Slaying suspect awaiting extradition hearing in North Carolina

January 10, 1995|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writers Ed Heard and Alan Craver contributed to this article.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Maryland authorities received permission yesterday to take blood and urine samples from murder suspect Daniel Scott Harney, who was said to have been taking Prozac, an antidepressant that some say can trigger acts of violence.

The request was granted in hearing where a haggard Mr. Harney was turned over to North Carolina authorities by the FBI, the first step toward his return to Maryland to be tried on a charge of first-degree murder.

The 40-year-old financial administrator from Owings Mills is suspected of shooting his estranged wife, Shirley Scott Harney, 41, at her Ellicott City home the day after Christmas and fleeing with their two sons, 8-year-old Ryan and 10-year-old Paul.

Mr. Harney was arrested at a Charlotte hotel Saturday night, the same day his case was featured on the nationally televised crime show, "America's Most Wanted."

The two boys were with him and unharmed. They did not know about the death of their mother, Cpl. Frank Dayhoff of the Howard County (Md.) Police Department said yesterday morning in Charlotte. He said the boys would be told by their grandmother or by counselors.

Mr. Harney is to appear in court again in Charlotte, possibly today, for a hearing on extradition to Maryland. If he does not contest the move, he could be on a plane to Baltimore within hours of the hearing.

A separate hearing will be held, also possibly today, concerning the future of the boys. They're at a state foster home.

Mr. Harney's mother, Lucille, is in Charlotte and wants to take them back to her home in McLean, Va., but would not speak with reporters. The boys' maternal grandparents are dead.

"We're delighted they [the boys] weren't hurt," Jack Harney, Mr. Harney's father, said by phone from Virginia. "But we didn't think they would be."

Mr. Harney said his son has been in counseling and taking the anti-depressant Prozac for several months.

In Ellicott City, Howard State's Attorney Marna McLendon said she doesn't know if the blood and urine tests will affect Mr. Harney's case, but such tests have to be conducted now -- before any drugs leave his system.

Prozac, available since 1987 to treat depression, has been under scrutiny to determine if it can lead to suicides and acts of violence.

Though no firm link has been found between the drug and violence, there have been several hundred reported incidents. Use of Prozac has been a legal defense in certain high-profile cases.

In Charlotte, as Mr. Harney was led into a small, brightly lighted courtroom, his mother reached out for his handcuffed hand, and they gently touched .

He wore an orange jumpsuit and Reebok sneakers. His legs were shackled. He was unshaven, and his face appeared slightly puffy. When the judge asked if he had anything to say, he replied: "No, I don't."

A University of Baltimore law student set to graduate this spring, Mr. Harney has said little to investigators. "He knows his rights," Corporal Dayhoff said. "He's saying nothing."

That's hampered police attempts to determine where Mr. Harney and the boys spent the 12 days after Dec. 26. Investigators tracked Mr. Harney by his use of credit cards and withdrawals he made from automated teller machines, Sgt. Steve Keller, of the Howard police, said in Ellicott City.

Investigators traced their path through southern South Carolina and central Florida, where they appeared as early as Dec. 28.

But Corporal Dayhoff said, "We had absolutely no idea he was here in Charlotte."

A woman at an employment agency in Charlotte, where Mr. Harney had asked about a job, called local police after seeing his picture Saturday afternoon during a brief TV spot promoting the "America's Most Wanted" show. Mr. Harney had told the woman his correct name.

More than 200 viewers called "America's Most Wanted" switchboard operators to report seeing Mr. Harney and his sons, at least twice the number of calls for any of the other four fugitives profiled on the Saturday show, a spokeswoman for the show, Ivey Van Allen, said.

A woman from Indiana called to say she had seen Mr. Harney and his sons at Disney World. "We had one guy who called from Alaska and swore he saw Harney at a Gas and Go," Corporal Dayhoff said. "So all the calls weren't legitimate."

Police traced him to the Intown Suites Apartment Hotel in Charlotte from the phone number he left at the employment agency. He was still driving his Toyota Camry, in which police found a .38-caliber handgun.

Teena Price, manager of the apartment hotel in a scruffy section of south Charlotte, said he checked in Jan. 1 and paid $140 for a room for one week.

"He asked for a room toward the back," Ms. Price said. "He said he needed to be alone and read the Bible and be with the Lord. The boys seemed fine."

She said Mr. Harney had spoken to her about staying another week. But police said when he was arrested, his car was full of household items -- suggesting that he may have been planning on moving into an apartment.

Next door is a Wendy's, where Mr. Harney bought lunch every day, said Shelly Gill, a worker there. "He seemed as normal as you and me," she said.

Police say they believe Mr. Harney picked up the boys from his wife's house in Ellicott City the afternoon of Dec. 26 for a pre-arranged holiday visit.

They say he may have taken them to his home in Owings Mills before returning to Ellicott City, where he is accused of breaking into Mrs. Harney's house and shooting her and her friend, William Arthur Helmbold, 45, of the 2100 block of Gaybrook Road in Woodlawn.

Mr. Helmbold was hospitalized for two days with a wound in his right elbow, and he said he feared that his attacker would return. "I sighed relief," Mr. Helmbold said yesterday of the arrest.

"There's no justice here," he said. "His capture can't bring Shirley back."

"I don't have warm feelings for him," he said. "It's changed my whole life. I now breathe a little easier, but I'm always thinking about what happened."

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