Last week, Platte County prosecutor Eric Zahnd charged a Kansas City, Kan. man with the murder of Francisco Vargas III. Zakary F. Mergy, 27, is accused of acting alone or with others in shooting the victim to death Nov. 1 in his home on NW Twin Springs Road in southern Platte County.
According to a probable cause statement, Mergy gave various convoluted stories during repeated interviews in an attempt to provide an alibi.
Investigators were able to disprove them and eventually located enough physical evidence to charge Mergy on Dec. 22 with second-degree murder and armed criminal action – both felonies. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.
According to the probable cause statement, Vargas’ girlfriend spoke with him at 6:21 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 1 while en route to his house. He didn’t respond to a text message sent 16 minutes later, and she arrived moments later with her two young daughters.
The girlfriend set food she had purchased inside the house, and her older daughter came outside and told her, “Daddy needs help.”
Upon re-entering the house, the girlfriend found Vargas in the dining room area, lying face down in a pool of blood with glass around his feet. She heard a noise and fled the residence, fearing someone might still be in the house.
The girlfriend later returned with several members of Vargas’ family and determined he had been shot several times.
The Kansas City Regional Crime Lab and investigators responded to the scene and found nine cartridge casings and one fired bullet underneath the victim. All of the recovered casings were Speer .40 caliber Smith and Wesson.
A neighbor later provided information about a gray sedan parked behind the victim’s vehicle in the driveway around the time of the murder. The girlfriend indicated the vehicle could be associated with Kevin Hardin, a friend of the victim. Family members also confirmed that Vargas sold illegal drugs, primarily marijuana, at his residence.
Further investigation connected Hardin and Mergy to a gray 2008 Dodge Charger, registered to Mergy’s mother.
Kansas City Metro Squad investigators, who took charge of the case in the early stages, first interviewed Mergy on Nov. 5, and he told them that Hardin had met with the victim almost two hours before the murder and gave an alibi, stating he’d picked up a pizza at a Little Caesar’s near his home in Kansas City, Kan. around the time of the murder.
Mergy said he learned of the homicide from a news report
That story was later disproved by surveillance photos, and cell phone records showed cell phones belonging to Mergy and Hardin were in the immediate vicinity of the victim’s residence at the time of the murder. Mergy then tried to pin the crime on Hardin and claimed he only disposed of the weapon after Hardin returned to his residence that night.
However, Mergy also provided specific details about Vargas’ injuries determined to only be known to investigators.
Investigators recovered a Springfield .40 caliber XDM handgun belonging to Mergy wrapped in several plastic bags. The weapon, which was found with an inserted magazine containing live rounds, was buried in Mergy’s mother’s backyard. Court documents indicate that the Kansas City Regional Crime Lab determined the cartridge cases and bullets recovered at the crime scene were from that gun.
DNA test results on the gun, trigger and magazine showed Mergy as the major contributor along with DNA attributed to Hardin. DNA found on the loaded magazine belonged to Hardin.
During the execution of a search warrant at Mergy’s residence, investigators found a jar reportedly used to hold marijuana that a witness said he had seen at Vargas’ residence two days before Vargas’ murder.
Mergy, listed at 6-foot-6, 320 pounds according to Kansas City (Kan.) Detention booking information, remains in custody on a $500,000 cash-only bond. Hardin has not been charged with any crimes at this time.