UPDATE: The appeal of the Watermelon Killer conviction was affirmed by the Court of Special Appeals in 2017/ Harcum is now released from prison.
IN THE COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS
September Term, 2016
WILLIAM BLAN HARCUM, III
STATE OF MARYLAND
Krauser, C. J.,
Moylan, Charles E., Jr.
(Senior Judge, Specially Assigned),
Filed: April 7, 2017
Convicted of voluntary manslaughter, first-degree assault, and second-degree assault
following a jury trial, in the Circuit Court for Wicomico County, William Blan Harcum,
III, the appellant, contends that there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions
because the State failed to prove that he did not act in perfect self-defense. For the reasons
that follow, we affirm.
“The standard for our review of the sufficiency of the evidence is ‘whether, after
reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of
fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.’”
Neal v. State, 191 Md. App. 297, 314, cert. denied, 415 Md. 42 (2010) (citation omitted).
“The test is ‘not whether the evidence should have or probably would have persuaded the
majority of the fact finders but only whether it possibly could have persuaded any rational
fact finder.’” Painter v. State, 157 Md. App. 1, 11 (2004) (citations omitted). In applying
the test, “[w]e defer to the fact finder’s ‘opportunity to assess the credibility of witnesses,
weigh the evidence, and resolve conflicts in the evidence.’” Neal, supra, 191 Md. App. at
314 (citation omitted).
At trial, Harcum testified that, following a fistfight with his uncle in a watermelon
field, his uncle threatened to kill him as they walked toward their respective vehicles.
Although Harcum reached his vehicle first, he knew that his uncle kept a rifle in his vehicle, and Harcum was scared that his uncle might follow him if he drove away. Therefore,
Harcum drove across the field to a nearby tractor; pulled out the tractor’s iron “hitch pin;”
drove back to where his uncle was walking; exited his vehicle; and struck his uncle in the
head with the “hitch pin,” killing him. Harcum testified that he did not intend to kill his
uncle but only intended to prevent him from reaching his vehicle.
Following the close of all the evidence, the trial court instructed the jury on both perfect and imperfect self-defense.
Relying on his trial testimony, Harcum essentially contends that the evidence of self-defense was so overwhelming as to entitle him to a judgment of acquittal as a matter of law. However, in Hennessy v. State, 37 Md. App. 559 (1977), we rejected an identical argument stating: [Hennessy] concedes by silence that there was sufficient evidence to sustain a manslaughter verdict, but argues that because the State did not affirmatively negate his self-defense testimony, he was entitled to what amounts to a judicially declared holding of self-defense as a matter of law.
That is of course, absurd. The factfinder may simply choose not to believe the facts as described in that, or any other, regard, and the very fact that a large knife was used, causing the death of an unarmed man, raises in itself the issue of excessive force even if [Hennessy’s] account had been believed.
Id. at 561-562 (internal citations omitted).
Harcum’s contention is equally “absurd.” Harcum was entitled to, and received, a jury instruction on perfect self-defense. The jury, however, was “free to believe some, all,
or none of the evidence [he] presented in support of that defense.” Sifrit v. State, 383 Md.
116, 135 (2004). In short, there was sufficient evidence to support Harcum’s convictions,
and the trial court did not err in submitting the charges to the jury.
JUDGMENTS OF THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR WICOMICO COUNTY AFFIRMED. COSTS TO BE PAID
Murder USA Homicide in the Watermelon Patch
(MARDELA SPRINGS, MD) – Peaceful pickings in a watermelon patch is the standard way of life on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. On this day, life was different, and in fact, life was ended with one man charged with the horrific slaying of his uncle after a beef between the two while picking melons. Police believe that a tool used to slice melons off the vine may have been used to kill the older man.
The Maryland State Police report that the nephew of a Wicomico County man is under arrest and has been charged with his murder that occurred in a rural farm field in the same county late this morning.
