Under the Knife

After a long history of public drunkenness and allegations of slashing two men's throats, it is time to examine the troubled practice of Dr. John Hargett

The doctor was in. He was seated at a table beside the bar, and he'd been there for five hours, drinking with several of his McKinney buddies.

It looked like any other Saturday night inside Chris' Blue Tees sports bar in downtown McKinney. On April 27, 1996, the Indiana Pacers were battling the Atlanta Hawks on the large-screen TV in the dining area, a room festooned with neon Bud signs and Dallas Cowboys posters. Regulars lined the U-shaped bar, sipping cocktails and gnawing on chicken wings beneath a row of golf course pennons that hang from the ceiling.

Truck driver Kerry Recer reckons it was about 10 p.m. when he walked through the front door and took a seat at the bar next to an elderly couple he knew.

Recer, a lean man with a ruddy complexion, drew on his beer and chatted casually for nearly an hour before the doctor, John Hargett, approached the bar and invited Recer to his house, according to court documents.

Recer planned to drive to neighboring Plano that night and declined the curious invitation. Both men were regulars at Chris' Blue Tees, so Recer knew Hargett. But he'd never been asked to Hargett's house before.

Some 15 minutes later, one of Hargett's friends--Mary Wysong, a member of the McKinney family that founded the city's only hospital--sidled up to Recer and re-extended Hargett's invitation. Recer declined again, but decided to join the party at their table, according to McKinney police accounts.

He took a seat between Whitney Wysong and her friend Stacey Jones, who works as a clerk at the Collin County Courthouse.

The conversation flowed past midnight, along with the booze. Then at some point someone ordered a round of Goldschlager--a cinnamon-flavored liqueur sprinkled with 24-carat gold flakes. When the shots arrived at Hargett's table, the doctor's sociable personality suddenly turned violent, according to sworn depositions given by Recer and McKinney police officer Terry Morrison, who was assigned to investigate the events of that evening.

Hargett accused Recer of ordering the shots for the women at his table, and--growing increasingly upset--warned him not to do it again.

Recer, who claims he didn't order the drinks, thought Hargett was kidding. He thought again when Hargett pushed back his chair and slowly rose to his feet.

"He said, 'I'll fucking take you out,'" Recer stated in a sworn deposition.
Recer, who noticed that Hargett's hands were in his pockets, flipped the table out of the way so he could see if the doctor was armed. Hargett made the next move.

"A fight started where Dr. Hargett came at him [Recer], and he either sidestepped or Dr. Hargett fell to the ground," Officer Morrison stated in his account. "They had fought for a little bit back and forth, pushing and shoving. They ended up over by the bar with Dr. Hargett on the ground and Mr. Recer above him."

At that point, Recer says, somebody hit him from behind, and he went down on one knee. With Hargett lying on the floor in front of him, Recer says, someone grabbed hold of him from behind, covering his eyes.

"The next thing I know is they pulled me back around to the other side of the bar, and that's when...I was told that I had been cut," Recer stated in his deposition.

An ambulance rushed Recer to the Columbia Medical Center of McKinney--the former Wysong Memorial Hospital--where doctors stitched up the life-threatening gash, which was 5 inches long and one-fourth to three-eighths of an inch deep. It was a "close call," the doctors said, but Recer would come through OK.

Hargett, meanwhile, had run out of the bar and attempted to drive away, but Stacey Jones stopped him from getting in his truck, according to her written statement to police.

"Dr. Hargett told me standing outside [that] he cut him bad, and he was going to the hospital," wrote Jones, who was outside the bar at the time of the fight. "At that point I didn't know who he was talking about. He [Hargett] started to get into my car and I said you cannot go with me."

Hargett gave Jones the keys to his 1994 Dodge Ram pickup--as well as the bloody pocket knife--then fled the scene with the Wysongs, Jones stated.

Some time later, Hargett and the Wysongs arrived at Mary Wysong's McKinney home and left a message for the doctor's lawyer, John Hardin.

While they nervously waited for Hardin to return the telephone call, Hargett, who'd emerged unscathed from the barroom brawl, told the Wysongs he was "defending their honor and that he feared for his life," according to police accounts.

Neither Hargett nor his attorneys would discuss the case.

McKinney residents were stunned by the news that one of their long-time physicians had been involved in a knife fight. A family practitioner who has delivered babies and patched wounds for 13 years, Hargett is known for his generosity in treating cash-poor patients and for his good bedside manner.

McKinney police issued a warrant for Hargett's arrest the day of the brawl, and like a good citizen, the 48-year-old doctor immediately turned himself in. He posted $50,000 bail, and eventually returned to work at his McKinney Family Clinic.

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