Harley rejects state’s plea offer, awaits trial


Prince Frederick, MD - A St. Mary’s County man accused of shooting and killing his estranged wife at her home in Lusby last April has opted for a jury trial. The accused, James William Harley Jr., 39 of Mechanicsville (pictured above, left), formally rejected the state prosecution’s plea offer during a hearing Friday, March 2 in Calvert County Circuit Court.

Had Harley accepted the state’s offer he would have pleaded guilty to first-degree murder but the state would not have sought “life in prison without parole” but “life in prison” instead.

“This is the deadline for this offer,” declared Deputy State’s Attorney Kathryn A. Marsh.

The defendant was questioned by his attorney, Brendan Callahan and by Judge Mark Chandlee, confirming that no further plea offers would be made and the case will go to a criminal jury trial in May. Harley also confirmed that he initialed a form stating “I am rejecting” the state’s plea offer.

On the evening of April 28, the victim, Tanya Harley, 34 (pictured above, right), was found shot to death inside her home on Rawhide Drive in Lusby. According to documents filed by Detective Michael Mudd of the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office, Tanya Harley had been shot twice—in the upper torso and head. Earlier in the evening a neighbor contacted police after he, along with the couple’s young son, entered the house and discovered Tanya Harley “lying in the threshold in between the master bedroom and master bathroom.” Tanya Harley was found “with a purse wrapped around her right arm.” After a lengthy manhunt James Harley turned himself in at the Maryland State Police Leonardtown Barrack the following afternoon.

Prior to a grand jury indicting Harley on three counts, including first-degree murder, a probable cause hearing was held in District Court. A sheriff’s deputy who initially investigated Tanya Harley’s death was cross-examined by Callahan. The officer confirmed that police had not located the murder weapon and did not test James Harley for gunshot residue. The deputy confirmed that investigators, at that point had not spoken to anyone who heard the gunshots from the house on the night of Tanya Harley’s death. Callahan asked that the charges against his client be dismissed due to lack of evidence. However, District Judge Robert Riddle denied the motion and the case was subsequently presented to the grand jury.

In the application for statement of charges, Mudd indicated that the couple allegedly had extramarital affairs, that James Harley had threatened to kill his wife and had previously attempted suicide. Mudd indicated that some of James Harley’s threats against his wife were texted and the phone-delivered missives had been saved. During a search of one of the three vehicles parked at the residence—in this case, James Harley’s truck—“investigators located a temporary protective order where the decedent [Tanya Harley] had written that Harley had threatened to put her in a coffin. Inside the decedent’s vehicle officers observed paperwork where the decedent advised she was the victim of physical and verbal abuse and threats.”

During the March 2 plea hearing, Callahan asked Chandlee to reconsider the revocation of Harley’s telephone privileges while he is incarcerated. Marsh objected to the motion because Harley has been ordered by the court not to contact his children but has violated the order. Chandlee told Callahan to submit a written request and a hearing on the motion will be scheduled.

Harley’s trial is scheduled to begin May 14.

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