KCK man convicted for role as murder accomplice in Platte County will serve life in prison

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jurors found a KCK man guilty of first degree murder on Tuesday in the killing of Francisco Vargas III in November of 2014. The jury deliberated for seven days before reaching a decision against Zakary Mergy.

The Platte County prosecutor explained that Mergy didn’t actually shoot Vargas to death, but was an accomplice.

“In this case, the state never alleged the defendant fired the shots that killed the victim. Instead, we presented extensive evidence proving the defendant aided and assisted another person in planning and carrying out the murder. This was a textbook case of accomplice liability,” prosecutor Eric Zahnd stated in a news release.

On November 1, 2014 a family member found Vargas lying face down on the floor of his home on Twin Springs Road in a large pool of blood. Sheriff’s department investigators found eight .40 caliber shell casings near his body after the deadly shooting.

A second man, Kevin Hardin, is accused of second-degree murder and armed criminal action in this case. A previous release from the prosecutor’s office says that Hardin admitted to Mergy that he had shot Vargas. The court document says the only explanation Hardin gave was: “it was what I felt I had to do.”

Kevin Hardin

Analysis of Mergy’s cell phone revealed that text messages were deleted during the time frame when the murder happened. An FBI special agent testified that Mergy’s phone was in the Northland utilizing cell towers in close proximity of Vargas’ home at the time of the shooting. Mergy said he was in KCK at that time.

Investigators spoke with Mergy several times, and he eventually admitted he knew Vargas was killed with a Springfield .40 caliber XDM handgun. He told investigators that he had been given the gun after the murder and he wrapped it in several plastic bags before burying it in his mother’s back yard, where investigators found it while executing a search warrant.

Kansas City Police Department Crime Lab analysts determined the cartridge cases and bullets recovered at the crime scene were from that gun. DNA test results on the gun, trigger and magazine showed Mergy as the major contributor.

“This defendant told lie after lie after lie to investigators. However, determined work by investigators and state-of-the-art crime fighting techniques allowed us to punch holes through all those lies. This defendant might not have pulled the trigger, but he aided and encouraged the murder and deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison,” Zahnd said in the release.

Mergy’s murder conviction means he’ll serve a life sentence in prison, and won’t be eligible for probation or parole. Jurors also recommended Mergy get 30 years in prison for armed criminal action.

His sentencing is scheduled for November 30 at 10:00 a.m.