The 2000 Census for Yazoo County, Mississippi states that there is a little over 28,000 folks who live in Yazoo County, Mississippi. (Census Factfinder) Their local Chamber of Commerce describes the sites and attractions in this southern county with pride cataloging the gifts offered in this community as ante-bellum homes, sacred Indiana mounds, wildlife and agriculture. (Yazoo County Chamber of Commerce) Planning for spring and fall events, the community has already scheduled festivals, fairs, and tributes. Life goes on in Yazoo County as usual and yet for some, life has changed forever in just a few short weeks.
The nation first became alarmingly aware that something was array in Yazoo County on February 16, 2004 when the first news stories surfaced about a missing family – the Hargon Family. On February 18 ABC news reported that a well-liked family living in rural Mississippi were reported missing over the weekend. The clues left at their house were menacing – gun shell casings and blood.
Ernestine Banks, a family friend, alerted the relatives that something was wrong at the Hargon home when she drove by and noticed that their front door was open along with the driver’s door to one of Michael’s pickups. (The Clarion-Ledger, 2/17/04) She first noticed the doors at 7:40 a.m. and then again at 10:15 Benny Fisher was the last person to see Michael alive. He had breakfast with him about 6:30 a.m., Saturday at his Canton home. Michael drove off around 6:45 a.m. heading toward his home.
Michael, 27, worked in construction for Warren Excavation near Gluckstadt for four and one half years while Rebecca, 29, was employed as a physical therapist assistant at Tyler-Holmes Hospital in Winoma. The couple was last since Friday evening, February 13. They vanished from their home on February 14, Valentines Day.
As new evidence surfaced and the days passed, it looked more and more like someone had kidnapped this family. They had simply vanished leaving behind James Patrick’s medicine and Rebecca’s wedding rings. Officially law enforcement was calling this a missing persons case, but with the blood and shell casing found, speculation was high that foul play was involved.
Investigators continued to scour the area; a vigil in Rebecca’s hometown, Poplar Bluff, Missouri, was planned; a substantial reward was offered; missing person flyers hung ominously in local store windows; volunteers helped law enforcement comb the nearby woods; and family members appeared on Larry King Live on Friday, February 20.
As viewers watched, the family spoke fondly of Michael and Rebecca. Bill Hirtz, Rebecca’s brother, said of them: “…they were a normal married couple – with a – you know, with a happy child, and they loved each other very much.” (2/20/04 Larry King Live)
Saturday, February 21, brought no word regarding the whereabouts of the family. Local residents were shocked. "We don't worry about locking our doors," said Jewel Moore, who lives about a mile up the road from the Hargon family's modest brown brick home. (Star Telegram, 2/21/04) Considering the crime statistics in Yazoo County in 2000 show zero murders and the highest number of offenses in the county being traffic violations, it is understandable that local residents felt safe in this community. (Statistics, Federal Bureau of Investigation to the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data, University of Michigan, 2000)