Tipster nearly missed seeing suspect on TV

January 09, 1995|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Sun Staff Writer

The woman who led police to Daniel Scott Harney doesn't watch "America's Most Wanted." And she wasn't interested in Saturday's televised pro football playoff game, which featured an ad for the show's segment on a Ellicott City man accused of killing his estranged wife.

In fact, Charlotte, N.C., resident Elizabeth Biggs only saw pictures of Mr. Harney and his sons because she was about to turn off the game when the ad appeared.

Within hours, police and FBI agents had arrested Mr. Harney at a Charlotte motel, thanks to her tip. Today he will be arraigned before a federal magistrate in that city on a charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Howard County investigators traveled to Charlotte yesterday to interview Mr. Harney and to begin extradition proceedings. Mr. Harney, 40, has been charged in the Dec. 26 slaying of his wife, Shirley, 41, and the shooting of a male visitor at their house in the Brampton Hills neighborhood.

Mr. Harney's parents reportedly also were on their way to Charlotte to take custody of his 8- and 10-year-old sons, who were traveling with him. Shirley Harney's parents are deceased, police said.

Ms. Biggs, an executive recruiter for Olsten Pro Accounting Services, said yesterday that she was surprised to see televised pictures of a man who recently contacted her about landing a job.

"His picture was right there," she said. "I just went, 'Well, wait a minute. Let me think about this.' "

After she saw the ad, it didn't take Ms. Biggs long to realize why the name Harney and references to Baltimore and two young boys triggered her memory.

A man identifying himself as Dan Harney had called her Tuesday morning to ask for an appointment, leaving his phone number.

When she called back, she realized he was staying at a local motel, the Inntown Suites. Later that day, when he arrived for his job interview, he brought his sons with him, which she thought was unusual. Mr. Harney, who said he was from Baltimore, also came looking for work as a financial professional, but without a resume.

While Ms. Biggs interviewed Mr. Harney, the boys waited in an outer lobby. A secretary invited them to a conference room to watch television, she said, and the younger boy gladly accepted. The older boy declined, and sat quietly in the lobby.

"The older one was very withdrawn," Ms. Biggs said. "He wouldn't leave the lobby to watch TV."

Ms. Biggs said she told Mr. Harney she could not help him find a job without a resume, and he promised to get one to her in a couple of days. He never did.

She said she was surprised to see the man she'd met on television and to learn he was wanted for murder. She immediately called Charlotte's Fox network affiliate to ask for a phone number for the program, and was told to call police.

Capt. Dickson Skipper, of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Police Department, took the call. He relayed Ms. Biggs' tip to the homicide unit, which checked with Howard County authorities about Mr. Harney.

Officers tracked Mr. Harney to Inntown Suites through the phone number he had given Ms. Biggs, and learned he was staying in Room 4115, said Captain Skipper. FBI agents and local officers stationed themselves next door in Room 4113, and waited.

At 9:25 p.m., Mr. Harney and his sons drove up in his Toyota. He was arrested without incident as he walked toward his motel room, police said. The car contained a number of new household goods, leading police to believe he was ready to move from the motel into an apartment.

Searching the car, police found a .38-caliber revolver, the same kind of weapon used in the slaying of Shirley Harney and the shooting of her unidentified male companion, who survived the attack.

As for Ms. Biggs and "America's Most Wanted," she said, "I've never watched it. It's not that I'm against it. I just never watched it."

The national crime-fighting show did not even air in Charlotte Saturday night because of the University of Maryland-University of North Carolina basketball game.

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