Prosecution Rests in Ex-Culpeper Police Officer's Murder Trial - NBC4 Washington

Prosecution Rests in Ex-Culpeper Police Officer's Murder Trial

Jury to visit scene Friday morning



    Jurors heard testimony from eight prosecution witnesses in the murder trial of a former Culpeper Town Police officer, including the woman who placed the call that sent that officer to the scene. News4 Northern Virginia Bureau reporter David Culver reports. (Published Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013)

    The prosecution rested its case against a former Culpeper Town Police officer charged with murder.

    On Feb. 9, 2012, Daniel Harmon-Wright, 33, shot and killed Patricia Cook, 54, in the parking lot of Epiphany Catholic School. The commonwealth claims Harmon-Wright acted excessively and committed murder. The defense argues he acted in self-defense.

    On Thursday, eight witnesses took the stand to recount what they saw or heard that morning. Among them was Anne Schuyler -- the school office manager who called police about Cook’s Jeep in the parking lot.

    She testified that she walked up to Cook's window about 10 a.m. Cook had her head back against her headrest, Schuyler told the court, resting her eyes. When she noticed Schuyler, she rolled down her window.

    Schuyler testified that she asked Cook, "Can I help you?" She said Cook responded, "No." Schuyler followed up saying, "... this is school and private property, and if you don't have business here I'm going to ask you to move on."

    Schuyler claims Cook then rolled up her window. That's when Schuyler called police. She watched as Daniel Harmon-Wright -- then with Culpeper Town Police -- arrived at the school.

    She testified she could hear Harmon-Wright asking for Cook's license and documents. A short time later, she saw Cook's Jeep slowly pull away with Harmon-Wright repeatedly yelling, "Stop."

    At one point Harmon-Wright jumped onto the running board of Cook's Jeep, Schuyler told the court. That's when Schuyler heard the first of many shots and saw Cook's window shattered.

    Schuyler said Harmon-Wright continued chasing the vehicle, which she claims wasn't moving very quickly. "I never had the impression [Cook] was stepping on the accelerator to exit the parking lot," Schuyler testified.

    When asked if she saw the officer stuck in the Jeep window, dragged or in any way in the path of Cook's Jeep, Schuyler responded, "No."

    Testifying through an interpreter, Maria Elena Garcia told the court she watched the incident from her bedroom window.

    "I thought there were men fighting and because of that I looked out the window," Garcia said. "I heard, 'stop, stop,' and the person driving the Jeep kept moving."

    Garcia testified she heard the word "stop" at least five times. She told the court that "the Jeep was moving slowly and [Harmon-Wright] was shooting." She added, "He just continued to shoot. He didn't stop."

    Several other witnesses consistently testified they heard two gunshots followed by a pause, then several more gunshots. The defense, however, pointed out that the perceived length of the pause varied from witness to witness.

    The last of Thursday's witnesses was Dorian Twyman, who lives directly across from the scene of the shooting. He claimed he was on his computer studying for an online exam when he heard the yelling.

    He told the court he heard a man say “the ‘F-word’ about two times." He also said that was followed by a man saying, "You're not going to get away with this."

    Friday morning the jury will be taken by bus to the scene of the shooting. Judge Susan Whitlock granted the prosecution's motion for a site visit. Jurors will only be given about 10 minutes and a copy of one of the exhibits for reference, and they will not be allowed to talk while at the scene.

    Following the site visit, the defense will begin calling its witnesses.