrong sex!!! No manslaughter?? Not guilty of murder, but guilty of shooting him>> Great place to go to trial, Nfld., if you're a woman (Shirley Turner lookin down at this one???)