- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 29, 2004

TAYLORSVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Investigators searching for a couple and their young son who disappeared on Valentine’s Day said last night they plan to charge a relative of the family in connection with the disappearance.

Highway Patrol spokesman Warren Strain would not say what Earnest Lee Hargon would be charged with, but said charges were “adding up.”

Authorities detained Mr. Hargon, an adopted cousin of the missing family, earlier yesterday and can hold him for 48 hours without charging him. “We will make that window,” Mr. Strain said.

Investigators also searched Mr. Hargon’s property in southern Mississippi yesterday as they tried to solve the disappearance of Michael and Rebecca Hargon and their 4-year-old son, James Patrick.

There has been no trace of the family since Feb. 14. Lawmen reported finding blood and spent bullet casings at the family’s home, but no signs of forced entry.

Authorities also closed off a county road on both sides of Leaf River Veterinary Services as part of the investigation. The clinic was given as a residence address by Mr. Hargon, whose wife is a veterinarian, Mr. Strain said.

“We’re very hopeful that the questioning and the search warrants will lead to a resolution about the whereabouts of the Hargon family,” Mr. Strain told Associated Press Radio. “The latest developments have been dramatic, groundbreaking. We are very confident that the resolution of this tragic and awful situation is imminent.”

There has been no trace of Michael and Rebecca Hargon and their son, James Patrick, since Feb. 14. Lawmen reported finding blood and spent bullet casings at the family’s home, but no signs of forced entry.

Mr. Strain said there were five wood-frame structures in the area of the veterinary clinic and that crime laboratory teams were checking each building. Mr. Strain said officers were also searching the property, which includes woods.

Investigators have also been checking a piece of property owned by Earnest Lee Hargon’s brother, Michael, which he recently inherited, to determine if it is linked to the disappearance, said sister Jennifer Hargon. Earnest Lee Hargon was not included in the will, she said.

The Yazoo County sheriff’s department is leading the task force, which includes the Mississippi Department of Public Safety and the FBI.

Authorities have received about 400 tips, dozens related to a white van, Mr. Strain said. The van had been spotted in the area around the time they believe the family disappeared, investigators said.

A reward of $100,000 is being offered for information leading to the safe return of the Hargons.

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