Mary Beth Harshbarger claims it was an accident, however, some believe it was on purpose.
Mary Beth and Mark Harshbarger were married in 2001 and had a 4-year-old daughter and baby son. The family lived in Meshoppen, Pennsylvania.
On September 14, 2006, Mark, Mary, their children, and Mark’s brother Barry, were in Buchans Junction, Newfoundland and Labrador, in Canada, on a hunting trip.
While Mark and a local hunting guide, Lambert Greene, were walking through the woods hoping to flush out a bear, Mary sat in the back of a Chevy pickup truck on the nearby logging road. The children were in the truck and Barry was at a hunting blind elsewhere in the woods.
As Mark and Lambert walked back to the truck, Lambert stopped to urinate and Mark continued on walking through the tall grasses. Mary saw a dark shape emerging from the woods and thought it was a bear. She looked through the scope twice to make sure it was a black bear and fired her rifle.
Mary was wrong. It was not a bear, it was her husband.
Mark’s official cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the abdomen. It is likely that he was leaning forward when he was shot.
He had not been wearing an orange hunting hat or vest. Mary insists she saw a black bear through the rifle’s scope and not her husband’s blue denim overalls.
Canadian official filled charges in 2008 after conducting an investigation. Though she fought against it, Mary was ordered to surrender to the U.S. Marshal Service in May of 2010. She was extradited to Canada where she had to stand trial for criminal negligence.
According to the authorities who conducted re-enactments of the incident, it is possible that Mary mistook her husband for a bear. The prosecution, however, argued that Mary knew her husband was in those woods and could have emerged at any moment wearing dark clothing. Moreover, several witnesses stated it was too dark for any hunter to have confidently shot anything.
In the end, Mary was found not guilty of criminal negligence.
Mark’s family, on the other hand, does not believe Mark was killed on accident. They have pointed out that Mary is an experienced hunter and markswoman who would have been able to tell the difference between a bear and a person.
Shortly before the incident, the couple had increased their life insurance policy. Sure enough, Mary collected over $500,000 from her husband’s life insurances.
Barry Harshbarger, Mark’s brother who had also been on the fateful hunting trip, ended up having a romantic relationship with Mary. He moved in with her but started dating another woman while Mary was in Canada for her trial.
When she returned from Canada, he was still living at their house. Barry obtained a temporary protection from abuse order (PFA) against Mary, citing her volatile behavior. He claimed she had pointed a loaded rifle at him at one point.
The protective order was eventually dismissed by a judge who called Barry’s claims exaggerated.