Witness tells of attack on Wigen

Friend describes calling the accused off murder victim months before her death

Posted: Friday, April 22, 2005

Several months before Maggie Wigen's life ended violently in Tenakee Springs, her year began violently at the hands of the man now standing trial in her death, a witness said Thursday.

Deena Wisenbaugh testified that in the early hours of Jan. 1, 2003, she saw James Harmon on top of Wigen. Harmon wasn't wearing pants and Wigen's pants were dangling from one leg, Wisenbaugh said.

"She was saying 'no,' and I always believed no means no," Wisenbaugh said, before explaining how she separated the two.

Harmon's attorney, however, questioned the quality of her recollection, focusing on Wisenbaugh's level of intoxication after a New Year's Eve party. Assistant Public Defender David Seid also accused her of not letting Harmon explain himself.

Harmon, now 26, is charged with first- and second-degree murder, first-degree sexual assault, first-degree attempted sexual assault and second- degree theft in connection with Wigen's death. He also is being tried on a charge of first-degree sexual assault against Wigen, as alleged by Wisenbaugh Thursday.

The mostly unclothed body of 19-year-old Wigen was found April 1, 2003, buried in an earth dam near the cabin she rented in the island community 45 miles southwest of Juneau. People had noticed her missing the previous week.

Wisenbaugh, now 21, said it was just before her 17th birthday when Wigen began coming to Tenakee Springs. Wigen was about a month older, and Wisenbaugh said "it was cool" to have a girl her age in the village.

"I overwhelmed her a lot," Wisenbaugh said. "She was very quiet and shy, and I wasn't."

She said on a typical day, Wigen would drink tea, read a book, go for a walk and work in her garden.

Juneau District Attorney Patrick Gullufsen asked her if she knew Harmon "well."

"At one point I thought so, yeah," Wisenbaugh answered.

The party to ring in 2003 was a big deal, giving people the rare opportunity to dress up, she explained. Wisenbaugh said she saw Wigen on the road and invited her to come along.

She and Wigen were drinking the punch, she added. It was alcoholic, and Wigen didn't have much experience with alcohol. "Everything seemed fine, and all of a sudden she was drunk - drunk drunk."

At that bottom of the stairs to Wigen's cabin, she left Harmon to help Wigen get back to the cabin, she continued. Wisenbaugh said she had wanted to go back for a tequila shot with some older friends.

"I told him (Harmon) to be honorable," she said.

When Wisenbaugh later saw Harmon and Wigen on the floor of the cabin, it didn't look right, she said, because of the way her pants were dangling from one leg and because she had never showed any interest in Harmon. Then she heard Wigen telling Harmon to get off of her and go home.

Gullufsen asked if Wigen was fighting back physically.

"She was trying with her arms, but she was pretty well inebriated," Wisenbaugh answered calmly. "I yelled. I believe I became incredibly profane."

Wisenbaugh said she quit paying attention to Harmon after he got off of Wigen. She tried to help Wigen sit up. When she couldn't get Wigen's pants on her, she worked to get her to her bed. "She was having a problem crawling."

She said Harmon returned, and she again told him to get out. "Maggs got sick. She spewed."

"She vomited," Gullufsen asked.


Wisenbaugh said she later saw Harmon sitting on a chair in another part of the cabin. "He left eventually. He was upset. He threw a chair - at me, I assume."

She said the metal folding chair hit the power box, leaving the cabin without lights."

Tenakee Springs resident Rob Walters testified Wednesday that after midnight that New Year's, he was on his couch watching television when he heard Harmon yelling and saw him grabbing decorative holiday lights and ripping them down.

Wisenbaugh testified that Wigen later said she didn't remember anything after about 11:30 p.m. "I told her what I saw when I came in. She was upset. She felt sick and disgusted."

She said she asked Wigen if she wanted to report it to state troopers. "She said she didn't want to."

Wigen, Wisenbaugh explained, believed she brought it on herself. "She didn't think she was raped, penetrated. She would know."

"You were not completely sober," Assistant Public Defender David Seid told her during his cross examination.

He asked her if she could remember telling troopers in one of her interviews that she wasn't in any better shape than Wigen.

After Seid repeated the question, Wisenbaugh said she remembered saying that in one of her interviews.

"You were freaked out as soon as you walked in," Seid said. "You started yelling very profanely."

"It was effective," Wisenbaugh answered.

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

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