Harmon's dad says he gave him money

Father also testifies in son's murder trial that 'he saved money for college'

Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2005

More than two weeks after the prosecution told jurors to "follow the money" in the trial of the man charged with killing Maggie Wigen, the defendant's parents testified Tuesday that the defendant got plenty of money from them.

Juneau District Attorney Patrick Gullufsen rested his case against James Harmon in Juneau Superior Court on Tuesday morning without presenting any direct evidence linking him to Wigen's 2003 death in Tenakee Springs. As part of his case during the last two weeks, several witnesses said Harmon displayed $100 bills in the island community 45 miles south of Juneau, before people noticed Wigen and her $100 bills missing.

Darrell "Butch" Harmon, the defendant's father, however, recalled an occasion in 2002 when his son surprised him by pulling six $100 bills out of an envelope.

"He'd had them for quite some time," his father said. "That's the way it was."

James Harmon, 26, is charged with first- and second-degree murder, first-degree sexual assault, first-degree attempted sexual assault and second-degree theft in Wigen's death. The 19-year-old woman was found on April 1, 2003, buried in an earth dam near her cabin, a week after people noticed she was missing.

James Harmon's mother, Janice Jackson, said she gave her son money "whenever I felt he needed it. That's the way we do it in our family. We support each other."

Butch Harmon said his son was "frugal." Jackson agreed and said he was "good at saving money. He saved money for college."

The younger Harmon was born in Juneau and graduated from Ketchikan High School in 1997. He spent a year at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo.

"I think it was too far away from home," Jackson said.

Answering questions about James Harmon's early days, Jackson began to cry.

"Times were tough," she said after Assistant Public Defender Julie Willoughby gave her time to collect herself.

Her son worked as a tour guide, at a hatchery, at a Juneau pizza restaurant and with a Juneau security company. He wrote for Capital City Weekly and, with his father, he worked construction and fished, Jackson said.

Butch Harmon said that when his son was with him, he was working, either helping him in the carpentry trade or fixing vehicles.

He said he took his son to the Glacier Highway branch of Wells Fargo Bank on the morning of April 1, 2003, after reimbursing him for brake parts the younger Harmon had purchased.

"I always use $100 bills," he said.

Earlier in the trial, jurors heard that James Harmon deposited five $100 bills into an account that had been opened by the U.S. Army during a brief enlistment earlier in the year.

Under cross-examination, Gullufsen asked Butch Harmon why he didn't tell the indicting grand jury about paying the defendant the money the day he went to the bank.

"I don't recall," Butch Harmon said. Referring to the grand jury transcripts Gullufsen showed him, he added, "No matter what that says, I don't recall."

"When did you remember (giving your son money)?" Gullufsen asked.

"Just now," the witness answered.

"Did you remember telling investigators you didn't give (your son) any money?" Gullufsen asked.

"I've been questioned so many times," Butch Harmon answered.

Questioning Butch Harmon for a second time, Willoughby noted that his grand jury testimony was in May 2004.

"How would you describe your memory?" she asked.

"I have a terrible memory," he answered.

"Is it getting better or getting worse in this case?" she asked.

"It's getting worse," he said.

Later Monday, the defense questioned how search dogs scouring the area before Harmon left Tenakee Springs could have missed Wigen's body in the dam. During his opening, Assistant Public Defender David Seid questioned whether Wigen was buried there at all before Harmon left town.

Willoughby called Aaron Logan, who testified about an untrained neighbor's dog finding the body of Juneau resident Rebecca Mass buried in snow near the end of North Douglas Highway in February, weeks after she was reported missing.

Under cross-examination he said he understood that search-and-rescue dogs had gone over the same location multiple times before that without finding the missing woman.

Carrie Hulse, a paralegal assisting Gullufsen during the trial, was called by Willoughby to testify about her experience searching for Wigen with her dog Guinness as a member of SEADOGS - Southeast Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Search.

She said she had Guinness smell on the bank of the dam. She also said the dog, trained to look for living people in the wilderness, had been exposed to the unique smell of death about a year before that.

Under cross-examination she said the dog didn't have enough experience with the death smell and she wouldn't have expected it to find Wigen.

"He wouldn't have known what he was looking for," she said.

Before the defense began calling witnesses, Seid motioned for Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens, presiding in the case, to find his client not guilty. Seid argued that Gullufsen had not proven any of the charges.

Stephens denied the motion, noting that for such motions the law requires him to look at the prosecution evidence in the best possible light.

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

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