IMAGE: RELATIVES OF SLAIN FAMILY
Greg Campbell  /  AP
Linda Hirtz, mother of Rebecca Hargon, thanks supporters on Tuesday outside the home where her daughter, son-in-law and grandson were allegedly attacked by a relative.
updated 3/3/2004 10:25:42 AM ET 2004-03-03T15:25:42

Blue ribbons and prayers of hope gave way to cries of grief as this tiny community came to the realization that a missing family was gone forever, victims of violent deaths allegedly at the hand of a relative.

“It’s like a bomb dropped,” said Gay Brown, among a steady stream of friends and neighbors who came by Tuesday to visit the Hargon family’s grieving relatives.

For more than two weeks, townspeople had held out hope that Michael Hargon, his wife, Rebecca, and their 4-year-old son, James Patrick, were alive, even though bloody evidence found at their home on Valentine’s Day suggested a violent struggle.

Their bodies were found in a wooded area about 100 miles southeast of here Monday night, shortly after Michael’s cousin, Earnest Lee Hargon, was charged with capital murder.

Recovery of bodies brings a ‘sort of solace’
“We’ve found some sort of solace,” Kim Richardson, another of Hargon’s cousins, said between hugs from well-wishers who walked past fading, rain-soaked ribbons of hope.

She said family members felt it was more important that their missing relatives finally be found “than to find who did it. Now we can grieve and send them off like they deserve to be.”

IMAGE: MURDER SUSPECT EARNEST LEE HARGON
Rogelio Solis  /  AP
Police officers escort Earnest Lee Hargon into the Yazoo City Justice Court on Monday for his initial court appearance.
Authorities believe Earnest Lee Hargon, a 43-year-old cattle truck driver, acted alone. While no single motive had been put forward, there was speculation the cousin was angry at being written out of his adoptive father’s will, which gave Michael Hargon several acres of land in nearby Madison County.

Earnest Hargon was charged with three counts of capital murder. In Mississippi, capital murder is murder with another felony — in this case the charge of kidnapping. The maximum penalty is death.

Yazoo County District Attorney James Powell said he would seek the death penalty. Powell said he hoped to learn the exact causes of death by Wednesday, depending on when reports from the autopsies were completed.

Murder weapon still missing
Powell also said Michael Hargon apparently was killed at the family home, but he wasn’t sure where Rebecca Hargon and her son died. Spent bullet casings were found at the home, but a weapon has not been found.

The Rev. George Butler, Michael Hargon’s pastor, said he had received letters and cards of encouragement from as far away as New Mexico, “letting us know they are praying for the family and me as the pastor.”

Rebecca Hargon’s parents, Bill and Linda Hirtz, and Michael Hargon’s mother, Diane Hargon, and sister, Jennifer Hargon, held a news conference Tuesday outside the slain family’s home to thank all those who supported them.

“We’re all hurting,” said Diane Hargon.

Speaking of Earnest Hargon, she said: “He may have the name of Hargon, but no Hargon blood runs through his veins.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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