Dateline: Secrets Uncovered on Oxygen is looking at the shooting of Mark Harshbarger, who was shot dead on a hunting trip in Newfoundland, Canada, by his wife, Mary Beth Harshbarger.
Harshbarger was charged with causing her husband’s death through criminal negligence, but she was acquitted by a judge who ruled Mark’s death a tragic accident.
In September 2006, Mary Beth and Mark Harshbarger, a couple from Meshoppen, Pennsylvania, went on a hunting trip to Newfoundland with their two small children and Mark’s brother, Barry Harshbarger.
On the evening of September 14, as the sun was setting, Mary Beth stood on the back of a Chevy pickup truck with the rifle her husband had given her as a gift.
She later claimed to have seen “a big black thing” she thought was a bear through her telescopic sight. She aimed and fired a single shot at the creature, which was walking through some long grass in rough terrain about 200 feet away.
Unfortunately, the “bear” was actually 42-year-old Mark. The bullet pierced his abdomen, and he died a short time later.
A hunting guide had accompanied Mark, and the pair had been trying to flush out a bear; however, the other man had stopped to urinate, and Mark had wandered on into his wife’s line of sight.Watch the Latest on our YouTube Channel
Mary Beth Harshbarger appeared distraught at killing Mark Harshbarger
Witnesses described Mary Beth as being trance-like when she returned to the hunting lodge that night. She said, “I shot my beloved, I shot my husband, my whole world.”
Mary Beth claimed she’d made a horrible mistake. However, members of Mark’s family, including his father, Leonard Harshbarger, argued that Mary Beth was an experienced hunter and she had intended to kill her husband.
Some in Mark’s family also accused Mary Beth of having an affair with her brother-in-law, Barry.
The Crown Prosecution in Newfoundland decided to charge Mary Beth with criminal negligence. It took four years before she was extradited from Pennsylvania back to Canada.
The trial was conducted without a jury, leaving one judge, Justice Richard LeBlanc, to decide on the case.
The defense team argued that Mark’s dark clothing, combined with the heavy undergrowth and the setting sun, meant that Mark could have been mistaken for a bear.
The prosecution argued that Mary Beth, an experienced hunter, had a duty to correctly identify her target before squeezing the trigger.
Mary Beth Harshbarger found not guilty of killing Mark Harshbarger from criminal negligence
Eventually, Justice LeBlanc sided with the defense team, and Mary Beth was free to go. LeBlanc called it “a constellation of unfortunate facts.”
Mark’s father said, “I don’t think the whole thing was fair. You shouldn’t be able to shoot and kill somebody and just walk away and say, ‘I thought it was an animal.’ There should be consequences.”
Mary Beth Harshbarger left the courtroom parking lot in Grand Falls-Windsor, NL, with a whoop of delight and a blast of music as she was driven away by her lawyer.
Dateline: Secrets Uncovered airs Tuesday at 8/7c on Oxygen.