The man accused of strangling a Devon woman who was house sitting in Chester Springs told police he was angry with the victim because she had ended their relationship, according to an arrest affidavit in the case, and later admitted killing her.
Randall R. Harner, 49, of Girardville, Schuylkill County, was taken into custody on Sunday at the scene of the homicide, an expensive home on South Chester Springs Road in West Vincent. Police said Harner asked repeatedly about the woman's condition as he sat in a police cruiser outside the home.
"How is she?" he asked when later taken to the Upper Uwchlan Police Department for questioning. "Did I hurt her bad?"
If the allegations against Harner prove true, it would not be the first time that he was involved in violent disputes with women who broke off with him — with the circumstances surrounding one episode "eerily similar" to the allegations in the homicide, according to Harner's former attorney.
In 2006, he broke into the home of a former girlfriend in Westtown after driving his car through a fence on the property, and trashed her bedroom. Harner was heavily intoxicated at the time, and police found him passed out in a room at the house.
In 2005, while going through a divorce, he threatened to kill his estranged wife and was taken into custody by state police after telling a co-worker he was on his way to see her at her house in Malvern with a loaded rifle. A few months before, he had punched a man who was visiting his wife.
Both women afterwards won protection from abuse orders from Harner prohibiting him from having contact with them because of his actions.
Deborah French, 52, of Devon was found lying dead on the floor of the house in the 2600 block of South Chester Springs Road north of Eagle Farms Road by police about 9:45 p.m. Sunday, officers having been called there for a report of a child in distress.
Investigating officers said she had visible wounds to the neck and that there was blood on the floor around her. The bikini top she was wearing had been torn off, and glass was scattered around her body from a broken door, which Harner allegedly forced open. Police said there were clear indications that a struggle had taken place between French and her attacker.
First Assistant District Attorney Patrick Carmody, who responded to the scene after officers discovered the crime, said that an autopsy performed on Monday confirmed that French had been strangled to death.
According to the affidavit, while Harner was sitting in a police cruiser waiting to be taken from the scene he asked an East Pikeland officer approximately 20 times over the course of 25 minutes whether French was hurt badly.
Harner told the officer that French was his girlfriend and that he had gotten angry with her and that they fought when she told him she wanted him to move out of her home in Devon. He accused her of cheating on him, the officer said.
In an interview early Monday morning, Detective Dave Sassa of the county detectives informed Harner that French was dead and told him that police believed he had killed her.
"I did," he responded, according to the affidavit.
Harner is charged with homicide, first and second degree murder, aggravated assault, possessing instruments of crime, burglary and criminal trespass. He is being held in Chester County Prison without bail.