New Details in 1946 Mystery Death

8-9-04 - In 1946, 25 year old Harold Vest was found hanging in his cabinet shop in Gainesville. His death was ruled a suicide, but six decades later, Vest's son is digging up new clues that might prove his father was instead, murdered.

Last week, 2,000 Gainesville residents over the age of 74 received a letter from Herb Vest. Vest was only two years old when his father died in 1946. Late last year, he hired a private investigator to look into his father's death. The investigator put an ad in the Gainesville paper in October 2003. Months later, he received a letter from a woman calling herself "M. Smith." Smith claimed she knows what happened to Harold Vest and was in the cabinet shop the night he was killed.

Smith claims she went to the cabinet shop to flirt with Buddy Vest that night. Her boyfriend, a married Gainesville Police Officer, flew into a jealous rage. He came to the cabinet shop with two friends. The three men brutalized both "Smith" and Vest. They hung Vest from a nail in the restroom and shoved a rag in his mouth.

Smith claims the police department covered up the murder and strong-armed the Justice of the Peace into ruling the death a suicide. She also says one of the men involved is still alive and living in Gainesville.

The investigation into the death led the Vest family to a cemetery in Henrietta, Texas, where the body of Harold Vest was exhumed to look for clues about his death.

Now, Vest is searching for other clues. So far, the 2,000 letters mailed last week have not turned up any new leads.