Harold  E Harpst was born in Owensboro, Daviess County, Kentucky, on September 23, 1938 and passed away January 21, 2012, probably near Sherman, Grayson County, Texas.  Death was due to a gun-shot wound. (See newspaper articles below.)

He was the son of Harold E & Lena (Adams) Harpst.

He was the husband of Willie Sue (Walthall) Taunton Harpst, married 25 Jul 1998 in Dallas County, Texas.

Survivors include his children, Sarah and Mark (from a prior marriage.) and step-children, Regina Taunton and Thomas Taunton.

He was a graduate of the Princeton, Indiana High School, and was a member of the Honor Society. He retired from Western Union.




Leonard, TX

FANNIN COUNTY -- Fannin County Sheriff's Deputies and Texas Rangers arrived in Louisiana Friday morning with a search warrant. First, they went into Thomas Taunton's pickup. They removed a bicycle, tools, and a ladder.

Investigators then opened the trailer the 52-year-old Taunton was pulling behind his pickup. But they didn't find any bodies, only household items.

Police believe Taunton killed his step-father, Harold Harpst, his mother, Sue Harpst and his adult sister.

Authorities arrested
Taunton in Stonewall, Louisiana Thursday after a deputy spotted him at an auto dealership.

“Sue was probably the strong one in the family," said Willie Johnson, who was the Harpst’s pastor at a small community church on the square in Leonard.

Johnson talks affectionately about Harold Harpst, A diabetic who lost both his legs.

"And with Harold being in a wheelchair, we had something in common. And he was always joking. He said he would join the church when he got to where he could walk. And I said, well, you're never going to join then. And we laughed about that," said Johnson.

The Pastor said Tom Taunton visited his family in between construction jobs.

"It was very shocking because he seemed to be attentive to both of them,” Pastor Johnson said. “As of last week, Thomas and his step-father were over here. They sat out here in the driveway and talked for quite a while about everything."

Johnson said the Harpsts were at his Sunday church service but left early. The pastor told us on Sunday night at 10 p.m., Taunton knocked on his door, asking if the pastor knew where his parents were.

"You know, he seemed a little bit different,” Johnson said. “He was quiet."

News 8 learned investigators are also looking for the Harpst’s silver Dodge Caravan equipped with a wheelchair lift.  Neighbors said they haven't seen it since Sunday.







Posted on January 19, 2012 at 3:06 PM

Updated Saturday, Jan 21 at 5:54 PM

LEONARD - A man has been arrested in the suspected homicide of three people at a ranch in Fannin County.


Thomas Taunton, 52, was arrested in Stonewall, Louisiana for allegedly killing three members of his family. Authorities seized a 16-foot enclosed trailer and truck and Texas Rangers and Fannin County deputies are headed to the location with a search warrant.


While Taunton told authorities only personal belongings and clothing are inside the trailer, authorities suspect the three bodies of the missing families members may be inside.


The relation of Taunton to the victims has not been released.


Earlier in the afternoon, Fannin County authorities reported that they suspected foul play in the disappearance of an elderly couple and their daughter.


Neighbors identified the couple as Harold and Sue Harpst, who live just outside of Leonard in southwestern Fannin County.


Mr. Harpst is a double leg amputee and a diabetic. The couple's daughter moved into the ranch home to care for her elderly parents several years ago, neighbors said.


The couple have lived in Leonard for the last seven years and were last seen by neighbors on Sunday.

Law enforcement personnel said they became suspicious when upon entering the home they found evidence of foul play.




Posted on January 22, 2012 at 9:28 PM

Updated Sunday, Jan 22 at 11:10 PM

LEONARD, Texas — Fannin County detectives are still looking for evidence after three murder victims were found Saturday night.


The bodies of Harold and Sue Harpst and her adult daughter Regina Taunton of Leonard were found in a barn near Sherman on Saturday after their disappearance was reported on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Sue Harpst's son, Thomas Taunton, is being held in Louisiana, waiting for extradition.


Residents in this small community are now dealing with the reality of murder — and few answers to all their questions.


Darvin Nolen still looks at the front porch where he and Harold Harpst would rock and talk for hours. "He would kind of solve the world's problems sitting on that front porch," Nolen said.

He remembers the fence they built together so Harold could see the goats and donkeys grazing on his property.


And Nolen recalls the phone conversations with Thomas Taunton, hours before police started asking questions about Harpst's stepson.


"Thomas and Harold had a falling out, and Harold asked him to leave," Nolen explained. "He said, 'I hadn't been back in a couple of weeks, and now I can't get in touch with anybody.' He said, 'I just wanted to know what was going on.'"


Harold and Sue Harpst and their adult daughter were all found dead near a barn in Grayson County on Saturday. They were reported missing Wednesday.


The Fannin County Sheriff said more evidence was recovered at the scene, but there are still no answers as to how the family died — or what links Taunton to the slayings.


The Leonard community looked for answers at Sunday church services. Pastor Willie Johnson found comfort in scripture at the Harpst's home church.


He described the morning ritual as tense, with the congregation still in shock, seeking comfort.

"Healing is being able to sit around and talk to each other about it, and understand that we don't have the answers for everything," Johnson said.


Nolen wishes he had asked different questions when Taunton called him last week. Now he's just trying to make sense of the murders, knowing Sue Harpst won't be around to share her gardening ideas this spring.

And Harold's favorite rocking chair will remain empty.


"There won't be any more of them long conversations," Nolen said. "I just can't believe that it's real. That it's really happened."


The medical examiner will attempt to determine how, where and when the three victims were killed.

If Thomas Taunton does not waive extradition, Fannin County will seek a warrant to bring him back to Texas for questioning.





