Slain woman's last months called her 'happiest'

January 12, 1995|By Tom Keyser and Ed Heard | Tom Keyser and Ed Heard,Sun Staff Writers Sun staff writer Alan J. Craver contributed to this article.

More than two weeks after being slain at her Ellicott City home, Shirley Scott Harney finally was laid to rest yesterday, eulogized as an unfulfilled woman just beginning to blossom.

A half-hour earlier in a courtroom a few miles away, her husband, Daniel Scott Harney, who is accused of killing her, pleaded with a judge to attend her funeral. His request was denied.

More than 100 people gathered on a chilly, rainy day to say goodbye to Mrs. Harney, 41, shot more than once and then run over by a car the day after Christmas. Mr. Harney, 40, from whom she separated in July, was arrested Saturday in Charlotte, N.C., the same day his case appeared on the TV crime show, "America's Most Wanted."

"She said the last few months were the happiest and most fulfilling of her life," said her eulogist, Dr. Samuel Berkowitz, an Ellicott City psychologist and friend of nearly a year.

Then, looking at her two sons seated in the front row with their grandparents, Dr. Berkowitz said: "Your mother's glow was prematurely and brutally snuffed out."

The crowd at the Ellicott City funeral home contrasted sharply with the lack of relatives to arrange Mrs. Harney's funeral. Mourners included neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances from church and her sons' elementary school, as well as members of her husband's family.

"No family members were available, willing or able to bury her," said Rebecca A. Bryant, Mrs. Harney's lawyer who, after being declared executor of her estate, arranged for her funeral. "I finally figured enough's enough. Somebody had to step forward and make the arrangements."

She said Mrs. Harney, whose parents are dead, has a cousin in Louisiana and a brother in Michigan, neither of whom attended the funeral. She said she didn't know why.

"I don't think there was trouble between them," Ms. Bryant said. "I guess they were just unwilling or unable to deal with this now. . . . Ordinarily the husband is the one who makes arrangements to bury his wife."

Mr. Harney's whereabouts were a mystery for 12 days until his arrest. His sons, Ryan, 8, and Paul, 10, were with him, unharmed.

A financial administrator at Westinghouse Corp., Mr. Harney had picked them up at his estranged wife's house Dec. 26 for a prearranged holiday visit. Police said he returned later, broke in, found his wife in a bedroom with a male friend and shot them.

The man -- William A. Helmbold, 45, of Woodlawn -- was wounded in the arm. Mrs. Harney was found in a pool of blood at the end of her driveway.

Mr. Harney drove the boys to Florida, where they went to Walt Disney World.

Yesterday he was in the Howard County Detention Center in Jessup. He spoke by video camera with a judge in Ellicott City during his bond review hearing.

Howard District Judge Louis Becker declined to grant Mr. Harney bail, denied Tuesday night by a county District Court commissioner.

After Judge Becker's decision, Mr. Harney said: "They can take me under lock and key, but I'd like to attend my wife's funeral."

The judge denied the request: "I would have some concerns for your safety." Mr. Harney then asked for the telephone number of Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

"I'd like to call him and make this request," Mr. Harney said. "I find that's an inhuman result."

Mrs. Harney's death was mourned in the softly lighted confines of the Harry H. Witzke Funeral Home. A portrait of the dark-haired woman and a bouquet of pink and white flowers graced the closed, silver casket at the front of the room.

The Rev. Robert Culp, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, the Harneys' church, said Mrs. Harney's death reflected a society "increasingly affected by rage and violence."

He talked of "the legacy of a loving mother" and her "tender, innocent, disbelieving children."

The boys sat quietly with their paternal grandparents, Lucille and Jack Harney, who live in McLean, Va. The grandparents were granted custody of the children at a hearing Tuesday in North Carolina.

Ryan and Paul, who attended Worthington Elementary School in Ellicott City, played sports and took music lessons, yesterday were in their Sunday best, sharp white shirts and little ties.

Dr. Berkowitz quietly, with great emotion, spoke of Mrs. Harney.

The Harney marriage was unraveling, Dr. Berkowitz said, and Mrs. Harney was "in dire need of understanding."

He said she slowly began casting off lifelong feelings of self-doubt and developing a sense of worth, "a side of herself she had never trusted."

"She began to blossom into a very tender, more self-assured woman, still doing for others, but out of a sense of strength instead of her perceived weakness," Dr. Berkowitz said. "She was a gem in the process of being polished and honed."

He addressed the boys, saying he was sorry their mother had been so brutally taken from them. But they should know, he said, that their mother left them a precious gift.

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