Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, breaking news, sweepstakes, and more!
Judge Vacates Conviction Of Virginia Woman Found Guilty Of Murdering Mother, Sister
Megan Hargan was convicted of murdering her mother and sister and attempting to stage the crime scene to look like a murder-suicide. On Wednesday, a judge overturned her conviction after finding a juror acted inappropriately when trying to test whether such a suicide was even possible.
A woman accused of fatally shooting her mother and sister and staging it to look like a murder-suicide has had her conviction overturned.
Megan Hargan, 39, will get a new trial in the deaths of her mother, Pamela Hargan, 63, and sister, Helen Hargan, 23, who were found with fatal gunshot wounds at the family's upscale McLean, Virginia home in 2017, according to CBS Washington DC affiliate WUSA-TV. Megan Hargan claimed her sister shot her mother and then herself; prosecutors claimed Megan shot both women and staged the scene to look like a murder-suicide.
Fairfax County Judge Brett Kassabian sided with the defense's October motion to have the March conviction thrown out, citing juror misconduct.
In their motion in October, public defender Bryan Kennedy claimed one of the jurors, Tasha Nix, had decided to test out on her own whether it would have been possible for Helen Hargan to have shot herself, according to WUSA-TV.
The weapon used in both deaths was a .22 rifle found positioned between Helen’s legs, leading Fairfax County Police investigators to initially presume she was the perpetrator of a murder-suicide.
A medical examiner, however, found that the bullet entered the top of Helen’s head and traveled down her neck, which prosecutors said would not have been possible for her to do on her own.
“Ms. Nix went home and used her own rifle to see if that was possible,” the motion read, in part. “She tried to hold the rifle and maneuver it with one hand. She tried to see if it was possible to hold the rifle without leaving fingerprints. She tried to see if [it] was possible to shoot herself at the angle that the medical examiner explained to the jury.”
Ultimately, Nix allegedly decided she was “unable to figure out a way” that Helen could have taken her own life. This was potential prejudice, Kennedy said, noting that a juror could not “properly receive any information about a case he is hearing except in open court and in the manner of the law," according to the The Washington Post. It also created the possibility that Nix’s self-formed opinions could have affected the views of her peers on the jury panel.
The judge agreed that because Nix assessed the theory on her own accord, Hargan’s case should be vacated.
The defense hired their own investigator, Catherine Searl, who allegedly got Nix to confess to her actions, according to the Post.
“We are disappointed that a juror’s inappropriate actions led to this double murder conviction being vacated,” said Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney Steven Descano, according to WUSA-TV. “We are still committed to getting justice for the victims of this crime.”
Megan Hargan remains accused of shooting her mother on July 14, 2017, after Pamela allegedly refused to give her $400,000 for a new home despite a previous agreement.
Investigators believed Megan Hargan killed Helen because she’d witnessed their mother’s murder.
Hargan remained free during a 16-month investigation, but was arrested in November 2018 at her Monongalia County residence in West Virginia following a multi-jurisdictional grand jury’s indictment.
She maintained her innocence, claiming Helen killed her mother and then herself after the pair became involved in a dispute over Helen’s alleged drug use and Pamela’s disapproval of Helen’s boyfriend.
The boyfriend, Carlos Gutierrez, testified in the trial that Helen called him, claiming to have just witnessed Hargan kill their mother.
“She told me her sister had killed her mother,” Gutierrez reportedly testified. “She sounded very frightened and scared. I could hear her mouth trembling, and she was sobbing.”
Carlos claimed he tried calling Helen back to no avail, though a text came from Helen’s phone, stating, “Everything is fine. I’m not mad at Megan.”
Prosecutors accused Megan Hargan of creating the text, while her defense said was part of Helen’s alleged plot to frame Megan for their mother's murder.
The jury found her guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in March.
Commonwealth Attorney Descano stated his office will “move forward and prepare for the new trial."