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 fact that Hargett has been indicted for second-degree attempted murder apparently hasn't fazed his powerful pals or interrupted his affluent lifestyle.

Just hours after Hargett was arrested on the attempted murder charge on Sunday, April 28, he showed up at a McKinney golf tournament, where one of his competitors was Rodney Neal, an investigator in the Collin County District Attorney's Office.

During an interview last week, District Attorney O'Connell confirmed that he skirted office procedures on Monday, April 29, when he ordered Neal to conduct his own informal investigation of the recent throat-slashing before the McKinney police had concluded theirs.

"I knew that they had known each other. I asked Rodney to find out what happened, and that was it. I was just curious about what happened," says O'Connell, who confirms that he, too, has played golf with Hargett in the past.

Despite the appearance of a conflict of interest, O'Connell says, he intends to prosecute Hargett to the full extent of the law.

"If anyone thinks this case is going to get preferential treatment, that's just wrong," O'Connell says. "We're going to handle the matter just like any other case."

In 1966, John Hargett was a junior at McKinney High School, and his classmates elected him "most handsome" for the second year in a row. The would-be doctor was a member of the Latin club and the Future Teachers of America.

That summer, at age 17, Hargett would also become a first-time offender. On June 27, McKinney police arrested Hargett for disorderly conduct after he got into an "affray" with another boy at the neighborhood Jiffey Dog drive-in, according to McKinney police records. No other details about what happened during the fight--or whether Hargett was charged with a crime--are available.

Hargett's police encounter, however, did not scare him straight, according to McKinney police records.

On January 1, 1967, McKinney police officer Milton Bardwell stopped Hargett when he observed that the lad's '58 Chevy nearly hit a parked car. Milton recovered a six-pack of beer and a half pint of vodka from the Chevy before he hauled Hargett downtown just after 1 a.m. Hargett, who thought it was midnight, told Milton he had been at a pool hall, where he went to "pick up people and shoot pool."

Again, there are no court records indicating that Hargett was prosecuted for the offense.

Teenage fights often are shrugged off with "boys will be boys" arguments, and back in the 1960s, a drunk driving arrest was akin to getting busted for making an illegal U-turn. But in 1973, if Allen resident Johnny Holmes is telling the truth, Hargett's tendency for getting into trouble took a much more serious turn.

Holmes claims that he and his former classmate got into a fight that year in the parking lot of the American Legion Hall in downtown McKinney. Holmes is a house painter by trade, and his face is bright red from the sun except for a dull white scar that runs down the left side of his cheek. Another scar, several inches in length, is visible on his neck.

"He [Hargett] put 128 stitches into me," says Holmes, as he unbuttons his paint-smeared oxford and points out a 4-inch scar on his left breast. A fourth scar trails across the underside of his left upper arm.

Before the fight, Holmes says, he and Hargett were drinking like fiends inside the Legion, not long after both men had returned home from Vietnam. At some point, Army veteran Holmes and Marine Corps veteran Hargett began arguing about which branch of the U.S. Armed Forces is more honorable.

"We were just drunk," Holmes says. "I told him you couldn't throw your own family a lump of sugar. He said, 'I'll whup you.' He couldn't whup me."

Naturally, they took it outside to duke it out like men.
"I bopped him all over the place, and the next thing I know he's chopping me up," says Holmes, who doesn't remember what Hargett cut him with, though he thinks it may have been a box cutter. "It was so sharp I didn't even know he was cutting me until he caught my [jugular] vein, and blood started spurting up into my eyes."

The day after the fight, Holmes says, a Collin County sheriff's deputy arrived at his home to arrest him, because Hargett had filed an attempted murder complaint against Holmes. When the deputy saw the stitches, he apparently changed his mind about who the offender was--and decided not to make an arrest.

Holmes says it never occurred to him that he could file charges against Hargett. "Back then, a fight was a fight. We shouldn't have been drinking," he says.

Sometime during the next few days, Holmes says, he and Hargett filed "peace bonds," or restraining orders, against each other. The Collin County sheriff's office, however, could not locate a copy of Hargett's complaint or the restraining orders.

"For some reason, the county got involved," says sheriff's spokesman Lieutenant John Norton. "It happened at the American Legion in McKinney, so it should have been a McKinney [police] case."

Norton says it isn't surprising that the records are gone, because, back in the 1970s, the department didn't have a records department to keep track of arrest reports and complaints. Instead, individual sheriffs kept the records, and took their files with them when they lost their elected offices.

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