Suspect Arrested in Case of Police Captain Who Killed Herself Months After Estranged Husband’s Slaying

A man was arrested at a California airport earlier this month in connection with September’s slaying of a Highway Patrol captain’s estranged husband.

According to KOVR, Thomas O’Donnell, 60, is accused of fatally shooting Michael Harding, 53, who was reported missing on September 20 and found dead six days later at a Burkesville, Kentucky, residence.

On December 10, Harding’s estranged wife, CHP Captain Julie Harding, 49, was also found dead in the front yard of the Celina, Tennessee, home she purchased with her husband in 2019.

KOVR reported that Julie suffered a single gunshot wound to the head, and California Highway Patrol described her death as a suicide. A mail carrier discovered her body two days after she was arrested in Tennessee on December 8 for harassing her slain husband’s girlfriend.

[Image: Thomas O’Donnell/Harris County Sheriff’s Office]
For the harassment allegations, Michael’s girlfriend accused Julie of coming to the home she shared with Michael and hacking her Netflix account.

The girlfriend also said that on October 10, Julie opened her front door without her consent to take Michael’s dog. The girlfriend stated she would be willing to surrender the dog at a police station, but Julie reached inside the home to take the dog before leaving, according to KOVR.

Julie was released from jail on the same day of her December 8 arrest. O’Donnell was arrested in Sacramento, California, on the same day.

KOVR reported that Julie filed for divorce in May 2022. Authorities told the news outlet that Michael had no connection to the home he was found fatally shot at.

Speaking with KKTV, Michael’s friend, Preston Cleary, claimed Michael feared for his life, and they suspect he was killed in a murder-for-hire plot devised by Julie.

“She left a note saying that, ‘Mike, I guess you win,’” Cleary alleged.

Meanwhile, KCRA reported that O’Donnell has an extensive criminal history, including allegations that he threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend after they broke up in 2005. He allegedly also forced his ex-girlfriend to have sex with him and chased her with his car in the year following their breakup.

No foul play is suspected in Julie’s death. Officials have not confirmed whether Michael died in a murder-for-hire plot, or if they believe Julie was involved. It is also unclear if and how Julie and O’Donnell are connected.

O’Donnell is awaiting extradition to Kentucky, where he is facing murder charges for Michael’s death.

For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the ‘Crime Stories with Nancy Grace’ podcast. Listen to the latest episode:

Join Nancy Grace for her new online video series designed to help you protect what you love most — your children.

[Featured image: Julie Harding/California Highway Patrol; Michael Harding/Clay Count Sheriff’s Office]