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McPeak sentenced to life for murder of Hagerstown woman

Ex-boyfriend will serve at least 15 years for killing Heather Harris at her Dual Highway home last June

March 20, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Randy Houston McPeak, right, leaves court after he was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for the June 10, 2011, murder of his ex-girlfriend Heather Harris, at her home on the Dual Highway in Hagerstown.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Randy Houston McPeak was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for the June 10, 2011, fatal shooting of his former girlfriend, Heather Harris, at her home on Dual Highway in Hagerstown.

Deputy State’s Attorney Joseph Michael said McPeak, 44, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., would have to serve at least 15 years before he would be eligible for parole.

Washington County Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. also sentenced McPeak to 25 years for false imprisonment and five years for the use of a handgun in a crime of violence. Those sentences, however, will be served at the same time as the life sentence.

McPeak on Nov. 28, 2011, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and related charges in the death of the 37-year-old Harris.

During the hourlong sentencing hearing, Michael told Long that McPeak had written a sentencing memorandum that conflicted with what he told police about the killing of Harris. McPeak had written “page after page, basically blaming the victim for killing her,” Michael said.

McPeak wrote that he had a luncheon date with Harris, and that she picked him up at Denny’s on Dual Highway and drove him to her home, Michael said. However, he read exchanges of text messages that morning in which Harris made it clear she did not want to see McPeak.

A defendant’s statement of facts was included in the case file in which McPeak described a volatile relationship with Harris. On the day of the shooting, it described an outburst by Harris that “traumatized” McPeak to the point he wanted to kill himself.

“He knew that Heather had a gun in her jewelry box in her bedroom .... He put the gun in his mouth,” and Harris reached for the weapon, McPeak’s statement said.

“The gun went off and she stumbled. She got back up and (McPeak) noticed there was blood on the floor,” the statement said. “He grabbed her by the hair and the gun went off and she went down. Randy said that he was terrified and didn’t know what to do,” the statement said.

“Randy said that Heather’s last words were ‘I love you, Randy.’ She then passed out,” the statement said.

However, McPeak told police at one point that Harris “just suddenly came after him in the hall (of her house) then suddenly shot herself, which is preposterous,” Michael said.

McPeak told police the second shot was “to put her out of her misery,” Michael said, yet McPeak kept police and medical personnel at bay for hours before the Special Response Team was able to get her out of the house.

“He also cost her any chance of survival,” Michael said.

Harris died five days after the shooting.

Michael called McPeak “a cold-blooded coward ... who ended Heather Harris’ life for selfish reasons of his own.”

“I think Randy is a menace to society, and he’s not a man at all,” Harris’ mother, Brenda Cole, told Long. “There are evil people in the world, and he’s one of them.”

Suicide intended?
“Randy McPeak is a responsible and loving father to two children,” defense attorney D. Benson Thompson III told Long.

His client remained close to his children and ex-wife, served as a youth sports coach, had always been employed and had no history of violence before the shooting, Thompson said.

“His sole intention was to take his own life that day,” Thompson said.

“Randy is a loving and caring and compassionate son,” his mother, Joyce Youngblood, told Long. “We need to be with him again some day,” she said, asking for leniency.

“I’m extremely remorseful for all that happened,” McPeak told Long. “It was never my intent to harm Heather .... It was my intent to take my own life.

“I’ve given the shirt off my back numerous times to people in need, including Heather,” McPeak said.

“Your guilty plea flies in the face of your sentencing memorandum,” Long told McPeak. “You came here today, Mr. McPeak, without a lot of credibility.”

Noting McPeak’s mother’s plea to be with her son again, Long told him: “Ms. Cole will not be with Heather Harris again.”

Harris was shot twice in the head shortly before noon on June 10, 2011, in her 1606 Dual Highway home. McPeak remained inside, and it took 7 1/2 hours before police were able to get her out of the house.

At the plea hearing in November, Michael told Long the prosecution would seek life in prison without parole, the maximum penalty for first-degree murder, as well as additional sentences for the related charges.

But after that same plea hearing, Thompson said he did not believe life without parole was an appropriate sentence.

During the November hearing, Washington County Assistant State’s Attorney Christopher McCormack told the court that when police entered Harris’ home, she was gasping for air and was able to move one arm. A medic told investigators that Harris still had “purposeful movement,” McCormack said.

Before the day of the shooting, McPeak, a Washington County Department of Water Quality employee, had on several occasions violated a temporary peace order Harris had obtained against him.

In one instance, he went to Meritus Medical Center on June 3, 2011, when Harris had been admitted to the hospital, McCormack told the judge in November.

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