Jury views video of confession

Woman gave Howard police details about friendship, said she left body in parking lot

February 07, 2006|By LAURA CADIZ | LAURA CADIZ,SUN REPORTER

Melissa Burch Harton and Natasha Bacchus Magee were such close friends after they met at Loyola College that sometimes Harton's husband would jokingly say, "Go call your wife," referring to Magee.

However, at some point the relationship began to deteriorate, as Harton described Magee as being "territorial" and said Magee was jealous of her friendships with other women.

Then, in the early hours of March 9, the women got into a drunken argument that resulted in them choking each other - and Harton leaving Magee's body in a parking lot in Ellicott City, Harton told Howard County police in a videotaped interview.

The Howard County jury that will decide Harton's fate watched the interview yesterday during the beginning of the second week of Harton's trial. Harton, 26, of the 5600 block of Columbia Road in Columbia is charged with first-degree murder.

In the six-hour interview, Harton told police that the argument occurred after she and Magee went out for dinner and drinks the evening of March 8. They were both doctoral students in clinical psychology at Loyola .

They were parked in Harton's car in the early morning of March 9 when Magee, 31, of Stewartstown, Pa., wanted to know what Harton's parents thought of her - a topic that often arose when Magee was drunk, Harton said.

Harton said she told her friend that her parents didn't like her, explaining to police that her parents felt Magee was manipulative.

"She always wanted to know what my parents thought about her," Harton told police during the interview.

Harton said she also reminded Magee during their argument that Magee had told her a few months earlier that she had "sexual feelings" for her.

"She totally denied it and acted like I made it up," Harton said. "That made me really mad."

After the argument escalated, Harton said, she began driving and pulled her car over on Centennial Lane at the entrance to Centennial Park in Ellicott City, where she and Magee got out of the car and started to fight.

"We were yelling and hitting each other," she said. "She choked me, and I choked her back."

Harton said Magee then got back into the car and began talking "gibberish." Harton said she drove to a parking lot and leaned over to open the passenger door, and that Magee "just fell out."

"I tried to see if she was breathing, but I was just so upset," she said.

Two passers-by found Magee's body about 7 a.m. in the parking lot of the Dorsey Hall pool in Ellicott City.

Prosecutors have said that Harton lied to police before confessing - including saying that Magee was abducted by a group of men outside a restaurant and that Harton dropped off Magee to meet a man named Sam and had not seen her since - in an attempt to depict her as a lying murderer.

However, the defense - which is expected to begin presenting its case today - has maintained that while Harton did initially lie to police, that doesn't mean she's a murderer.

laura.cadiz@baltsun.com

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