Detective relates story of capture of Daniel Harney


Detectives were setting up surveillance operations at a North Carolina hotel -- hoping to snare slaying suspect Daniel Scott Harney -- when he pulled into the parking lot in the car that police say struck and dragged his estranged wife outside her Ellicott City home.

The investigators encircled Mr. Harney, whisked his two young sons away and placed him under arrest for the Dec. 26 slaying of Shirley Scott Harney, a detective testified at a Howard Circuit Court hearing yesterday.

As he lay on the ground in handcuffs outside the Charlotte hotel, Mr. Harney directed police to a handgun under the driver's seat of his silver Toyota Camry, the officer said.

The gun -- believed to have been used in the slaying of his wife -- had hair and blood on it, said Detective Donald Rock. Lying next to it was Mrs. Harney's wallet.

"This all happened in a matter of seconds," said Detective Rock, a member of a North Carolina task force that investigates violent fugitives.

He was testifying at a pretrial hearing to determine what evidence prosecutors can present to the jury at Mr. Harney's trial.

At the hearing, Judge Raymond Kane Jr. denied a request by Mr. Harney's attorneys to prohibit prosecutors from using as evidence the handgun and Mr. Harney's statement that led to the discovery of the .38-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol.

The defense contended that the police improperly elicited the statement and thus obtained the gun illegally.

Mr. Harney's sons -- Ryan, 8 and Paul, 10 -- attended most of yesterday's proceedings with their father's parents, who have custody of the boys. The boys hugged and chatted with their father during recesses at the hearing, which resumes today.

Mr. Harney, 40, is charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of his 41-year-old wife. He also is charged with attempted murder in the wounding of William Helmbold, 45, of Woodlawn, who was shot in the right arm.

Prosecutors filed a notice in circuit court last week that they intend to seek a sentence of life imprisonment without parole for Mr. Harney if he is convicted. His trial is to begin July 31.

Police have said Mr. Harney picked up his sons at his wife's home Dec. 26 for a prearranged holiday visit. While the boys slept at his Owings Mills apartment, according to a police report, Mr. Harney entered Mrs. Harney's house through a basement window shortly before 9:30 p.m.

The police report says Mr. Harney confronted his wife and Mr. Helmbold in a bedroom, striking and shooting them.

Mr. Harney then went to the living room, with Mrs. Harney and Mr. Helmbold following him. Mr. Harney grabbed Mrs. Harney and forced her to go outside, the document says.

Testimony at yesterday's hearing provided new details of the shooting at the house, in the 5000 block of Brampton Parkway, and the intense two-week hunt for Mr. Harney, a law student and financial administrator at Westinghouse Corp.

Cpl. Frank Dayhoff, the lead detective in the case for the Howard County Police Department, testified that an autopsy on Mrs. Harney's body determined that she died from multiple gunshot wounds and blunt-force trauma, most likely caused by being struck and dragged by a car.

Corporal Dayhoff testified that he arrived at the house after other officers and about an hour after Mr. Helmbold dialed 911 to report the shooting.

The detective found blood at the end of the driveway and blood smears in the master bedroom and foyer and on the front door.

Corporal Dayhoff said Mr. Helmbold identified Mr. Harney as the assailant and police started to look for him.

Investigators searched Mr. Harney's apartment, finding a receipt for a Smith & Wesson handgun dated Dec. 14, a box of ammunition with five bullets missing, and papers for reservations at a hotel in Orlando, Fla., for Dec. 28, Corporal Dayhoff said.

Police then notified law-enforcement agencies throughout the country to be on the lookout for Mr. Harney and his sons, Corporal Dayhoff said.

Detectives also notified security officials at Walt Disney World and at several airlines serving Orlando, he said. They tracked the use of Mr. Harney's credit and banking cards along Interstate 95.

"We pursued these avenues with little success," Corporal Dayhoff said. "We knew he was there, but the FBI and local police were unsuccessful in locating him."

The police department then turned to producers of the television crime show "America's Most Wanted," asking that it to broadcast a segment on the case, the detective said. That segment was to air the night of Jan. 7.

That evening, Corporal Dayhoff testified, he was visiting Mr. Harney's parents in McLean, Va., when he learned by telephone that a woman in North Carolina had recognized Mr. Harney in an advertisement for the TV show. She told authorities that she had interviewed Mr. Harney for a job and gave police his address at a Charlotte hotel, he said.

Detective Rock, the North Carolina investigator, testified that detectives were setting up surveillance in the hotel room next to Mr. Harney's when an officer saw a 1987 silver Camry pull into the parking lot.

He confirmed that the sedan's license plate matched Mr. Harney's car. The detective and three others rushed to Mr. Harney and his sons as the three headed to their hotel room, he said. Two detectives stopped the boys, getting them out of the way, while Detective Rock and another officer apprehended Mr. Harney.

During the arrest, Mr. Harney told the officers that he would not resist them, Detective Rock said.

When asked whether he had a gun, Mr. Harney said it was in his car, the officer said, and he then gave Detective Rock the car key and asked officers to call his parents to get his sons.

Mr. Harney refused to answer questions from detectives about the shooting.

But Detective Rock testified that he talked about his sons several times, including just before he was handed over to Howard County police. "He told us he'd like to thank us for taking care of his children . . . and for the professional manner in which we handled the situation."

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