Foul play suspected, arrest made in Leonard family's disappearance

By: KXII-TV Staff Email
By: KXII-TV Staff Email

LEONARD, TX - Texas Rangers and Fannin County Sheriff's deputies are headed to DeSoto Parish, Louisiana, where investigators are waiting to open a trailer they say may hold the bodies of the three missing people.

The DeSoto Parish Sheriff says they caught up to the suspect at a local car dealership.

"In fact he was sitting in there, talking to the service manager, when deputy Kevin Calhoun from Caddo Parish seen the truck in the shop, seen him sitting there with the service manager and took him into custody at that time at Granger Ford," said Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle.

Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle says 52-year-old Thomas Taunton was arrested on a capital murder charge after his pickup truck broke down in Stonewall, Louisana.

Arbuckle tells us US Marshals called his office asking for help to find the suspect and deputies arrested Taunton on a capital murder charge.

Authorities believe he may have killed three members of his family who live on State Highway 78, near Leonard, in Fannin County.

Neighbors say an elderly couple, Harold and Sue Harpst, and their adult daughter live at the home.

The Fannin County Sheriff's office is calling this a missing persons case. They do say inside the home, investigators found evidence of foul play, but would not elaborate.

Brenda Beck lives less than a mile away from the Harpst family...

"What I've heard is just very, very scary, and it's horrible for something like that to happen in this community," Beck said.

Taunton is in the DeSoto Parish Jail. US Marshals, along with the Desoto and Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office are investigating.

The Fannin County Sheriff's Office issued a press release Thursday, saying that yesterday they got a tip that the residents of a home located at 14050 State Highway 78 in Leonard might be missing. Investigators went to the home to see if anyone was there, and no one answered. The sheriff's office says investigators entered the home and found evidence of foul play. Additional agencies were called in and a search began for the three residents, identified as Harold and Sue Harpst and another family member believed to be their adult daughter.

Late Thursday afternoon, First News learned that 52-year-old Thomas Taunton was arrested in Desoto Parish, Louisiana, on three felony murder warrants after his Ford F-250 broke down near Stonewall.

Rumors have been flying all over the small town of Leonard about the missing family's possible whereabouts. Resident Brenda Beck lives less than a mile away from the home and is upset about what she's heard.

"You're used to living out in the country, and you don't have to lock your doors. Then all of a sudden you hear this and it's right down the road from you, and it's just very scary," Beck says.

We will update this developing story as more details emerge.

Fannin Co. Sheriff's Office press release

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