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Mystery surrounds deaths of veteran CHP officer, husband in separate shootings

PIX Now 08:50

YUBA COUNTY --  Tennessee state authorities were trying to unravel a possible murder-for-hire plot that led to the shooting deaths of a veteran California Highway Patrol captain and her husband.

Julie Harding, a captain with more than 20 years experience with the California Highway Patrol and on extended leave from the Yuba-Sutter CHP office, was found dead on December 10th.   

Yuba-Sutter CHP Captain Julie Harding
Yuba-Sutter CHP Captain Julie Harding Caltrans District 3/Facebook

According to CHP, she had recently had purchased a home on Lake View Drive in Celina in Clay County, Tennessee.

ALSO READ: Timeline of CHP Captain Julie Harding's death, her estranged husband's murder

In September, Harding's husband, Michael, went missing in nearby Cumberland County, Kentucky. Cumberland County Coroner Gary White told KPIX that Michael Harding had been found dead with multiple gunshot wounds to his head and body.

The death is being investigating as a homicide. White told KPIX that Michael Harding's body was found in a bedroom of a vacant house for sale by a local realtor while he was showing the house to potential buyers. He was found on the floor with multiple gunshot wounds.   

A source close to KPIX claimed that Michael Harding's death was part of a murder-for-hire scheme involving his wife. Sources suggest Julie's death was a suicide while she was out on bail after her arrest. However, her passing remains under investigation.

Clay County  Sheriff Brandon Boone told the Appeal Democrat newspaper on Tuesday that Harding died from "a gunshot wound," but was not able to confirm if it was the result of a successful suicide attempt or possible homicide.

Boone said the investigation into Harding's death has been turned over to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

"She was found deceased here in our county," Boone said. "The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is handling her death. The FBI is handling the husband's death along with the Kentucky State Police."

The TBI had her body taken to the Medical Examiner's Office in Nashville for an autopsy. 

"At this time in the investigation, her death does not appear to be a result of foul play," authorities told KPIX.

According to The Appeal Democrat, Julie Harding allegedly hired a man named Thomas Francis O'Donnell to kill her husband.

A source familiar with the situation said O'Donnell was arrested Friday at the Sacramento International Airport by a law enforcement officer from Kentucky after O'Donnell stepped off a plane.  

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