BY JAMES LOEWENSTEIN
TOWANDA – A judge on Friday (Dec. 2) dismissed a temporary protection-from-abuse order that a Troy man had obtained against Mary Beth Harshbarger of Meshoppen, who killed his brother in 2006 in a hunting accident.
At the end of a PFA hearing on Friday, Bradford County Court Judge Maureen Beirne ruled that there was not enough evidence to keep the PFA order against Harshbarger in place.
“There is no evidence of physical menacing of the type that we usually see in these types of hearings,” Beirne said in Bradford County Court as she dismissed the temporary PFA.
As a result of Beirne’s ruling, Harshbarger, 45, is no longer under any restrictions, said Chad Salsman, Harshbarger’s attorney.
Barry Harshbarger had filed two petitions for PFAs against Mary Beth Harshbarger, one on Nov. 1, which resulted in the temporary PFA being issued, and another on Oct. 18, which Judge Beirne had denied at that time.
The Nov. 1 petition contains a number of allegations against Mary Beth Harshbarger that were not mentioned in the Oct. 18 petition.
Both petitions “are a little misleading,” Judge Beirne said as she explained her ruling on Friday.
For example, Barry Harshbarger made a misleading allegation in his Nov. 1 petition, when he wrote: “(Mary Beth Harshbarger) threatened me with a rifle pointed at me with (the safety) off, loaded, and said it would be harder to explain the second time she shot a family member.” according to the judge.
During the hearing, Barry Harshbarger testified that he never actually saw Mary Beth Harshbarger point the gun at him during the incident, which he said occurred while they were hunting together in 2009.
Mary Beth Harshbarger testified that the reason that she was pointing the gun at Barry Harshbarger at the time is that she thought he was a deer.
She testified: “When I saw (it was Barry Harshbarger), I put the gun down.”
“Both parties agree that it (the gun incident) occurred when Barry Harshbarger came out of the woods,” the judge said. “She (Mary Beth Harshbarger) said, ‘Oh my God, I almost shot you. That would have been harder to explain the second time around’.”
Mary Beth Harshbarger was acquitted last fall of criminal negligence after killing her husband, Mark, on Sept. 14, 2006, while on a hunting trip in Newfoundland, Canada. She said she mistook him for a bear.
Another misleading allegation was made by Barry Harshbarger in his Oct. 18 petition, when he wrote that, earlier that day, Mary Beth Harshbarger was “showing up at our residence, driving back and forth, stopping, yelling, screaming radical behavior threatening our family” and “scaring our household,” the judge said.
The judge said that, based on testimony at the hearing, Mary Beth Harshbarger was not driving back and forth repeatedly in front of Barry Harshbarger’s residence.
In his closing argument, attorney Salsman stated that, contrary to what Barry Harshbarger had included in his Oct. 18 petition, the testimony at Friday’s hearing showed that “no threats were made” by Mary Beth Harshbarger during the Oct. 18 incident. Salsman said that the reason Mary Beth Harshbarger had shown up at Barry Harshbarger’s residence on Oct. 18 was to take photos of property she owned that she and her attorney had been trying to get back from Barry Harshbarger for over a year, including a pickup truck. Salsman said the photos would presumably have been used by Mary Beth Harshbarger in a civil lawsuit against Barry Harshbarger.
While Barry Harshbarger testified during the hearing that he and Mary Beth Harshbarger had entered into a sexual relationship after his brother was killed, Mary Beth Harshbarger denied that such a relationship had occurred.
During the hearing, Barry Harshbarger characterized the death of his brother, Mark, as “an accident.”
In her closing comments at the hearing, Judge Beirne stated: “There is some type of dispute (between Barry and Mary Beth Harshbarger). Possibly they should stay away from each other. But I can’t grant the petition” for a PFA order.
Besides dismissing the temporary PFA that had been in effect against Mary Beth Harshbarger, Judge Beirne on Friday again refused to grant the Oct. 18 petition for a PFA order against Mary Beth Harshbarger.