The accused is identified as William B. Harcum III, 31, of the 10000-block of Snethen Church Road, Mardela, Md. After consultation with the Wicomico County State’s Attorney’s Office, Maryland State Police homicide investigators charged him with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, first-degree assault, and second-degree assault. Harcum was been taken for his initial appearance before a court commissioner and is being held without bond in the Wicomico County Detention Center.
The victim is identified as Lee P. Harcum, 62, of the 6200-block of Westbrooke Drive, Salisbury, Md. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His body has been transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death.
Shortly before 11:30 a.m. today, troopers from the Salisbury Barrack responded to a produce farm field in the 10000-block of Snethen Church Road, Mardela Springs, Md. after receiving a 911 call from the scene. Upon arrival, troopers encountered a man being treated by paramedics near the entrance to a lane that led back to a farm field. The man, later identified as William Harcum III, was taken into custody near the scene.
About one-quarter of a mile back the lane, troopers found the body of Lee Harcum lying in a watermelon field, with obvious trauma to his head. EMS personnel pronounced him dead at the scene.
Troopers called for the Maryland State Police Homicide Unit and Wicomico Bureau of Investigation to respond. State Police crime scene technicians were also dispatched to process the scene.
Investigators have interviewed multiple individuals and evidence has been collected from the scene. The preliminary investigation indicates William Harcum III and his uncle, Lee Harcum, were picking watermelons in the field when an argument ensued between the two. Investigators believe William Harcum III used a blunt object to strike Lee Harcum in the head.
Investigators have recovered a piece of farm equipment that will be forwarded to the State Police Forensic Sciences Division Laboratory for analysis to determine if it was used in the assault. Due to the ongoing investigation, the object is not being identified at this time.
The accused killer has no prior criminal convictions on his record in Maryland. Busted for drugs in 2004, multiple counts were dropped by the Wicomico County States Attorney. Such results of a criminal drug charge are generally indicative that the police lost the evidence, witnesses failed to appear or the defendant rolled over on his pals in the drug business in order to get off the charges without going to jail.
Therefore, according to Maryland court records, William Harcum III starts off his criminal career with murder and will become known as the Watermelon Killer.
The Harcum farm dates back hundreds of years, according to an article about Beechnut Dairy Farm. It may be the chief crop that William Blan Harcum III cares about is marijuana.
Harcum appeared to be obsessed with being a pothead with numerous references to the hapless plight of a pothead. The following was posted on his Facebook page:
“I’ve Long bin’ Fond of paraquoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, saying, “The Only Just Thing To do With An Unjust Law Is To Break It,” Whin’ People, In Debate, Conceed Thit’ Cannabis Is Safer, Better, ‘In All Aroun’ Awesomer Thin’ Booze, Buuut They Still Argue That It’s Illegal, “SO What?! Santa Clause Ain’t Legal, ‘In He’s, Still, Aroun’,” but, inyways, Ah tried tuh post this in “My Faverite Quotes, but thuh crappy character-limit cut off thuh last 4,000-some characters, So, Here We All Is..
I feel this, in many ways, mirrors thuh, Modern, Pot-Head’s Struggle, which is Rooted, Entangled, ‘En Entwined with, ‘en All thuh Way Back to, Segregationist Days, and is one of thuh last of thuh, Dinosauric, Jim-Crow, and Juan-Crow, Laws
We Don’t Do Uh’nough To Help Ourselves, and ‘Ahr People, People, Some of Us are too brow-beaten, ‘en’ave given up all hope fer uh change, ‘en others openly cheer thuh Prohibition bih’cuz they feel that having Weed, when it caaan be hard tuh come by, if yer uh Tard, ‘er uh Total Chode, ‘en Yet Others Use Cannabis As An Ixcuse fer Ther’ Own, Sorry, Decissions, ‘En Actions, To Try ‘En Weasel Out Of Repsonsability, And I Say ENOUGH!!
