Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
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Harbinger of Death 

When a defense contractor is found murdered, Jessica must prove her nephew-in-law is innocent.


(as Anthony Shaw)


(created by), (created by) | 2 more credits »

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Episode cast overview:
Jessica Fletcher
Sgt. Kettler
Drake Eaton
Dr. Thor Lundquist
Fay Hewitt
Leonard Palmer
Carrie Palmer
Madeline DeHaven
Russell Armstrong
Armand Asselin ...
Forensic Man


Jessica visits her niece Carrie Palmer's husband Leonard Palmer, who actually forgot his own anniversary date, being an obsessively comets-devoted astronomy researcher at the Astro-Physics Institute where director Russell Armstrong and high-profile, high-maintenance careerist scientist Dr. Thor Lindquist who insists they attend the reception they hold to land a Defense contract Leonard disapproves of. That night Leonard is seen rushing out without signing out or closing up his computer-programmed telescope, which is manually pointed at a 30 mile-away vacation house owned by Armstrong, focused at the corpse of Drake Eaton. The house was lent to Leonard's daughter, Carrie Palmer, who admits she had an affair with Drake. Jessica agrees to ghostwrite a book for investigating police sergeant Kettler to get access to all the data, while Leonard is fired to avoid image damage. Conflicting statements from Leonard and Carrie make them the obvious suspects, yet Jessica suddenly concentrates on ... Written by KGF Vissers

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Plot Keywords:

astronomer | comet | observatory | See All (3) »


Crime | Drama | Mystery


TV-PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

24 January 1988 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This episode introduces Jessica's niece Carrie and her husband Leonard Palmer. See more »

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User Reviews

Telescope Observes Heavenly Body Murder
27 September 2009 | by See all my reviews

To surprise Carrie Palmer (Kate McNeil) for the occasion of their upcoming third wedding anniversary, Leonard Palmer (Dean Jones) invites Carrie's dear Aunt Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) to Astro Physics Institute, Cooperville, Connecticut.

When Leonard seems surprised to discover that Jessica has arrived ten days early, Jessica corrects him as to the date of his wedding, but now his surprise may not turn out well after all because Leonard believes that Carrie has been visiting her ailing Aunt Edna, in Ithica, New York.

Jessica senses trouble in the Palmer marriage because She has just visited with Edna, with no sign of Carrie on hand, and Leonard has overly devoted himself to track the approaching of a comet through the telescope of the Astro Physics Institute Observatory, with his dedicated assistant, Fay Hewitt (Karen Grassle).

To Leonard's disapproval, his supervisor, Russell Armstrong (Jeffrey Tambor) has rehired Doctor Thor Lundquist (Robin Gammell), with connections to the U.S. Defense Department, to combine Institute findings with political maneuvers.

With Jessica on hand, Leonard exchanges words with Armstrong and Ludnquist at an outdoor reception, as the Institute hosts visitors from Washington, DC, including lobbyist Madeline DeHaven (Marcia Rodd) and her assistant, Drake Eaton (Steven Ford), who shares a past with (Jessica's niece) Carrie.

Later that evening, the telescope seems to spin from its programmed course, to focus into the window of Russell Armstrong's vacation residence, some 33 miles from Cooperville. Security Guard (Armand Asselin) observes Leonard's scurrying down the steps, and exiting the observatory at 12:35 AM.

But after sunrise, when Jessica accompanies Fay and Russell into the observatory to search for Leonard, they discover through telescope the body of a victim of murder.

Sergeant Kettler (George DiCenzo) and Forensic Man (Kirk Thornton) arrive at the scene of the vacation house before Jessica and Russell, to search for clues. While Sergeant Kettler links suspects to the murder, Jessica attempts to disprove his theories even after two suspects confess to the crime to protect each other.

Jessica finds an inside track into police reports, by volunteering to help the unseen Mrs. Kettler to write a book based upon police investigations.

Along the path to separating false alibis from the true, Jessica ponders a theory about how the telescope came to point to the vacation house when it was programmed to observe the comet, as a "Harbinger of Death."

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