Although the Hargon home is in a rural area it is only a few minutes from I-55, a major north-south highway connecting Memphis and New Orleans. Once on the Interstate highway, it is less than a half hour drive to Jackson, which is the state capitol with a metro population of over 300,000 people.
In Mississippi, most rural residents think nothing of driving 30 or 40 miles to find a grocery store or Walmart where they do the bulk of their shopping. Small country grocery stores, like that owned by the late Dan Heygood Hargon are found in many rural areas to supply convenience items. They do not resemble what urbanites are used to thinking of as "convenience stores," but, rather, more closely resemble the old fashioned general stores of a previous era. They serve as community centers where neighborhood news and views are exchanged. It is not unusual for such a store to be converted from a home, or vice versa.
The Hargon home on Fowler Road is within easy sight of other homes on Hargon Lane. It would have been daylight before the presumed crime occurred suggesting to me that the perpetrator(s) took some serious risk of being seen.
The area around Vaughan was once heavily farmed but much of the old farm land is now given over to tree farming, thus there are many wooded areas in the vicinity of the Hargon home. In addition, the nearby Big Black River and its tributaries are often flooded with the result that swampy areas abound in this area.
There are reports that scent seeking dogs have led investigators on a route south of the Hargon home. The only way to go south from this site would be to go along the one-lane road that is in front of the home. This road--Fowler Road--is very old. Along much of its route, the paved surface is actually sunken to a depth of two or three feet below the surrounding banks. Therefore, there is no easy access to a hiding place along
this road. The road runs through some dense wooden areas, but a van, or most any other vehicle, could not easily enter these areas.
I understand the shells found in or near the house are from a 22 caliber gun. This weapon would not
make much noise and, at any rate, gunfire in these areas is not unusual due to turkey, deer, and varmint hunting.
In addition, the distance from the Hargon home to the houses on Hargon Lane, while close enough to be within sight, is not so close as to assure that an engine starting or a gun firing would be noticed.
Some people have speculated about the significance of Michael Hargon's wallet being found in his home. It
is not unusual for young men in Mississippi to go out without a wallet--especially if they are going to work. Many men here prefer to carry bills in a money clip. Rural residents of MS may or may not carry a driver's license. They are quite unlikely to be stopped for a driving offense, and if they are it may well be that the officer will be an acquaintance. The chance of being stopped at 6:30 AM on Saturday is even more remote.
Further evidence of the unconcern most residents have for licenses and such matters is found in the fact that the state did not even require motorists to carry insurance until recently.
I don't know, of course, if the Hargon's door was locked. However, I would wager that the doors of most rural homes in MS are unlocked during the daytime--when people are home. Even the smallest rural communities have churches, fish frys, lodges, and high school football games--and they are well-attended. People know their neighbors and interact with them regularly. Race relations here, as everywhere else I have lived, are imperfect, but the old days of black people experiencing continual, pervasive discrimination are gone. There is a very genuine sense of neighborliness in the rural areas. For example, any woman, or elderly or disabled man, with a flat tire, can expect the next car will stop and render assistance--irrespective of the race of those involved.
Given that this intimate knowledge of one's neighbors is the norm in rural areas, I'd be very surprised to learn that either Michael or Rebecca Hargon could have been involved in seriously deviant behavior, without that fact now being widely known. It remains the custom here for men to greet other drivers they meet on a rural road with a wave of acknowledgement as they go by. Because of such customs, I think it unlikely that anyone could spend much time at the Hargon home without being noticed. Recall that 6AM is not early in rural MS. Many people are already out and about at that hour, and a stranger would be quickly noted. Incidentally, those who have suggested that Mrs. Hargon may have been entertaining a man at home when her husband returned unexpectedly, are, I feel, being unrealistic. Even assuming the desire for such an assignation, it would take a remarkably brave--or foolish--couple to have such an encounter in an area like this. This is more the case, given that close family members live within sight of the Hargon home.
The discussion about weapons and gun safes on the Internet newsgroup "alt.true-crime" prompts these comments:
The vast majority of homes in MS contain weapons. If the discussion is restricted to rural homes, the percentage becomes almost 100%. Weekend gun shows here are ubiquitous and well attended. Hunting is a nearly universal sport, with deer, doves, turkeys, and other animals in abundant supply.
When a home contains kids, the guns are usually locked in a wall rack. Such a rack is a very common accessory in rural homes. I have never seen a "gun safe," --and will quickly admit to having made no search for them--but even the most modest home is likely to have a gun under the bed or by the door.
The home based weapons of choice are rifles and shotguns. Most vehicles will also contain a pistol.
I don't know what the state law might be with regard to having a pistol in your car, but, regardless of the technicalities, it would be an unusual case if a driver was not armed. I have never known of a single case were someone was arrested for merely having a gun in their car.
I seem to recall that there are very vague and old laws whereby you can even carry a concealed weapon if you carry large sums of money (however that might be defined) or if you are more than 50 miles from your home. Don't quote me on this, as the rules are, in any event, hardly worth knowing if they aren't enforced.
I grew up in NY where the Sullivan Act made hand guns a great novelty--at least among the law-abiding. For example, although I served a couple of terms in the local legislature, and was otherwise known as a responsible citizen, it was necessary for me to go before a judge and present a doctor's statement that I was not nuts, letters of recommendation from the DA and police chief, an FBI report, a lengthy and inclusive application form, a set of fingerprints, and a very solid reason why I needed to carry a gun, before I was granted permission to do so. The entire process usually took between six months and a year to complete.
But a different ethos exists in MS. The people here have grown up in homes where guns were common, they have used guns for hunting since they were children, and they have been taught to use them responsibly and safely. Not too surprisingly they view gun licensing and other weapon regulations with
suspicion and dislike.
I have heard nothing that would cause me to believe that the Hargon family did not share these values with regard to guns. Therefore, I would be very surprised if Michael's home and truck did not contain weapons. And I think any theory about the unfortunate events in Vaughan should take into account this likelihood.