A Platte County jury recently found Zakary F. Mergy of Kansas City, Kan. guilty of first-degree murder and armed criminal action after a week-long jury trial.
Mergy is the first of two defendants charged in the November 2014 murder of Francisco Vargas III, who died in his home near Parkville, Mo. The jury reached its verdict for Mergy on Wednesday, September 20.
Because he was convicted of first-degree murder, Mergy must serve a sentence of life in prison without eligibility for probation or parole. Jurors also recommended he be sentenced to 30 years in prison for armed criminal action.
Mergy is scheduled to be sentenced in Platte County Circuit Court at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 30.
“In this case, the state never alleged the defendant fired the shots that killed the victim,” Platte County prosecuting attorney Eric Zahnd said. “Instead, we presented extensive evidence proving the defendant aided and assisted another person in planning and carrying out the murder. This was a textbook case of accomplice liability.”
Evidence at trial showed that on Nov. 1, 2014, a family member of Vargas found him lying face down on the floor of his residence in a large pool of blood. Platte County Sheriff’s Office deputies later determined Vargas had been shot several times, finding eight .40 caliber shell casings near his body.
A neighbor reported seeing a gray vehicle at Vargas’ residence on the day he was shot. Investigators later determined that a 2008 gray Dodge Charger reportedly seen at the house was registered to a relative of Mergy.
Forensic analysis of a cell phone belonging to Mergy revealed deleted text messages during the time frame of the homicide. A special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cellular Analysis Survey Team testified that Mergy’s phone was in the Northland utilizing cell towers in close proximity of Vargas’ residence at the time of murder.
Mergy had earlier told investigators he was in Kansas City, Kan. at that time.
Interviewed on multiple occasions regarding Vargas’ death, Mergy eventually admitted he knew Vargas was killed with a Springfield .40 caliber XDM handgun. He told investigators that he had been given the gun by someone following the murder and that he wrapped the gun in several plastic bags before burying it in his mother’s back yard.
Investigators recovered a Springfield .40 caliber XDM handgun from Mergy’s mother’s back yard.
Forensic analysts with the Kansas City (Mo.) Police Department 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.
During the execution of a search warrant at Mergy’s residence, investigators found a jar that a witness said he had seen at Vargas’ residence two days before Vargas’ murder.
“This defendant told lie after lie after lie to investigators,” Zahnd said. “However, determined work by investigators and state-of-the-art crime fighting techniques allowed us to punch holes through all those lies. This defendant might not have pulled the trigger, but he aided and encouraged the murder and deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.”
The case was investigated by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department, the Kansas City Metro Squad, the Kansas City Police Department Crime Laboratory and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by first assistant prosecuting attorney Mark Gibson and assistant prosecuting attorney Hannah Herring.
Recently, the Platte County Prosecutor’s Office filed the same felony charges in the case against Kevin Hardin, 30, of Kansas City, Kan. He remains in custody at the Wyandotte County (Kan.) Detention Center while awaiting court hearings on other charges.