On July 14, 2017, patrol officers broke through the front door of a million dollar home in Fairfax County, Virginia. They quickly discovered the bodies Pam Hargan, 63, and her daughter, Helen, 24, who had a rifle at the scene. Almost as quickly, police told reporters it was a murder-suicide and told Helen’s father that her wound appeared to be a “suicide.”

Pam and Helen Hargan

LinkedIn/Carlos Gutierrez

But when lead homicide detective Brian Byerson looked at the evidence, he wasn’t convinced.

So he made a decision: “Wait. Wait and do the work,” Byerson told 48 Hours’ Peter Van Sant in “Death Hits Home: The Hargan Murders.” “In these cases, you will make mistakes if you make assumptions before you actually do the work.”

Although investigators have not found a suicide note, Helen’s older sister Megan, 34, told them Helen was “depressed” and was “so angry all the time, just so angry”.

Megan lived at home with Pam and Helen. She told investigators that her mom and sister had argued, but that Pam was alive when Megan left the house that day.

According to Megan, Pam announced that morning that she was canceling the contract on the house she was buying for Helen. why? Because Pam didn’t approve of Helen’s boyfriend who was planning to move.

Pam died shortly thereafter.

Could this have been a motive for Helen to kill her mother and then take her own life?

As investigators combed the house for clues, the medical examiner — aptly named Dr. Postumus — delivered Helen’s autopsy results: she had been shot in the top of the head. A bullet from a rifle hit her in the neck.

Byerson says there’s no way Helen could have shot herself that way with that gun.

“She had to hold it straight and be able to reach the trigger to do it,” he says. “She would [have] magic had to be done. It’s just impossible.”

As far as Byerson is concerned, it wasn’t a murder-suicide. It was a double murder.

But who was the killer?

“Our job is to try to piece the puzzle together and figure out what happened,” Byerson says.

As he and his squad continued to investigate the murders, Byerson says the evidence did point to one of Pam Hargan’s daughters. But it wasn’t Helen.

“It’s becoming very clear to us,” he says. — This is Megan Hargan.

Megan Hargan
Megan Hargan

Byerson soon learned that Megan had a six-figure motive for wanting to kill her mother. Pam Hargan was a rich woman with an estate of 8 million dollars and Megan Hargan wanted to have her own house.

Five days after Pam and Helen’s death, Byerson brought Megan in for an interview. It would last more than four hours. He says she did admit to trying to steal her mother’s money, but she was adamant she didn’t kill her family.

Despite Byerson’s lingering suspicions – and the growing body of evidence against Megan Hargan – police did not arrest her that day.

It will take almost a year and a half – until November 9, 2018.

“Why did it take 16 months to file a murder charge?” asks Peter Van Sant.

“As such, homicide investigations can be extremely complex,” the department says. Bayerson. “You have to not only be sure, but you have to be right. And this decision … is not only up to me. … I have to be on the same page with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. So, after consulting with them, we decided to wait.”

The surviving Hargan family had to wait another three and a half years for Megan Hargan to stand trial.

Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorneys Tyler Basilo and Whitney Gregory began by telling jurors that on the day before and the morning of her mother’s murder, Megan had tried to secretly steal more than $400,000 for a new home from Pam’s bank account. Pretending to be Pam, Megan called her mother’s bank and tried to wire the money.

Prosecutors say Megan was so desperate for money that she killed her mother. Then, according to the theory, Meghan killed her sister to keep her quiet, staging the scene as a murder-suicide.

“This is an individual who killed two of his closest family members for money,” says Bezilla.

But the defense insists Helen was the killer, not Megan. Megan’s lawyers describe Helen as mentally unstable and depressed. They tell jurors that Helen was angry at her mother for saying that unless Helen broke up with the man she once hoped to marry, she would not get a new home.

Prosecutors say there is no evidence that Helen was depressed.

But the defense claims that the police did everything right the first time. It was a murder-suicide.

Forensic specialist Iris Daly Graff recreated the scene of Helen Hargan’s death. She testified for the prosecution and told Peter Van Sant that Helen’s arm was not long enough to pull the trigger.

The defense has a strange theory that doesn’t rely on Helen’s arm length.

They told jurors that Helen Hargan shot herself in the head with a rifle by pulling the trigger with her toe.

Is it surprising? Unbelievable? It is possible.

But since the Count has yielded to Van Sant, it is possible, although highly unlikely. “Her legs are long enough for her finger to reach the trigger,” she says.

In his closing argument, prosecutor Basile disputed the defense’s claim that Pam Hargan was going to cancel the contract for Helen’s new home. But the defense insists that there is a mountain of reasonable doubt in this case. They claim that the prosecutor’s office’s forensic examination is inconclusive and the “trigger” theory cannot be ruled out.

Will the jury believe it?