Science

Defense Principle: The shooter used his toe to pull the trigger

On July 14, 2017, Fairfax County, Virginia, patrol officers busted through the front door of a million-dollar home. They quickly discovered the bodies of 63-year-old Pam Hargan and her 24-year-old daughter, Helen, who had rifles at the scene. Almost as fast, police told reporters it was a murder-suicide and told Helen’s father that her wound appeared to be “self-inflicted.”

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Pam and Helen Hargana

LinkedIn/Carlos Gutierrez


But when Lead Homicide Detective Brian Byerson looked at the evidence, he wasn’t so sure.

So, they made a decision: “Wait. Wait and work,” Byerson told “48 Hours” correspondent Peter van Sant in “Death Hits Home: The Hargan Killings” on Saturday, October 1 on CBS and streaming 10/9. aired on c. On Paramount+. “You’ll make mistakes in these matters if you make assumptions before they actually work.”

Although investigators found no suicide note, Helen’s eldest sister, 34-year-old Megan, told them that Helen was “sad” and that she was “so angry, like, just so angry all the time.”

Megan was staying at home with Pam and Helen. She told investigators that her mother and sister were fighting, but that Pam was alive when Megan left the house that afternoon.

According to Megan, Pam announced the same morning that she was canceling the contract for the house she was buying for Helen. Why? Because Pam didn’t approve of Helen’s boyfriend who was planning to move in.

Soon after, Pam was dead.

Could this be the motive for Helen to kill her mother and then take her own life?

As investigators search the house for clues, the medical examiner—whom Dr. Named Posthumus – gave the findings of Helen’s autopsy: she was shot over the top of her head. The rifle bullet had gone down into his neck.

Byrson says that it is impossible for Helen to shoot herself with that gun in that way.

“He has to hold it straight and be able to reach the trigger to accomplish this,” he says. “She will [have] Had to do magic. it’s not possible.”

It was no murder-suicide as far as Byerson was concerned. It was a double murder.

But who was the murderer?

“Our job is to try to put that puzzle together and figure out what happened,” Byerson says.

As he and his squad continue to investigate the murders, Byerson says that the evidence does, in fact, point to one of Pam Hargan’s daughters. But she was not Helen.

“It becomes very clear to us,” he says. “This is Megan Hargan.”

Megan Hargana
Megan Hargana

Byrson soon learns that Megan had a six-figure motive for killing her mother. Pam Haragan was a wealthy woman with a net worth of $8 million, and Megan Hargan wanted a house of her own.

Five days after Pam and Helen died, Byrne brought Megan in for an interview. This will last for more than four hours. He says that he confessed to trying to steal his mother’s money, but was adamant that he did not kill his family.

Despite Byerson’s long suspicions – and despite the growing pile of evidence against Megan Hargan – police did not arrest her that day.

It will take about a year and a half – until November 9, 2018.

“Why in the world did it take 16 months to file murder charges?” Peter asks Van Sant.

“So, murder investigations can be extremely complex,” Det says. Byerson. “You not only have to be sure, you have to be right. And that decision … is not up to me alone. … I have to be on the same page as the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. So, in consultation with them, we decided to wait. to do.”

The surviving Hargan family will have to wait another three and a half years to stand trial for Megan Hargan.

Commonwealth of Virginia prosecutors Tyler Bezzilla and Whitney Gregory opened the jury by revealing that the day and morning before her mother was murdered, Megan tried to steal more than $400,000 for a new home from Pam’s bank account. Pretending to be Pam, Megan calls her mother’s bank and tries to transfer the money.

Prosecutors say Megan became so desperate for cash that she killed her mother. Then, the theory goes, Megan killed her sister to keep quiet, staging the scene as a murder-suicide,

“This is a man who murdered the two closest members of his family for money,” Bazilla says.

But the defense insists Helen – not Megan – was the killer. Megan’s lawyer describes Helen as mentally unstable and depressed. They tell the jury that Helen was furious at her mother for saying that if Helen does not break up with the man she hopes to marry one day, she will not find a new home.

Prosecutors argue that there is no evidence that Helen was depressed.

But the defense argues that the police got it right the first time. It was a murder-suicide.

Forensic expert Iris Daly Graff reconstructs the scene of Helen Hargan’s death. She testified on behalf of the prosecution and told Peter Van Sant that Helen’s hand was not long enough to pull the trigger.

There is a surprising principle in the defense, which does not depend on Helen’s arm’s length.

He told the jury that Helen Hargan had shot herself in the head with a rifle by pulling the trigger with her. toe,

Unique? Impossible? Perhaps.

But as Graf acknowledges to Van Sant, although it is very unlikely, it is possible. “His legs are so long that his toe can reach the trigger,” she says.

In his closing argument, prosecutor Bazilla challenged the defense’s claim that Pam Hargan was going to void the contract at Helen’s new home. But the defense says that there is a mountain of reasonable doubt in this case. They argue that the prosecution’s forensics are inconclusive and the “toe on the trigger” theory cannot be ruled out.

Will the jury believe it?

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