Posted on January 23, 2012 at 11:14 AM

Updated Monday, Jan 23 at 12:48 PM

LEONARD, Texas - The three bodies found Saturday night in a barn in Grayson County have been identified as three people reported missing from Fannin County, authorities confirmed Monday.


The medical examiner identified the bodies as Sue and Harold Harpst and their adult daughter Regina Taunton of Leonard. While the cause of death for Mr. Harpst's has been confirmed to have been that from a gunshot wound, the cause of deaths for the other two victims have not been released.


The suspect in their deaths, Thomas Taunton, Sue Harpst's son, waived extradition in Louisiana and will be picked up by Texas Rangers to return to the state.


Authorities first became suspicious after receiving a missing persons report Wednesday and upon entering the Harpst's home Friday to discover evidence of foul play. The bodies of the three victims were found the following day in a barn near Sherman.


Taunton was detained Friday after authorities in Louisiana spotted his pickup truck hauling a trailer.



HAROLD HARPST       09/23/1938 – 01/ ? /2012

Suspect in 3 deaths returning to Texas

All three died of gunshot wounds

Updated: Tuesday, 24 Jan 2012, 2:08 PM EST
Published :
Monday, 23 Jan 2012, 5:52 PM EST

SHERMAN, Texas (AP) - A man suspected in the shooting deaths of three people whose bodies were found behind a North Texas barn was expected Monday to be returned to the state after his arrest in neighboring Louisiana, authorities said.

Thomas L. Taunton was arrested last week near Shreveport in connection with the deaths of Harold Harpst, 73, Sue Harpst, 79, and Regina Taunton, 48. Regina Taunton is Sue Harpst's daughter. Authorities have not said whether Thomas Taunton is related to the three dead.

Autopsies showed all three victims died of gunshot wounds. They were found Saturday near Sherman, about 30 miles from their home near rural Leonard.

Thomas Taunton was arrested Thursday after authorities found his pickup truck at a repair shop in Stonewall, La., DeSoto Parish Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle said. Taunton had stopped there because his truck had broken down, authorities said.

Louisiana investigators would turn over evidence from Taunton's trailer and car to Texas investigators, Arbuckle said. He declined to say if a gun was found inside the vehicles.

Taunton, 52, was still being held at the DeSoto Parish Jail Monday afternoon. Arbuckle said Taunton had signed paperwork to allow his extradition to Texas. He expected Taunton to be transferred Monday night.

Taunton's attorney in Louisiana, Angela Waltman of Shreveport, declined to comment.

Neighbors in Leonard last saw the three victims more than a week ago at Sunday church services in Leonard, the (Sherman) Herald Democrat reported.

The Fannin County Sheriff's Office did not release new details Monday. The Texas Rangers declined to comment

(Harold Harpst is a double leg amputee and a diabetic.)




12:01 am - January 24, 2012 — Updated: 12:01 am - January 24, 2012

Fannin County victims died of gunshots    By Mary Jane Farmer  Herald Democrat


LEONARD — The Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office has returned its preliminary findings on the cause and manner of death in the case of the three Leonard area residents found dead in a Sherman area field late Saturday, three days after Fannin County Sheriff’s Office began searching for the missing family members.


Grayson County Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2, James Harris reported that the medical examiner’s office has positively identified all three victims as Harold Harpst, 73, Sue Harpst, 79, and Sue’s daughter Regina Taunton, 48.  Their findings are that the deaths are homicide caused by gunshots to each victim.  Sources asking that their identifications be withheld have said that Regina Taunton was to have testified Monday morning in a Dallas County court in a hotly-disputed custody case involving her family members.


Suspect Thomas Lloyd Taunton, 52, was returned from a DeSoto Parish, Louisiana, jail cell to the Fannin County Jail late Monday night after waiving extradition.


It appears from interviews with local residents and fellow church members that it was Jan. 15 when anyone last saw the three people alive, as they left a Leonard church in their specially-equipped van, necessary to accommodate Mr. Harpst, a double amputee.


The vehicle is still missing, as of Monday, said Fannin County S.O. Chief Deputy James Woods. It is a silver 2007 Dodge Caravan with Texas handicap license plate No. 8CPYH. It is equipped with a wheelchair lift on the driver’s side and a wheelchair rack on the rear end.


Anyone with information on the whereabouts of this vehicle is urged to quickly call the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office at 903-583-2143 or contact the nearest law enforcement agency. The vehicle is listed in state and national crime information databases.


On Wednesday the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office received information, Sheriff Donnie Foster said earlier, that the Harpsts and Ms. Taunton were missing from their home, a 17-acre tract on State Highway 78 between Leonard and Bailey. When they went to and then inside the house, officers found “evidence of foul play,” Foster said. They began an investigation that hasn’t yet culminated, but progressed rapidly Thursday afternoon when Louisiana authorities arrested Thomas Taunton as he waited at a repair shop to have his pickup worked on. The Louisiana law enforcement officers were responding to Texas’ request to detain and hold suspect Thomas Taunton on the warrant charges of capital murder.


Fannin County S.O. investigators, along with Texas Rangers, went to Mansfield, Louisiana, with a search warrant to go through the truck and trailer in Thomas Taunton’s possession upon his arrest. They reported back to Foster, he said, that they had found “more evidence” in the suspect’s vehicles.


Saturday afternoon a Fannin County deputy, following up on a lead, discovered the bodies of the three victims discarded in the wooded area about two miles southwest of Sherman’s wastewater treatment plant on State Highway 11. Harris was called to the scene and had the three bodies sent to Dallas for autopsy. The final results of those autopsies could take up to two months.