Hunter leaning when shot by wife, N.L. trial told

A U.S. hunter who was shot to death by his wife Mary Beth Harshbarger in central Newfoundland may have been hunched over when a single bullet took his life, a trial has been told.

Widow, father both overcome as video of dead hunter shown

Mary Beth Harshbarger, 45, is on trial for criminal negligence causing death in the fatal shooting of her husband in 2006. ((CBC))

A U.S. hunter who was shot to death by his wife in central Newfoundland may have been hunched over when a single bullet took his life, a trial has been told.

Mary Beth Harshbarger, 45, is being tried in Grand Falls-Windsor for criminal negligence causing death in the September 2006 shooting of her husband, Mark Harshbarger, 42.

Dr. Nash Denic, the St. John's pathologist who did the autopsy on Mark Harshbarger, told a Supreme Court trial Monday that Harshbarger died of one gunshot wound to the abdomen.

Denic told the trial that it appears that Harshbarger was leaning over when he was struck by a bullet. The issue of his posture is significant to the trial, as Mary Beth Harshbarger has steadily maintained she thought her husband was a black bear.

"If he was leaning over, trying to pick his way through rough ground, he would have looked even smaller and hunched over than he would have normally looked," said CBC News reporter David Zelcer, who is covering the trial.

Justice Richard LeBlanc has already been told the shot was fired under darkening skies. Several witnesses have said it was too dark for any hunter to have shot with confidence.

Emotional response

Meanwhile, a video depicting Mark Harshbarger's body was shown Monday to the courtroom, prompting an emotional response among the Harshbarger family.

Many people in the courtroom wept as the video showed Mark Harshbarger's body on the ground, a bullet hole evident on the bib of his blue denim overalls. Mary Beth Harshbarger held her head in her hands, her face turning red and choking back tears.

Leonard Harshbarger, her estranged father-in-law, averted his eyes from the screen, while Mark's sister, Sharon, sat quietly and sobbed.

Cpl. Doug Eady testified as the video, which was made a day after Mark Harshbarger was killed, was entered into evidence.

Eady was also involved in a re-enactment that police had organized a year after the shooting, the second such re-enactment that RCMP organized to determine if there was enough evidence to charge the Pennsylvania woman. The first re-enactment was held days later, under similar light conditions.

Darkness cited in testimony

Mark Harshbarger was shot while walking through tall grasses by a wooded area, while he and a guide were looking for moose or bear. Mary Beth Harshbarger remained by a truck with the couple's two small children, and was expected to keep watch for any animals that may have bolted from the woods.

On Friday, LeBlanc — who is hearing the case without a jury — heard evidence about Mary Beth Harshbarger's state of mind immediately after the fatal shooting.

Stephen Mulrooney, who worked as a cook at the lodge that had booked the Harshbarger family, described Mary Beth Harshbarger as being in what he called a trance the night of the shooting.

"I shot my beloved, I shot my husband, my whole world," Mulrooney quoted Harshbarger as saying when she arrived at the lodge less than a half hour after the shooting.

Mulrooney said that while they waited for more RCMP officers to arrive, Harshbarger repeated the account to him and elaborated. He said she told him that she had seen a bear at the edge of the woods and that she looked through the scope twice and she was sure it was a bear and she fired.

He testified that she told him she didn't see the blue of Mark Harshbarger's pants, but that she had seen the black of a bear.

Mulrooney said Mary Beth Harshbarger was fairly calm that night, although he said she looked agitated and visibly upset.