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Triple murder charge in missing family case

Investigators find bodies of three victims

Mississippi's Department of Public Safety's Warren Strain answers questions at a press conference Monday.
Mississippi's Department of Public Safety's Warren Strain answers questions at a press conference Monday.

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CNN's Jeanne Meserve on the discovery of the bodies of a missing family and the charges filed against a cousin.
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CNN's Mike Brooks on the arrest of the missing family's cousin.
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Authorities question relative of the missing family.
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YAZOO CITY, Mississippi (CNN) -- A couple hours after a man was charged with killing his cousin, the cousin's wife and their 4-year-old son, investigators found three bodies Monday.

"We've found two bodies and what appears to be the body of a child," Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain said.

Earnest Lee Hargon was charged with three counts of capital murder in Yazoo County Court and was ordered held without bond.

Michael Hargon, his wife, Rebecca, and the couple's son, James Patrick -- disappeared from their Yazoo County home February 14.

Before the hearing, Hargon was escorted by police from a car to the courthouse, where a handful of relatives of the slain family jeered.

"You bastard!" one family member shouted.

"You're not such a bad boy now, are you?" another taunted.

Hargon is now being held at an undisclosed location.

Dressed in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffed, Hargon answered several questions from Judge Pamela May before being led away. May appointed a public defender for Hargon at his request.

Authorities said they would seek the death penalty against Hargon because they believe he killed his cousin's family during a kidnapping or an attempted kidnapping.

"That's one of things that make it capital murder -- when it's in a commission of an underlying felony and kidnapping would be the underlying felony that supports capital murder in this case," said District Attorney James Powell.

He said the murder weapon has not yet been found and would not say if the family was shot to death.

Earlier Monday, authorities said Hargon accompanied investigators to an area in Covington County as they searched for the victims.

That area, which covers about an acre, lies not far from the Smith County border, where Hargon lives, investigators said.

Hargon was arrested over the weekend on unrelated drug and gun charges involving a small amount of methamphetamines and an illegally altered AR-15 rifle, Strain said.

Strain told reporters that Hargon became a suspect in the case the day after the family was reported missing.

"Obviously something went very, very wrong on the morning of the 14th at the Hargon home," he said.

Powell refused to speculate on a motive for the killings.

"I don't have to have a motive, all I have to do is prove that he killed them during the course of a kidnapping," Powell told reporters in a news conference after the hearing.

"We have a very strong case against him, and as far as motive, it doesn't matter," Strain said at the briefing. "Our case is rock solid."

Michael and Rebecca Hargon and their son, James Patrick, are shown in this undated photo.
Michael and Rebecca Hargon and their son, James Patrick, are shown in this undated photo.

Strain told CNN earlier that an inheritance dispute between Michael and Earnest "goes to motive."

An uncle died, leaving land to Michael Hargon and none to Earnest Lee Hargon, Strain had said.

Strain said the case has taken a toll on everyone involved.

"Personally, I have two children, and this is something that I've tried to insulate myself from getting too emotionally involved," he said. "But anytime you look at that family and realize the circumstances in which this heinous crime occurred you can't help but be emotionally moved by it."

As part of the probe, authorities went to Earnest Hargon's house near Taylorsville, Mississippi, which also is the location of a veterinary clinic owned by his wife, Lisa, Strain said. She is listed in the phone book as Lisa Ainsworth, a veterinarian.

"She is obviously distraught and is at an undisclosed location," said Taylorsville Mayor Ron Walker, who said Ainsworth is the veterinarian for his cattle herd.

The search for the Hargon family was focused Saturday and Sunday on a 160-acre site in Smith County, about 100 miles south of their home.

Michael Hargon's family was reported missing after a friend saw the door open at their home in Vaughan, Mississippi, about 35 miles north of Jackson. Investigators said there was blood at the scene but no sign of forced entry. Relatives said nothing appeared to be missing.

Michael Hargon is a construction worker, and his wife is a physical therapist, family members said.

CNN correspondent Mike Brooks and producer Mike Ahlers contributed to this report.


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