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Hagerstown area woman remains in critical condition Sunday morning

June 12, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Investigators are shown at the scene on Dual Highway only hours after a man involved in a 7-hour standoff with police Friday was apprehended.
By Chris Tilley, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — A Morgan County, W.Va., man was charged with the attempted murder of a former girlfriend after a seven-hour standoff Friday at the Dual Highway house where the woman was shot in the head.

Randy Houston McPeak, 43, of 37 Westridge Drive, Apt. C, in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., has been charged in the incident, the Washington County Sheriff's Office said Saturday in a news release. His former girlfriend, Heather W. Harris of 1606 Dual Highway, was taken to Meritus Medical Center.

Meritus spokeswoman Nikki Jovel said Harris remained in critical condition as of 11 a.m. Sunday.

"They are basically trying to keep the swelling down on her brain," Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said Saturday.

Detective Casey Barnes with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said there were no updates in the investigation as of 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

Shortly after 4 p.m. a family member arrived at the house. He said his sister had been shot twice in the head and that he had just come from seeing her in the intensive-care unit at Meritus.

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McPeak has been charged with attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, use of a handgun in the commission of a felony, first- and second-degree assault, burglary, false imprisonment and other charges, according to the sheriff's office.

McPeak was taken to the Washington County Detention Center Friday night after he surrendered to police outside the home on Dual Highway.

McPeak is being held without bond and is scheduled for a bail hearing Monday at 1 p.m. via a closed-circuit television link between Washington County District Court and the detention center, Mullendore said.

"She was the nicest girl and Randy is (nice), too," said Lois Myers of Hancock, who pulled into the driveway of the house around 3 p.m. Heather dated her son Jason for about four years and often looked after her late husband when he was under hospice care, Myers said.

McPeak is divorced with a son and a daughter, Myers said.

Harris was a beautician and McPeak worked for Washington County, Myers said, although she did not know for which department. Harris once worked at Return Engagements, a salon in Hancock, she said.

Vanessa Ziyad lives two doors down from Harris and said she frequently saw what she believed was a county vehicle parked outside the house. Commissioner Jeffrey A. Cline said he also heard McPeak worked for the county, but could not confirm that he did.

Heather Harris' brother also said McPeak worked for the county.

"I was talking to them a couple of months ago in Wal-Mart. They were together," Myers said. Everything seemed fine between them, she said.

The brother said his sister and McPeak had been in a relationship for about 1 1/2 years and that McPeak had been stalking and harassing Harris.

The standoff that began Friday around 3 p.m. shut down Dual Highway on the east side of Hagerstown for seven hours. McPeak was taken into custody around 10 p.m.

About 2 1/2 hours before McPeak surrendered, Harris was taken to Meritus Medical Center with life-threatening injuries after she was taken from her home, Mullendore said.

The victim's mother also lived at the home, but was not there during the incident, Mullendore said.

Someone who knows McPeak called 911 and indicated he might be at the house and could have harmed Harris, Mullendore said Saturday. Investigators still are trying to determine when he arrived at the house and when Harris was shot, he said.

There also were three dogs in the home when the standoff began, but none of them were harmed, he said.

Mullendore said the Special Response Team, a combined unit of the sheriff's office and Hagerstown Police Department, breached the rear door of the house, fired tear gas and was able to get the woman to safety when McPeak stepped outside the front door around 7:30 p.m.

What sounded like the firing of shots could be heard during the rescue of Harris. Mullendore said that was a combination of the door being breached, tear gas being fired and shots being fired. There will be a separate investigation of the shots being fired, something done anytime an officer fires a weapon, he said.

What appeared to be two bullet holes were visible on the front door of the house. Both appeared to have been fired from the outside.

The rear sliding door was smashed and the windows in back had large holes in the glass from where the tear gas canister went through.

Both McPeak's and Harris' mothers were at the command post for the standoff, which was set up at a nearby church, Mullendore said.

During the standoff, sheriff's deputies and Hagerstown police officers armed with rifles took cover behind trees, and Dual Highway was lined with more than a dozen police cars.

Any residents of the area who left their houses to check on the activity were warned to go back inside or move away.

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