It has been 34 years since Mark Mangelsdorf crept into his best friend’s bedroom and crushed the sleeping man’s skull with a crowbar.
It took 24 years to bring Mangelsdorf to justice for the murder of David Harmon — a crime that shocked the Olathe community both in its savagery and underlying themes of adultery and betrayal.
Now after serving 10 years in a Kansas prison, Mangelsdorf is about to be set free.
“I’ve been dreading this for a long time,” Joy Hempy, a friend and co-worker of Harmon, said of Mangelsdorf’s release date Saturday. “I hate to see it.”
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Harmon’s wife, Melinda Raisch, also was convicted in the 1982 killing. She left prison on parole last year after serving nine years.
Mangelsdorf, now 56, was student body president at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe in 1982 when he struck up a friendship with Melinda Harmon, then the 24-year-old secretary for the university’s dean of students.
Her husband, 25-year-old David Harmon, worked at an Olathe bank. He and Mangelsdorf also became good friends.
But when the relationship between Mangelsdorf and Melinda Harmon veered into more intimate territory, the two began talking about what their lives might be like if she weren’t married.
Talk turned to violent action on Feb. 28, 1982.
That night, a frantic Melinda Harmon pounded on a neighbor’s door seeking help. She told police that two masked intruders broke into their home, demanding keys to the bank where her husband worked. One of the intruders hit her in the face and knocked her unconscious. When she awoke, David Harmon was dead in their bed. The killers were gone.
Intense investigation faded over the years into cold-case status. Mangelsdorf and Harmon went their separate ways.
He earned a master of business administration degree from Harvard University, got married and moved to New York, where he worked as a marketing executive.
She moved to Ohio, married a dentist named Raisch and was raising a family outside Columbus when Olathe police detectives, who had reopened the case, knocked on her door in 2001.
Asked to recount her husband’s murder, Raisch shocked the detectives by changing her original story. There was only one intruder, she told them. And although his face was covered, she thought it was Mangelsdorf.
When Johnson County prosecutors charged them both in 2003 with the murder of David Harmon, the story garnered nationwide publicity.
Raisch was tried first. A Johnson County jury found her guilty of first-degree murder.
But prosecutors made an unusual deal with her to gain her cooperation in the case against Mangelsdorf. She was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder.
Mangelsdorf pleaded guilty to the same charge, and both were sentenced in 2006 to 10 to 20 years in prison.
As part of the plea deals, prosecutors agreed not to oppose parole when the two became eligible after serving five years.
Both were denied parole in 2011. But Raisch was released last year and moved back to Ohio.
On Saturday, Mangelsdorf will be placed on conditional release. Under the sentencing rules in place at the time of the crime, he must be released after serving 10 years.
He intends to move back to New York, according to the Kansas Department of Corrections.
David Harmon’s mother died in 2004. His father, John Harmon, said he is resigned to the fact that the killer of his only son soon will go free.
“I hope he’s learned something,” John Harmon said. “If he didn’t, he’s stupid. But I don’t think he’s stupid.”
Mangelsdorf didn’t respond to a letter seeking comment for this story.
Hempy said David Harmon was always positive and upbeat, and he talked often about how much he loved his wife and about his friendship with Mangelsdorf.
“It’s a shame they took his life and only got 10 years,” she said.
But Hempy said she understands that prosecutors had to make a deal or the killers never may have been brought to justice, and she is grateful for that.
“They wouldn’t have spent an hour in jail,” she said.