We’re Thuh Partakers Of Thuh Largest Cash Crop In Thuh Country, And Thuh World, WE NEED TO VOTE, REGISTER, Thuh HARd PART IS ALREADY DONE, POEPLE’IVE ALREADY FOUGHT, ‘IN DIEd, ‘In Shit, Fer ‘Ahr Privlage Tuh Vote, Now All We Haf’tuh Do Is USE IT, MAaaan, If All Thuh Pot-Heads In Thuh Country Who ALready’ll Idmit They Smoke Weed, Then We’lll Be The LArgest Lobbiest Group In Thuh Country, ‘En Ain’t It Time THuh PEople Had uh Lobbiest Group Fightin’ Fer Us, We’d Be A LArger Voting Block Thin’ The NRA, ..Thuh Gun-Nuts, THuh, FREAKINg, SOUTH, MAAAN
F**k Democrats And Republicans!
Elect Hippies, Longhairs, ‘in PotHeads!!”
In sharp contrast to the apparent pot-fueled ravings of the accused killer in the current generation of Harcum’s is this account of those who came before the man who now sits in jail on charges of murder:
The following article about the Harcum family’s dairy farm at Mardela Springs appeared on Nov. 5, 2002 in American Farm magazine.
A dairy farm with a history
Nov. 5, 2002
By RICKY BOURGEOIS
Farming is in the blood, and in the earth. You might even say the two are the same.
For the Harcums at Beechnut Dairy Farm in Mardela Springs, Md. that, literally, is the case. With a family cemetery at the front of their 337-year-old farm site, the Harcums —Blan, Louise and Blan Jr.— own and operate one of the five oldest of active family farms in the United States.
“It was granted to the family by the king of England (through) Lord Baltimore,” Blan Harcum said.
In the mid-17th Century, Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore sent from England his son Charles, who would succeed his father as proprietor of Maryland, to the colony as deputy governor. In 1665 the Calverts granted land to the Wrights, a resident family from which Blan Harcum is a descendant on his mother’s side. It is around that original plot that Beechnut Farm now sets.
“We had a great big beechnut tree in the front yard, and my dad named it (the farm) that when he moved here,” Harcum said. “I’ve lived on this farm all my life. I’ve been here since 1923 . . . him (Blan Jr.), since 1948. He runs the dairy, I do the ‘gopher’ work—I ‘gopher’ this, ‘gopher’ that . . . .”
Louise Harcum is a retired 30-year veteran schoolteacher, who, eight years ago, began teaching again, this time in the Wicomico County night high school program.
“I got tired of staying home doing ‘gopher’ work,” Louise said.
Blan, Louise and Blan Jr. are owner-partners of Beechnut, and they employ four hands to help run the 650-acre dairy farm.
“We always had a few cows, and my mom made a little butter,” Blan said. In the late 1930s, the Harcums began bottling milk and selling to a commercial dairy.
“When we started we weren’t even getting a 10-gallon can full. We get a thousand gallons a day now,” Blan said.
Beechnut has about 160 active milking Holsteins, with 150 replacements. The farm houses two bulk tanks that can handle a two-day capacity of 2,600 gallons of milk. The farm also keeps one bull for siring, but most of the breeding is done artificially by Blan Jr. He has been breeding dairy cattle artificially since 1972, the year he graduated in agricultural sciences from the University of Maryland. Beechnut Farm has been breeding artificially for 40 years. All replacement cows are bred; none are bought or sold. Blan said disease is less of a problem that way.
Beechnut is a member of the Land O’ Lakes Cooperative, and Blan Jr. serves as lower Eastern Shore representative to the co-op. The Harcum farm is one of only four dairy operations on the lower Eastern Shore (the others are in Somerset and Worcester counties), and running a dairy farm in a non-dairy production area has its drawbacks, he said.
“The infrastructure to support your industry is not there. You don’t have the feed facilities or the veterinary service. It’s hard to find vets specializing in dairy,” Blan Jr. said.
He said although milking-equipment parts are easily delivered, service is a little harder to come by. Also, transportation of milk from the farm is more expensive. A tanker services the lower Eastern Shore every two days.
“We’re out of the way, that’s all,” Blan Jr. said.
Blan Jr.’s father remembers a time when there were more than two dozen dairy farms, albeit comparatively small operations, in Wicomico County alone.
