Murder charges filed against 2nd man in 2014 homicide

The Platte County Prosecutor’s Office filed charges against a second man in connection with the 2014 homicide of Francisco Vargas III in Platte County. 

Kevin Hardin, 30, of Kansas City, Kan. faces one felony count of second-degree murder and one felony count of armed criminal action, accused of acting alone or with others in shooting Vargas to death at his home on Twin Springs Road near Parkville, Mo. Zak Mergy faces first-degree murder and armed criminal action charges in the case and currently awaits a jury trial tentatively scheduled to begin on Monday, Sept. 11.

Kevin Hardin

Kevin Hardin

Mergy has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“In 2014, we alleged Zakary Mergy may have had a partner in his crimes,” said Platte County prosecuting attorney Eric Zahnd after filing the charges against Hardin on Friday, Aug. 11.  “We have now charged Kevin Hardin with being that person.”   

According to court documents, a friend and family members of Vargas found him dead on Nov. 1, 2014 in his home where he had been shot several times. Vargas was selling drugs, primarily marijuana, from the house, according to several witnesses.

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.

During the course of the investigation, investigators obtained cell phone records and historical cell tower site records. Cell phones belonging to Hardin and Mergy allegedly indicate that both of them were in the immediate proximity of the Vargas’ residence at the time of the murder.  

When interviewed by detectives, however, Hardin allegedly said he had earlier left the area of Vargas’ residence when a drug deal had been canceled.

Mergy allegedly told detectives that Hardin admitted to Mergy that he had killed Vargas.  Hardin also allegedly told Mergy to get rid of the murder weapon, a handgun.

According to a probable cause statement, Mergy gave various convoluted stories during repeated interviews with authorities in an attempt to provide an alibi. The girlfriend spoke with Vargas at about 6:21 p.m. the day he died 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 found Vargas on the floor surrounded by glass, and she left the residence and came back with other family members, who found Vargas deceased.

Mergy also allegedly gave details about the crime known only to investigators, according to court documents.

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 the homicide. Investigators also located a handgun belonging to Mergy wrapped in several plastic bags, found with an inserted magazine containing live rounds, buried in his mother’s backyard.

According to court documents, eight shell casings and two bullets — all from the same type of weapon — were found inside Vargas’ home. Testing indicated all of them came from the gun buried in the backyard of his mother’s home.

Hardin remains in custody at the Wyandotte County Detention Center in Kansas City, Kan. in lieu of a $15,000 bond.