A McLean, Virginia, woman is guilty of killing her own mother and sister inside their home nearly five years ago, a jury ruled Monday. Jurors recommended two life sentences.
Megan Hargan was found guilty on all counts, including first-degree murder, in the shooting deaths of her mother, 63-year-old business executive Pamela Hargan, and her sister, 23-year-old Helen Hargan. Prosecutors said Megan Hargan staged the crime scene as a murder-suicide committed by Helen Hargan.
That police and prosecutors say Megan Hargan staged the scene makes the crime especially heinous, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said.
“Obviously, committing a murder is one of the worst things you can do, but then also trying to pin that on another victim, on your own sister, really goes to show, quite frankly, the depravity of this act,” he said, calling the killings “a tragedy all for money.”
We're making it easier for you to find stories that matter with our new newsletter — The 4Front. Sign up here and get news that is important for you to your inbox.
Megan Hargan leaned her head on her attorney’s shoulder as the verdict was read. Her sister Ashley Hargan, who testified against her, was overcome with emotion.
Jurors recommended two sentences of life in prison. Twenty years to life in prison was possible for each of the two first-degree murder convictions.
Megan Hargan maintains that she's innocent.
Ashley Hargan declined to comment on the verdict and sentencing decision as she left the courtroom.
Northern Virginia news, events and updates
Prosecutors and Megan Hargan’s defense attorneys laid out dramatically different accounts of what happened on July 14, 2017.
Prosecutors argued money was Megan Hargan’s motive and that she attempted fraudulent money transfers from her mother’s accounts on the day of the killings and the previous day, as she closed on a new home.
Defense attorneys described a murder-suicide, claiming that Helen Hargan shot her mother and then herself.
Crime scene tape surrounded the Hargan home in the 6700 block of Dean Drive the day the mother’s and daughter’s bodies were found. Fairfax County police discovered a gruesome scene that included a rifle wedged between Helen Hargan’s legs.
Police initially described the women’s deaths as a murder-suicide. But the investigation suggested a more chilling family tragedy.
Police arrested Megan Hargan in November 2018 — more than a year after the killings — and said they had determined that she gunned down her mother and sister and then staged the scene to frame her sister as the shooter.
Megan Hargan’s defense attorneys argued that case was a murder-suicide and Helen Hargan was responsible. Helen Hargan called her boyfriend and said Megan killed her mom, attorneys said in closing arguments. Then, they argue, she killed herself.
Prosecutors pointed to the single, point-blank gunshot wound in the top of Helen’s head. She was found in a bathroom with the .22-caliber rifle wedged between her legs, with the muzzle pointing up.
“Someone put the gun to the top of her head and pulled the trigger, and it went straight down to her neck. That’s how you get a wound like that,” the prosecutor said.
Megan Hargan’s defense attorneys told jurors that Helen put the gun to her own head and fired using her toes. She wore a sock to avoid leaving evidence on the trigger, they said.
The defense argued Helen was upset after her mom cancelled plans to give the 24-year-old a new house, and because her mother disapproved of Helen’s boyfriend. Also, another sister, Ashley Hargan, said in a recorded police interview that Pamela Hargan had suspected Helen of drug use and had planned to hold an intervention. She told detectives her youngest sister had previously attempted suicide.
Megan Hargan’s young daughter was in the home at the time of the shootings.
Ashley Hargan, who’s expecting a child, told jurors on Monday that she hasn’t been able to sleep for almost five years, describing what happened as “terrifying.”
“My son is going to grow up without knowing a grandmother or aunt. He’s robbed of that,” she said.
A judge will deliver the final sentence at a hearing scheduled for Oct. 28.