Ever since its premiere back in 1988, CBS’ ’48 Hours’ has been delving deep into one harrowing true-crime case after another to really shine a light upon every aspect of the human experience. Thus, of course, its season 36 episode 3 ‘Death Hits Home: The Hargan Killings,’ chronicling the twisted 2017 double homicide of Pamela Hargan and her young daughter Helen, is no different. So now, if you wish to learn more about the same — with a specific focus on everything that transpired, its subsequent investigations, as well as the perpetrator — we’ve got the details for you.
How Did Pamela and Helen Hargan Die?
Anyone who ever came across either Pamela Denise Hansen Hargan or her daughter (one of three) Helen Lorena Hargan only described them as kind, loving, active members of their society. After all, while the former was a renowned human resources executive at 63, her 23-year-old was just starting to pave a path for herself upon graduating from Southern Methodist University. They were thus leading a happy life in the inner suburban McLean home they shared — worth nearly $1.3 million — only for things to turn around in the worst way imaginable on July 14, 2017.
It was that afternoon when Fairfax County police responded to their estate following a 911 call made by Helen’s worried boyfriend because he’d received odd rings from her indicating a shooting. Unfortunately, it was already too late — both women were found dead with gunshot wounds straight to their heads, and the youngster reportedly even suffered some additional head trauma. Pamela was lying face up wrapped in a bloody blanket in the mud room, whereas Helen was in her bedroom’s ensuite, sitting on the toilet fully clothed with a rifle set between her legs.
Who Killed Pamela and Helen Hargan?
The initial theory owing to the undeniably incriminating appearance of the crime scene was a murder-suicide orchestrated by Helen, yet the ensuing inquiries soon unraveled a different story. Her elder sister, Megan, had backed this idea during a police interview by claiming “something [had] changed in her over the last couple months,” but the truth is she was the one responsible. In fact, even her vehement claim of there being a rift over their mother canceling the plans to build Helen a home because she wished to live there with her boyfriend was entirely untrue.
Instead, the motive was actually Megan’s greed and jealousy stemming from her belief that Pamela favored her sister since she refused to financially help her purchase an independent home. She was thus desperate for funds and attempted to fraudulently transfer $420,000 from her mother’s account to her title company, which was halted at Pamela’s request once the bank alerted her. This had reportedly gone down just the day before the fateful July 14, driving her to slay both her sister and their mother in the hopes of finally using the latter’s devices for the capital.
According to legal records, Megan first stormed into the laundry room waving a .22-caliber rifle in hand and didn’t even hesitate to open fire on Pamela prior to transferring the money. She then shot her sister at around 1 pm upon finding her hiding in the washroom, unaware that she’d already spoken to her Texan boyfriend Carlos Gutierrez in fear of what would happen. “[Helen] told me her sister had killed her mother,” Carlos told the court in 2022, just like he’d told officials in 2017. “She sounded frightened and scared. I could hear her mouth trembling, and she was sobbing.”
Therefore, with physical evidence working against Megan as well — there was gunshot residue on her hands, her DNA was on the rifle bag, and Helen’s wounds were inconsistent with self-inflicted ones — she was arrested in November 2018. The daughter/sister was then indicted on two counts of first-degree murder as well as two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a murder, only to be found guilty as charged following her 2022 jury trial.