Much of the local and national radio, TV, and print media descended on the Yazoo County Courthouse in Yazoo City, MS this morning in anticipation of the arraignment of Earnest Lee Hargon on undisclosed charges related to the disappearance of the Michael Hargon family.
Shortly before the time scheduled for the court proceeding, Highway Patrol spokesman Warren Strain informed those present that the hearing would be delayed. He would only say that a "profound" new development meant the appearance before Judge P. L. May had to be delayed. Strain told the press that the search had been renewed and that top officials were en route to an area just south of the previous search scene. He would not disclose what prompted the new search. The media then was left to speculate as to the meaning of the statement until the hearing which was rescheduled for late in the afternoon.
Just after 5PM, Hargon was brought to the tiny courtroom where Judge May announced that he was being charged with three counts of capital murder. She refused to set bail, assigned a legal aid attorney to represent Hargon, and the hearing quickly ended. I was standing where I could see Hargon being led out of the room. As he left, he passed just a few feet from Michael Hargon's mother who seemed to be trying to quietly ask him for some explanation. Other family members comforted her.
There were some in the crowd who yelled as Hargon was led from a police car to the Courthouse, but, for the most part, the crowd was orderly--and, I felt, surprisingly small. I expected to see Hargon under a lot of police protection and, perhaps, entering the Courthouse through a back entrance. Instead, he made a "perp" walk of about 30 yards. He was not wearing leg shackles and did not appear to be wearing a bullet proof vest.
Just after the hearing, Warren Strain, spokesman for the Highway Patrol, Yazoo County DA James Powell and Sherrif James Williams, conducted a press briefing. They refused to speculate about a motive in the case. They expressed confidence in their case and confidence that the bodies would be discovered.
About two hours following the briefing, CNN broke the story that authorities had indeed found three bodies at the new search scene. While only an autopsy is considered definitive, there can be little doubt that the search for the Hargon family is now over. The focus now is on a search for justice.
The funeral took place shortly after 11AM this morning in a small Catholic church in nearby Canton, MS. It was broadcast live by all three local TV network outlets.
The service was conducted by Rebecca's uncle, Father Daniel Hirtz, who is a priest in Salem, Missouri.
It began with, "How Great Thou Art," being sung while the family members took their seats in the first few rows of the 200 seat chapel. Rebecca's uncle, Richard Fuemmeler, then read a passage from Genesis before a female soloist sang a prayer. Another of Rebecca's uncles, Darryl Hirtz, then read from I Corinthians, followed by Deacon Fred Hirtz, Rebecca's great-uncle, who also read from the Bible.
Father Daniel Hirtz then spoke to those assembled, giving the homily and expressing thanks to law enforcement officials, members of the media, and to those around the world who had lent support to the family. He asked for prayers for the murderer, who, he noted, had worshiped in that very church. He asked that he be spared and "have many years to repent."
Deacon Fred Hirtz then led the congregation in directed prayer, followed by an offertory as a small choir sang, "On Eagles Wing." The congregation then recited The Lord's Prayer.
Another soloist sang, "Amazing Grace," and the choir sang other hymns while the congregation took part in the communion ritual.
Father Hirtz then offered a final prayer over the closed single casket, and performed other ablutions consistent with Catholic rites.
The congregation sang, "Hosea," during the recessional, and the service ended at about 12:20 PM CST.
Committal services at the cemetery adjacent to the Ellison United Methodist Church in Vaughan will follow.