Prince Frederick, MD – James W. Harley, 39 of Mechanicsville, has pleaded guilty to the first-degree, premeditated murder in late April 2017 of his estranged wife, Tanya. The victim was shot to death in her Lusby home located in the Chesapeake Ranch Estates subdivision. The plea was entered Wednesday morning, May 2 in Calvert County Circuit Court before Judge Mark Chandlee. As part of the plea agreement the prosecution agreed not to ask for a sentence of life without parole.

The hearing stirred emotions as a member of victim Tanya Harley’s family ran out of the courtroom sobbing when deputies led James Harley to the defense bench. Chandlee advised those gathered in the courtroom that he would not tolerate any outbursts during the proceedings. “I know this is an emotional time,” the judge stated.

Calvert County Deputy State’s Attorney Kathryn Marsh indicated a plea agreement came about for a significant reason. “A trial would have required his [Harley’s] 9-year-old son to testify,” said Marsh. The trial was set to begin in 12 days.
Chandlee ordered a pre-sentence investigation and, at defense attorney Brendan Callahan’s request, reinstated Harley’s telephone privileges while he is incarcerated at the Calvert County Detention Center. The privileges allow the defendant to communicate with adults by phone but prohibit him from speaking to his children. The judge also declared the defendant will be required to submit a DNA sample to authorities.

Marsh, who along with Senior State’s Attorney Jennifer Morton prosecuted the case, read into the record a statement of facts. The summary noted how James and Tanya Harley’s son was wandering in the streets of Chesapeake Ranch Estates and appearing confused the evening of Friday, April 28, 2017. The boy told a neighbor he didn’t know where his father was, Marsh stated. The neighbor and the boy went to Tanya Harley’s residence on Rawhide Drive. When the neighbor entered the house he found the victim dead from three gunshot wounds.

Detectives with the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office learned in their subsequent investigation that the Harleys’ marriage was one filled with arguments, threats, infidelity and eventually, protective orders the victim obtained when the defendant threatened to kill her. The statement Marsh read mentioned arguments the couple had April 28 that were overheard by a neighbor, the Harleys’ son and Tanya Harley’s boyfriend via cellphone. While the weapon used has not been found, the ensuing manhunt on the evening of April 28, 2017 included the monitoring of James Harley’s cellphone by authorities. The defendant turned himself into police in St. Mary’s County the following day.

Callahan told the court that at James Harley’s sentencing, the defense “will have some competing aspects of the case” to present. Chandlee set Harley’s sentencing for early August. The judge stated during the May 2 hearing that Harley would have to serve at least 15 years before he could request a parole hearing.

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Prince Frederick, MD- On Wednesday, May 2, James W. Harley pleaded guilty to first degree, premeditated murder to the April 2017 shooting death of his wife, Tanya.

The victim was shot inside her home on Rawhide Drive in Lusby. 

The plea was entered in Calvert County Circuit Court. As part of the plea agreement, the prosecution agreed not to ask for a sentence of life without parole.

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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