DA: Money trail points to Harmon

Defense in murder trial asks jury not to compound tragedy on an 'innocent man'

Posted: Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Follow the money, Juneau District Attorney Patrick Gullufsen told jurors who will consider his case against the man charged with raping and killing 19-year-old Maggie Wigen two years ago in Tenakee Springs.

In the trial's opening statements Monday he said evidence will show James Harmon suddenly came up with cash in late March 2003. That will be one of the things that ties him to Wigen's death, he added.

Gullufsen said she had injuries consistent with a sexual assault and would show evidence that he tried to rape her after a New Year's Eve Party at the beginning of 2003.

Wigen's death is a "tragedy," said an assistant public defender representing Harmon on charges including first-degree murder. After the evidence is presented, David Seid promised, "I'm going to come back and ask you not to compound the tragedy on an innocent man."

Wigen's body was found on April 1, 2003, buried in an earth dam in a stream near the cabin she rented.

Jurors were scheduled to visit Tenakee Springs today to see places that will be discussed at the trial. The Chichagof Island community, about 45 miles southwest of Juneau, has about 100 year-round residents. Gullufsen is set to begin presenting evidence Wednesday.

In addition to first-degree murder, Harmon, 26, is charged with second-degree murder, first-degree sexual assault, first-degree attempted sexual assault and second-degree theft, relating to Wigen's death.

Gullufsen said the evidence will show Wigen was strangled with her killer's hands and the T-shirt she was wearing, while she was being raped.

He described the victim as shy, reclusive in some ways, a pacifist who was "very much into natural living." He added that she was sexually inexperienced "by choice."

Wigen was born and raised in Juneau and moved to Tenakee Springs when she was 16, still frequently coming to Juneau, Gullufsen explained. When she left Juneau for the last time on March 20, 2003, her mother, Karin Wigen, gave her 14 $100 bills.

After buying supplies, including groceries and dog food, she may have had eight of the bills left. No money was found with her body or in her cabin, he said.

Gullufsen told jurors they will hear from witnesses who will say Harmon suddenly had "a big wad" of money, despite having complained of not having enough money for soy sauce days earlier and only cashing a $100 check in the community.

Witnesses saw him with multiple $100 bills, the district attorney said. Evidence also will show that about the same time Wigen's body was discovered, Harmon was in Juneau opening an account at Wells Fargo Bank with five $100 bills, Gullufsen said.

When questioned by state troopers before leaving Tenakee Springs, Harmon said any fingerprints they would find in the cabin would have been left from a visit from long ago.

Gullufsen said 18 fingerprints identified as Harmon's were found in the cabin. One was on a flashlight. Others were on things that weren't there long ago - dirty dishes, a jar of salsa and an open can of olives.

Seid told jurors the fingerprints show Harmon had lunch in the cabin. He also said the prosecution's money trail doesn't take into consideration money Harmon's family gave him. And people in the community report having seen Wigen after Harmon was supposed to have killed her, he said.

"These things don't fit," Seid said.

He charged that state troopers focused on Harmon, ignoring evidence that didn't point to him. He said there was at least one other suspect in Wigen's death who didn't get the scrutiny his client did.

Prosecutors don't have DNA evidence and don't have many fingerprints, Seid said.

Gullufsen said a search dog reacted at the dam where Wigen's body was later found. Seid countered that there was a stronger reaction from search dogs elsewhere, and that investigators ignored evidence that the body was moved there after his client had left the island.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.

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