Farming simply is not an enticing enterprise for young people, Blan Jr. said, and that is how family farms dissolve.
“If young people could make a decent living at it, they’d stay with it,” Blan Jr. said.
Blan Jr. is the eldest of four children to Blan and Louise and is the only one to become a farmer. One of Blan Jr.’s brothers is a golf course superintendent, and another is a dramatic performer in New York. Blan and Louise’s only daughter works in banking.
“They all worked on the farm when they were younger,” Blan Jr. said. He smiled, “Maybe that’s why they’re not farming now.”
Blan and Blan Jr. agreed that agriculture is the only industry where source producers have so little say in setting prices for their commodities. In addition, farmers have to gamble with nature, and nature was not kind this season.
“That heat just cracked down on us,” Blan said. He said usually half of the farm’s 250 acres devoted to feed growing provides enough silage for the year, but this season’s drought required that the total acreage go to silage. The heat also affected Beechnut cows’ milk production.
“When they get hot they don’t feel like eating, and when they don’t eat they don’t produce any milk. The longevity of the heat is what does it,” Blan Jr. said.
Blan recalls that at one point this summer, daily production dropped from nearly 18,000 pounds of milk to 14,000 pounds two days later. The Harcums use sprinklers and they open barn walls to help cool the cows during hot spells.
New nutrient management regulations have added another concern for farmers, especially on dairy farms, where semi-liquid manure presents a particular problem.
The Harcums have begun construction of a slurry store, which will serve as a holding tank for one million gallons of manure.
“The emphasis is water quality,” Blan Jr. said. “The regulations are pretty steep, and Maryland is setting precedent for the rest of the country.”
“Right now we scrape and haul manure every day,” Blan Jr. said.
The slurry store, which the Harcums hope will be finished by Christmas, will allow them to apply nutrients to feed fields when they are needed more.
“The rules and regulations are kind of forcing us to it,” Blan said.
Regulations or not, the slurry store will make nutrient management more efficient for the Harcums, Blan Jr. said. His father added that he’s hoping it will cut the farm’s nutrient bill in half. Blan said they would have to build the slurry store eventually, but that he would rather do it now, when the state government will share the cost of construction, than later, when the farm would have to absorb total costs. “We wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise,” Blan said.
“Winter is actually a good time. If a cow could be 34 degrees, she’d be happy all year long,” Blan Jr. said. He said cows generally eat better when it’s cool, and that digestion generates a good amount of heat for them.
When it gets especially cold or snows, Blan Jr. said frostbite becomes a concern, and the cows are kept in their free stalls.
“It’s when it gets hot-and-cold, hot-and-cold—that’s stressful for the cows,” Blan Jr. said.
Each spring, for three days in May Beechnut Farm, becomes a free-of-charge, interactive learning center for more than 2,000 elementary students in the Delmarva area. In conjunction with 4-H, the Harcums set up learning stations at various points on the farm, each featuring a different aspect of the operation. Children and parents arrive in school buses and walk from station to station, where volunteers speak and demonstrate farming techniques and activities.
“We’re trying to create a positive image of agriculture for the young people, as well as showing them where their food comes from,” Blan Jr. said.
One station that kids particularly enjoy, Blan and Blan Jr. said, features a wood-frame “cow”—painted white with black spots, of course—with water-filled latex gloves hanging from it. The fingers of the gloves have pinholes at the tips, and participants can simulate old-time milking.
The Harcums had been providing educational tours when they were approached by Wicomico 4-H educator Dan Tabler about organizing learning tours as a regular event. Beechnut will be entering its 14th year of participation in the program.
Community activity does not stop there for the Harcums. Blan sits on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee and is chairman for the Congressional District 1 Republican Committee. He is a past president of the Wicomico County Farm Bureau, and both he and Blan Jr. serve on that group’s board of directors. Blan Jr. is also on the board for the Wicomico Farm and Horse Show.
Blan and Louise Harcum have been named 4-H All-Stars, and in 1997 they earned a governor’s citation for service and commitment to Maryland agriculture.