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Jurors levy death penalty in Mississippi slayings

YAZOO CITY, Miss. -- A jury decided yesterday that a truck driver who killed a couple and their toddler son in anger over a lost inheritance should receive the death penalty.

Earnest Lee Hargon, 45, was convicted Saturday in the Valentine's Day 2004 murders of a cousin, Michael Hargon, 27, Michael's wife, Rebecca, 29, and their son, James Patrick, 4.

Hargon showed little emotion as the verdicts were read.

''I'm not going to be happy to see Earnest Lee Hargon suffer the death penalty, but he earned it," District Attorney James Powell said after the verdict.

Prosecutor Wilton McNair told jurors that Hargon should be executed because ''these people weren't just killed, they were tortured."

Defense attorney Wesley Evans argued that a sentence of life in prison was more appropriate.

''When you succumb to the human emotion of vengeance, you may feel good for a little while but that feeling goes away," Evans told the jury. ''Then you're left with the notion that you took a human life."

Juror Barbara Samuell said the panel voted for the death penalty largely because of Hargon's confession to police. ''It was very direct and very matter of fact," she said. ''I didn't feel any remorse in it."

The three victims were killed in their home, and their bodies were found in a shallow grave nearly 100 miles away three weeks later.

Prosecutors said Hargon had killed them because his adoptive father had written Hargon out of his will and added his cousin.

The defense said prosecutors had ignored other possible suspects, including a gang that may have had a grudge against Michael Hargon for testifying against one of its members.

Elizabeth Moore, Rebecca Hargon's sister, said the family had spent two years being angry at Hargon. ''Now my time will be spent remembering Rebecca, Michael and James Patrick," she said.

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