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Murder suspect told detectives that shooting was accidental

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, June 6, 2013, at 12:36 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, July 31, 2013, at 3 p.m.

In a police interview room five hours after Jolie Crosby was shot to death, Ronald Harner told two Wichita police detectives that his gun accidentally discharged as he was trying to unload it.

“It was cocked,” he said. “It freaking went off. I didn’t think there were even any bullets in the freaking thing. It just went off.

“I loved Jolie. I loved her kids. I would never do anything to hurt her.”

A video of the statement that Harner gave to detectives on June 2, 2012, was played to a Sedgwick County jury Thursday during the fourth day of Harner’s second-degree murder trial. The jury also heard from a firearms expert who testified that it would it was unlikely that the .38-caliber revolver that killed Crosby would discharge while being unloaded.

Prosecutors contend that Harner, 48, of Hutchinson, intentionally shot Crosby, 41, in the living room of her home in the 8400 block of East Greenbriar Court in Wichita’s Tallgrass neighborhood. They contend that Harner had a concealed-carry permit and knew his way around firearms. Defense lawyer John O’Connor of Kansas City, Mo., has not indicated whether Harner will take the stand.

During his interview with detectives, Harner said he met Crosby through an Internet dating service, and he said the two had been dating for about three years when they had a brief breakup in the spring of 2012. He said they got back together shortly before the shooting.

Harner said he usually carried a .45-caliber handgun but borrowed a smaller .38-caliber five-shot revolver from a friend so he could carry it in the waistband of his shorts while attending the Wichita River Festival.

On the night before the shooting, Harner told detectives, he and Crosby drove to Hutchinson to get his boat. He said he was arrested on the way back to Wichita while passing through a DUI checkpoint on Yoder Road. He said his blood-alcohol level was 0.11. He said he was released from the Reno County Jail at about 2 a.m. He said he drank about eight beers on the afternoon and evening before the shooting.

When they got back to Crosby’s house, Harner said, he and Crosby each drank a beer on the back deck before going inside to watch television. He said Crosby asked him to unload the gun, which was sitting on a coffee table. He said Crosby was afraid that Harner would fall asleep and that the four children who sleeping in the house that night might find it.

Before the interview was played, a firearms expert from the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center told the jury that you would have to open the cylinder of the revolver in order to remove the bullets. The expert, Justin Rankin, said you can’t pull the trigger on the gun when the cylinder is open.

Also testifying Thursday was medical examiner Scott Kipper, who said Crosby died of a single gunshot wound to the right temple. Kipper said residue on her face showed that the gun was within two or three feet from Crosby’s head when the bullet was fired.

Reach Hurst Laviana at 316-268-6499 or hlaviana@wichitaeagle.com.

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