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Mother of murder victim stays in Dual Highway home for now

February 03, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Brenda Cole, mother of murder victim Heather Harris, is pictured in the foreground as her son Heath Bates talks to the media in front of the Washington County Courthouse on Monday. Harris' ex-boyfriend, Randy Houston McPeak, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and other charges relating to Harris' death.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

After reading two weeks ago that Brenda Cole faced eviction from the Dual Highway home she shared with her daughter, who was fatally shot there, an anonymous benefactor has handed over a check to cover her back rent.

“One of my neighbors paid my January rent out of the blue,” Brenda Cole said Friday afternoon after she appeared in Washington County District Court in Hagerstown. “I don’t know who he is. He came and knocked on the door.”

Cole’s daughter, Heather Harris, was fatally wounded last year at the house they shared.

Cole, who is undergoing cancer treatments, was in court on Jan. 20 after receiving a failure-to-pay rent notice, but Judge Dana Moylan Wright granted a request for a two-week postponement. On Friday, Judge Ralph H. France II postponed the matter for another week, Cole said.

While January’s rent is paid, Cole said her February rent is supposed to be paid in the next few days. Her lease expires at the end of this month, by which time she hopes to move into an apartment in Frederick, Md., with a sister who is relocating from Florida, she said.

Moving to Frederick will put her closer to where she receives cancer treatment and to where she worked before June 10, the day Heather Harris was shot twice in the head by ex-boyfriend Randy Houston McPeak. He pleaded guilty last fall to first-degree murder and is awaiting sentencing.

“I just have to come up with my half of the security deposit,” Cole said.

What will happen to the security deposit on her current house still has to be resolved between her and the landlord, Shaool Management, Cole said. When the county’s Special Response Team entered the house in an effort to save Harris, the damage exceeded $1,000, she said.

The neighbor who paid her January rent had read about her plight in the newspaper, Cole said. Other members of the community have also stepped forward to help, she said.

People took her food and have donated money to the Heather Harris Foundation, which was established after the murder of the 37-year-old woman.

“I still have no income. I’m still fighting for my Social Security disability,” Cole said.

She thanked U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., for his efforts to resolve that issue and said the office of state Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, has also been of assistance.

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