Harmon pleads not guilty to murder charges

Wigen trial set for August; new attorney appointed to represent defendant

Posted: Friday, June 04, 2004

The man charged with killing Maggie Wigen in Tenakee Springs last year received a tentative August trial date as well as a new attorney Thursday.

Through Assistant Public Defender David Seid, James D. Harmon entered not-guilty pleas to seven counts in a grand jury indictment that charges him with first-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault.

Wigen's body was found April 1, 2003, buried near the cabin where she lived in Tenakee Springs, about 45 miles southeast of Juneau. Alaska State Troopers arrested Harmon, 25, on May 21, almost 16 months after Tenakee residents noticed that the 19-year-old woman was missing.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins scheduled the trial to begin on Aug. 23, before Judge Larry Weeks.

Juneau District Attorney Patrick Gullufsen said the trial could require three to four weeks. Seid told Collins that he couldn't say how long his defense will take.

After the hearing, he said he didn't know if the trial date was a realistic one. He said he had seen little more than the complaint against his client and Gullufsen's affidavit explaining probable cause for the arrest.

Collins appointed the public defender's office to the case Wednesday after attorney Louis Menendez, who had represented Harmon in Juneau District Court, said he was doing no more work on the case.

Collins postponed Harmon's Superior Court arraignment, scheduled for Wednesday, so the defendant could be represented by his new attorney.

After Thursday's hearing, Harmon was returned to the Lemon Creek Correctional Center, where he continues to be held in lieu of $750,000 cash bail.

"My understanding is that this young man has not had a bail review," Seid told Collins. He could ask for such a hearing sometime next week, after talking to his client, he said.

The indictment charges Harmon with both first- and second-degree murder in Wigen's death. It also charges him with first-degree and attempted first-degree sexual assault in reference to an attack alleged to have occurred with her killing. A second-degree theft charge accuses Harmon of stealing money from Wigen at about the time of her death.

Two counts of attempted first-degree sexual assault relate to allegations that he attacked Wigen and another Tenakee Springs woman on Jan. 1, 2003, after a community New Year's Eve party.

Telephone lines were set up in court so that Wigen's mother, in Arizona, and the surviving alleged assault victim, in Tenakee Springs, could hear the proceedings.

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

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