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Mother of murder victim brings suit against daughter's killer

Brenda MacBride Cole, mother of Heather Wynn Harris, seeks damages from Randy Houston McPeak

May 16, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Brenda MacBride Cole of Hagerstown, mother of Heather Wynn Harris, is shown in this Herald-Mail file photo. Cole filed a wrongful death lawsuit Wednesday in Washington County Circuit Court against her daughter's killer, seeking $2 million in damages, according to court records.
Herald-Mail file photo

The mother of a murdered Hagerstown woman filed a wrongful death lawsuit Wednesday in Washington County Circuit Court against her daughter’s killer, seeking $2 million in damages, according to court records.

Brenda MacBride Cole of Hagerstown, mother of Heather Wynn Harris, filed the civil lawsuit both individually and as a representative of her late daughter’s estate, seeking compensatory damages from Randy Houston McPeak.

McPeak, 44, formerly of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., pleaded guilty last year to first-degree murder in the June 10, 2011, shooting that resulted in the death of the 37-year-old Harris, his ex-girlfriend. McPeak was sentenced to life in prison.

McPeak went to Harris’s Dual Highway home that day and shot her twice in the head, then held off police for several hours before the county Special Response Team was able to get her out of the house. McPeak surrendered later that evening, and Harris died a few days later.

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The first count of the complaint claims that Cole “suffered pecuniary loss, mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering” and other losses as a result of her daughter’s murder.

The second count alleges that Harris “consciously suffered great physical pain, emotional distress, medical care” and other losses as a result of McPeak’s actions.

The lawsuit seeks $2 million in compensatory damages for Cole on the first count, and another $2 million for the second count, on behalf of Harris’ estate.

“She (Cole) is the sole inheritor, so I think they would overlap,” Cole’s attorney, Bernard W. Semler II, said of the counts. “Realistically, I’m trying to get my client as much compensation as I can for the loss of her daughter.”

“She’s realistic about the assets Mr. McPeak might have at this time,” Semler said.

The complaint asks the court to prevent McPeak from disposing of or encumbering any real and personal property he might own.

An exhibit filed with the lawsuit includes a copy of a 2007 divorce settlement between McPeak and his former wife, listing several trucks and a car of various ages and values, and a pension valued at $62,621 at the time of the settlement.

McPeak was employed by the Washington County Department of Water Quality at the time of Harris’ death. On June 10, 2011, he drove a county vehicle and parked it near Harris’ home prior to the shooting.

The lawsuit also includes a copy of a document describing a property in Berkeley Springs listing McPeak as one of the owners.

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