The bloodshed inside the family home in McLean, where two women were fatally shot in 2017, was either motivated by money for a new house or love for an unpopular boyfriend, depending on whom jurors decide to believe.
If jurors believe the defense, it was Helen Hargan who pulled the trigger, first on her mother and then on herself. She was in a fit of rage, the defense said, after Pamela Hargan threatened to withhold money for a house.
On Tuesday, attorneys laid out their opening statements before the jury selected to decide the fate of Megan Hargan, 39, who has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in a case that engrossed the county. The trial continued Wednesday with Helen Hargan’s boyfriend testifying about frantic calls she made to him in the minutes after her mother’s death.
“This defendant took that .22-caliber rifle and killed Pamela Hargan and Helen Hargan,” said Tyler Bezilla, senior assistant to the Fairfax commonwealth’s attorney, to conclude his opening. “And I’m going to ask you to find her guilty.”
He looked at Megan Hargan, who faced the jury and wiped her eyes at times during the opening statements.
The prosecution’s and defense’s dueling narratives centered on police findings, potential money provided by Pamela Hargan for two houses — one for Helen and one for Megan Hargan — and the sequence of events on July 13 and 14 of 2017. Pamela Hargan was a successful executive.
Fairfax County public defender Andrew Elders argued that police, who charged Megan Hargan after a 16-month investigation, decided that his client was a “coldblooded killer” within days and then “bias affected the way they viewed every piece of evidence.” Bezilla, on the other hand, cited the detectives’ findings to make his case.
Bezilla told the jury that Megan Hargan used her mother’s bank account to bid on a house and then did not have the money to purchase it, which she was supposed to do the day of the slayings. Elders, on the other hand, argued that Pamela Hargan had actually agreed to buy both of her daughters houses, but had told Helen Hargan she was upset with the direction of Helen’s life and blamed her daughter’s boyfriend.
That boyfriend, Carlos Gutierrez, testified Wednesday, fighting to keep his composure as he described a distressing series of phone calls with Helen Hargan the day of the slayings. He was the last known contact with her.
Gutierrez told jurors he had planned to propose marriage to Helen Hargan and they had hoped to move in together to a new home in Loudoun County, Va., that was being built when Helen was killed.
Gutierrez testified that the first sign of trouble came in a call on the morning of July 14, 2017. Helen Hargan was on the other end and she was hysterical, he told the courtroom.
Gutierrez testified that Helen “told me her sister had killed her mother.” He added: “She sounded very frightened and scared. I could hear her mouth trembling. She was sobbing.”
Gutierrez testified Helen Hargan told him she didn’t know what to do because her niece, Megan Hargan’s daughter, was in the home and she didn’t know how to get the girl out. Gutierrez said he told Helen Hargan to leave the home.
More anguished phone calls followed and then silence. Gutierrez desperately called Helen Hargan again and again, but she never picked up. He eventually got a series of texts from Helen Hargan’s phone, which he testified he believed were actually sent by Megan Hargan imitating her sister.
“Everything is fine,” one read in part. “I’m not mad at Megan.”
Gutierrez eventually called 911 to summon police to the Hargan home.
Photos introduced by prosecutors showed the horrible scene police discovered inside the McLean home. Pamela Hargan’s body was found with a sheet covering her upper body in a laundry room, while Helen Hargan’s body was found in an upstairs bathroom with a rifle.
In his cross-examination of Gutierrez, Elders highlighted that Helen Hargan never called the police. He read Gutierrez his grand jury testimony, during which Gutierrez had said Helen told him during one call: “Carlos, you just need to be quiet. Let me handle this. Don’t call police.”
The defense contended that Helen Hargan lied to Carlos as a part of a ploy to frame Megan for murder, while the prosecution wielded their communication to argue Helen’s innocence.
In an interview conducted soon after the slayings that was played for the jury Wednesday, Megan Hargan told a detective that her mother and sister were alive when she left her mother’s home earlier in the day.
Megan Hargan said that her mother had told Helen she was canceling the contract to purchase the home she was buying for Helen. Megan said the reason was that Helen was planning to move her boyfriend into the home and her mother blamed Gutierrez for getting Helen into drugs.
“I love Helen, but something has really changed in her over the last couple months,” Megan Hargan said.