Wife and husband found dead months apart, source claims a murder-for-hire plot

Back in September, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office reported that Michael Harding had been missing for several days.
Published: Dec. 14, 2022 at 4:49 PM CST
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Tenn./Ky. (WBKO) - A lot of questions remain unanswered after a Tennessee man was found dead in Kentucky several months ago and now his wife is dead.

RELATED: Family, authorities search for Tenn. man last seen in southcentral Ky.

Back in September, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office reported that Michael Harding had been missing for several days. His truck was last seen in the Burkesville area, according to surveillance footage.

Days later, Harding, a Navy and Army veteran, was found shot to death in a vacant home in Cumberland County.

“He shouldn’t have been that way, you know, nothing in this world to take anybody that way,” said Preston Cleary, a friend of Michael.

A family friend tells WBKO News that Julie and Mike Harding were married for two years but had been separated for a while and were going through a bad divorce.

“He was in fear for you know his life as well, because his doors was chained up, they were propped up. So like you were trying to keep someone out. And I think he knew what she was capable of,” said Cleary.

On December 8, Kentucky State Police say Thomas O’Donnell was arrested at the Sacramento International Airport as he was set to board a flight to Tennessee. O’Donnell was charged with Michael Harding’s murder and is awaiting extradition back to Kentucky. His mugshot was not immediately available.

Meanwhile, Michael’s wife, Julie Harding was charged with criminal trespassing on December 8 and was released the same day.

Over the weekend, Julie was found dead in Clay County, Tennessee. Julie was a California Highway Patrol Commander and had been with CHP since 1999, however, she was on leave at the time of her death, CHP said.

Susan Niland, a spokesperson for the TBI, said agents were called to a home on Lake View Drive in Celina on the morning of December 10 and found Julie dead. Her body was taken to the Medical Examiner’s Office in Nashville for an autopsy. At this time, Julie’s death does not appear to be a result of foul play, officials said.

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

Officials have not confirmed that Julie was behind Michael’s death at this time.

Meanwhile, Preston says all he can do now is reflect on the good memories he had with his friend over the past several years and hope for the truth and justice.

“Mike was truly just a good-hearted individual. I hope to just see this over with and Mike can finally rest in peace,” said Cleary.