Monday, March 1, 2004

YAZOO CITY, Miss. (AP) — The bodies of three family members who disappeared from their home on Valentine’s Day were found in a wooded area of Mississippi yesterday, and a relative was charged with murder, authorities said.

Warren Strain, spokesman for the Mississippi Highway Patrol, told CNN that the bodies of what are believed to be Michael and Rebecca Hargon and their 4-year-old son had been found.

J.P. Morgan, a driver with Mississippi Mortuary Services in Rankin County, said the mortuary was called to pick up the three bodies in the evening.

The discovery of the remains and the charges against Earnest Lee Hargon capped an intense three-week search for clues in the case. Mr. Hargon, a 43-year-old truck driver, was arrested on unrelated drug charges Friday, and authorities rushed to the search area in southern Mississippi yesterday morning.

Teams of law officers using portable lights searched through scattered rain and into the evening hours for the bodies.

In a Yazoo County courthouse about 100 miles away, Mr. Hargon heard the three capital murder charges read and was ordered held without bond.

He is a cousin of Michael Hargon, 27, who disappeared on Feb. 14 along with his 29-year-old wife and their son, James Patrick. Friends and relatives of the family, many visibly shaken, attended the brief court appearance.

Blood and spent bullet casings were discovered at the family’s home in Yazoo County after their disappearance. Investigators have not found a .22-caliber weapon that apparently was fired in the house.

Prosecutor James Powell said the slayings occurred during the kidnapping of one of the family members. He said Mr. Hargon had acted alone.

“We’ve been saying all along since we’ve anticipated filing these charges that our case is rock solid,” Mr. Strain said.

Investigators have been checking a piece of land that Michael Hargon recently inherited from his uncle, Charles Hargon, to determine if it is linked to the disappearance, said Jennifer Hargon, Michael’s sister.

Earnest Hargon, Charles Hargon’s adopted son, was not included in the will, she said. Mr. Strain said the property is a consideration in the case, but not necessarily a motive.

“It could be a potential motive, but it’s not the only one,” he said.

Family members at the hearing declined to discuss the deaths. Louis Fischer, Michael Hargon’s first cousin, screamed at Earnest Hargon after being turned away from the crowded courtroom.

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