Vehicular homicide trial begins

March 25, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

A Scioto County man accused in the death of his girlfriend and their daughter, says not only did he not cause the crash they died in, but was not even in the car.

David R. Harshberger Jr., 40, of McDermott is charged with two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, two counts of having a weapon under disability and one count of possession of drugs.

The girlfriend, Samantha Tackett, 30, of McDermott and the couple’s 2-year-old daughter, Delorian Harshberger, were killed when they were ejected from the vehicle the official report says was operated by Harshberger. Ohio State Highway Patrol Deputies said Harshberger drove his vehicle off the left side of Arion Road in McDermott, hit an embankment and overturned July 18, 2011.

Harshberger, acting as his own attorney, with attorney Mike Mearan at his side, spoke for nearly 45 minutes, apologizing to jurors that he “can’t do it like they (the prosecutors) do it,” reading from some 20 pages of a prepared statement that dealt mainly with what he said was Samantha Tackett’s extreme drug abuse.

He read stories about having to deal with her constant purchasing of pills, while at the same time telling jurors he was allergic to opiates. He opened his remarks with, “I intend to tell you what happened the day I lost everything I had to live for.”

In an opening statement by Assistant Scioto County Prosecutor Matthew Wisecup, Harshberger was said to have acted erratically the night before the day of the crash, was on drugs, and that on the day of the crash, he grabbed his daughter from the couch and took her out to his car. Wisecup said Tackett argued with him, but finally relented and got into the car and put the child on her lap. Wisecup continued that Harshberger drove off an embankment near the house they had left and that the car had rolled over, trapping both the mother and daughter under the car.

Wisecup said witnesses will say he was running around erratically at the scene and even ran into a wooded area at one point and that is where an OHSP trooper found him, and that he continued to talk fast and even fell on the ground sometimes.

Wisecup said there will be expert testimony that he had Oxycodone Metabolite in his blood, and that the crash translates to how impaired he was at the time.

Harshberger said Tackett was behind the wheel and had left the child in the passenger seat with the door still open and sped off, running over his feet with the back tires. He said he saw her lunge a couple of times to try to keep the child from falling out the door and even grabbed a handle above the door. He then theorized that she realized she didn’t have money, and was attempting to turn the car around, when it spun and went over the embankment.

Harshberger said he arrived at the scene and was not erratic because of drugs, but was in shock. He said he tried to rock the car off the mother and daughter.

At around 4:30 p.m., the prosecution began calling witnesses.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com.