Witness: Dam was changed

Defense questions whether Wigen's body was in the dam before Harmon left town

Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2005

The small Tenakee Springs dam where searchers unearthed Maggie Wigen's body two years ago changed while searchers were looking for the woman - possibly after her alleged killer left town - a defense witness said Wednesday at trial.

"There seemed to be more debris at the dam site," Dave Zeiger, who documented search efforts for the community, told the Juneau Superior Court jury, comparing the way it looked between Friday, March 28, 2003, and the following Tuesday, when Wigen was found. He said corners were obviously different, and the reservoir behind the dam had emptied.

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 the 19-year-old woman's death. In opening statements more than two weeks ago, Assistant Public Defender David Seid questioned whether the body was even in the dam by the time Harmon left town that Sunday, at the end of the weekend that state troopers had led a search for her. Jurors have heard contradicting testimony since.

Also on Wednesday, the defense offered another possible explanation for five $100 bills Harmon deposited in a Juneau bank on April 1, 2003, about the same time searchers were uncovering Wigen, whose mother reported $100 bills missing from her cabin. Gullufsen had told jurors at the outset that the theft was key to the case against Harmon.

Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens, presiding in the case, told jurors Wednesday that the defense plans to rest its case by late this morning. After Gullufsen presents a rebuttal, attorneys expect to be ready to make their closing arguments Monday, he added.

Wednesday, Zeiger said he and his wife live on a sailboat that was in Tenakee Springs in March 2003. They learned Wigen was missing when they returned to the harbor the Friday of the search.

"She was an amazing person," Zeiger said in answer to Assistant Public Defender Julie Willoughby's question about their friendship. "We were scheduled to go sailing with her the week after the search."

Rosie Floresca, a previous witness in the trial, said she paid Harmon $35 to do annual spring maintenance on the dam, in the stream running near the cabin Wigen rented from her in the island community 45 miles south of Juneau.

Zeiger testified that at the beginning of the search, he only knew there had been recent dam work. "It looked like a job well done."

Zeiger kept a chronicle of the community's search for Wigen. He also made a drawing of his observations of the dam. Willoughby presented an enlargement and asked him to explain the differences to the jury.

"There were some major changes," he said when being cross-examined by Gullufsen. He said the big changes weren't there when he saw the dam Saturday, but said it was possible that they were there on Sunday.

After completing his testimony for the defense, Zeiger sat with Wigen's mother and her supporters in the courtroom gallery.

Testimony began Wednesday with Seid going through all of the evidence investigators collected in the case. With state trooper Christopher Umbs on the stand, he finished by asking him to examine the contents of a small white plastic bag used for garbage on the boat where Harmon lived in Tenakee Springs.

In addition to chocolate milk containers, the bag contained what Umbs said looked like a bank sleeve. Written on it, he said, "it looks like a five and a zero and a D and three underneath the zero."

Later when Gullufsen repeated Umbs' characterization, Seid said it would be for the jury to decide if it was "50D or 500" - the size of Harmon's later bank deposit.

The next defense witness, Juan Munoz, said he had paid the defendant's father, Darrell "Butch" Harmon, a $500 check on Jan. 9, 2003, for carpentry work. James Harmon sometimes worked with his father.

Butch Harmon testified Tuesday that he paid his son money out what he was paid for carpentry work, and he always used $100 bills. On cross-examination, Gullufsen pointed out contradictions between Tuesday's testimony and his grand jury testimony, coupled with previous statements to troopers.

"I trust him personally," Munoz said of Butch Harmon, describing him as "an honest man."

When questioned by Gullufsen, Munoz said the $500 was the last money he paid Butch Harmon in 2003 until July.

Willoughby asked if Butch Harmon generally paid his sons out of what Munoz paid him. Munoz said he always paid James Harmon and other subcontractors directly based on an accounting of hours provided by Butch Harmon. He also testified that he had not paid James Harmon for any work in 2002 or 2003.

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

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