BY ROBERT L. BAKER
Wyoming County Press Examiner
Although Meshoppen’s Mary Beth Harshbarger was acquitted last fall for criminal negligence after killing her husband when she mistook him for a bear, reporter Keith Morrison said it was “still a great story.”
It’s the oddest darn thing,” Morrison said Thursday afternoon about the story that was told again to a national audience on NBC Dateline Friday night.
“Did she intentionally murder him or was she really distraught when she found ‘her love’ dead as the result of a gun fired from her own hands?”
Morrison said the report doesn’t take sides but lays out the context for what fascinated Canadians last fall while a judge heard her case Sept. 13-24 in a small Newfoundland courtroom and issued a verdict Oct. 1.
The Dateline segment opened with “A couple’s passion for hunting led to one tragic outing that would change their lives.”
The segment then tells about them hunting on their honeymoon and lays out the relationship of the pair as well as “some of her past issues” leading to the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 14, 2006, fatal shooting at Buchan’s Landing, Newfoundland, of Mary Beth’s husband, Mark.
Her father-in-law, Lee Harshbarger, 77, of Sweet Valley, says on camera about her: “She was a very good shot. She could shoot.”
On Thursday, Lee said that Dateline crews were in Newfoundland during the trial, and they went back afterwards to talk to people who were closest to the evidence.
He said they also were in Northeast Pennsylvania on three different occasions since the trial and spoke not only to him and his companion, Carol Bawier, but also to Mark’s two brothers and two sisters.
Morrison said he talked with Mary Beth in person, and a crew actually went to her farm in Meshoppen Township, “but she backed out of doing a face-to-face interview with us when she realized she could not control the questions we would ask on camera.”
On Thursday, he said it was sad she wouldn’t talk “because we’ll probably never know what was in her heart.”
Lee Harshbarger said he was grateful Dateline was doing the story so people can see more of the details than they might be able to make out in superficial trial coverage.
“They can make their own opnions about what happened,” Harshbarger said. “The more information out there about this case the better.”
He added that the biggest benefit when people see this program is that he is hopeful it will make people a little more careful when they’re in these kinds of circumstances.
“If it saves somebody else’s life in the future, it will all be worth it,” he said.
While he knows he could never forget his son, Lee said he is hopeful that he will be able to see him through his two grandkids with whom he is trying to get once-a-month visitation rights.
“We love them very much,” he said, “and we want them to know that.”