The ongoing sad saga of Mary Beth Harshbarger


I was channel surfing Friday night and stumbled upon an encore presentation of The Fifth Estate’s “’Til death do us part,” examining the 2006 shooting death in Newfoundland of Pennsylvania hunter Mark Harshbarger. As readers of this blog, as well as Outdoor Canada, may recall, our magazine first broke this story in our Winter 2010 issue, precipitating both The Fifth Estate episode and a similar investigative piece on NBC’s Dateline. Written by Charles Wilkins, “Another fine day afield” would go on to win the Gold prize in Sports and Recreation journalism at this past summer’s National Magazine Awards.

To quickly recap, Mark Harshbarger was shot by his wife, Mary Beth, who contends she thought he was a black bear. She was charged, extradited and eventually tried in Newfoundland for criminal negligence causing death with the use of a firearm. She was found not guilty by judge alone in September 2010, and promptly returned home to Meshoppen, Pennsylvania.


Of course, we continue to follow this case, and are in fairly regular contact with some of the principals. It wasn’t surprising, then, to learn this morning that Mary Beth is once again making news. Seems Mark’s brother, Barry, who had taken up with Mary Beth following the fatal shooting, is now seeking a restraining order from the woman. Folks, you just can’t make this stuff up.

The sad thing is, the Harshbarger family will never receive the closure they so desire—as long as doubts persist about really happened that fall evening in Buchans Junction, Newfoundland. And as you’ll see from reading the Outdoor Canada article or viewing the Fifth Estate and Dateline episodes, there are plenty of doubts. Still.