Mary Beth Harshbarger found not guilty

Published on October 1, 2010
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.