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Thread: TX - Joost Family in Hays County, 1980s - Murder or Murder-Suicide?

  1. #1
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    TX - Joost Family in Hays County, 1980s - Murder or Murder-Suicide?

    I have a couple of cases I'd like to start threads on. Please forgive me if there's already a thread going (I didn't know how to search) and if so maybe someone from admin can help me find and post on it instead.

    The first case is from when I lived in Texas in Hays county. Most of this detail is from memory, but I will try to fill in with any info resources I can find.

    In the 1980's, an official with the Texas Racing Commission, Peter Joost, along with his wife and two children, were shot to death in their home. The gun was found next to Joost's body, but I was never able to find out if it was registered to him, or known to be his prior to the deaths.

    I had heard from someone inside the Sherriff's Dept, with whom I sometimes tangentially worked, that the crime scene was mishandled in terms of being trampled by many LE personnel, that it is possible that one or more of the bodies transported cast off blood on the way out of the house (don't know if this was due to not being fully zipped into the bag or due to being transported out on stretchers only - because I just can't remember what the individual said. I know that I asked, just can't remember the answer to that one. The story is though that an arm of one of the victims fell off the stretcher or out of the bag and could have contaminated part of the scene with blood), and that the evidence collection was sloppy. At the time, a crime scene of this nature was uncommon in rural Hays county. Also, the SD (or SO as we called it) had had an outgoing Sherriff who was less than stellar with training the deputies. The current Sherriff, Paul Hastings, was bringing about change with better training, etc. But it took time, and all was not in place at the time of the Joost family deaths. (It is fair to note that in all of my dealings with Sherriff Hastings I personally found him to be fair and even-handed, even going so far as to bring in another agency to investigate early in a case if it looked like there might be a conflict - In other words, I did think he strove to avoid even the appearance of impropriety from what I saw).

    When Joost died, he was under a lot of work pressure from the Texas Racing Commission. Those posts are traditionally political and high stress so this is nothing that out of the ordinary, but there were rumors that he had information about corruption in the agency that actually caused him to be afraid for his safety and the safety of his family. That he was considering some type of whistle blower style accusations against the commission. There was rumor of organized crime involved in the case, rumor stating that there was hit on all four family members.

    Also, it was said that Mrs. Joost was scrupulous in terms of cleaning. That she kept everything in her home perfectly clean and in its place. Yet purportedly (and I don't know if this is true or rumor) there was a vacuum sitting in the middle of the room, and all foot tracks had been vacuumed away. Some people found it odd that a) there would be no foot tracks from family and felt that the murderers vacuumed up their own foot tracks and felt also that b) Mrs. Joost would have never left a vacuum sitting out instead of putting it away.

    An elderly female judge, Orlena Hehl, was the magistrate in that area at the time (she is now deceased). Although a fairly canny woman, I don't believe that she has an actual law degree - I think she was more or less a layperson magistrate - could be wrong but that's what I seem to remember - and I think she was getting on up there in age at the time of the deaths. She first ruled the scene a murder sucide with Peter Joost as the shooter. Mr. Joost's family vehemently denied that this was possible. They hired their own experts and the magistrate did change her mind about it being a murder suicide, apparently due to other info that was presented to her.

    There was a 20/20 episode aired about the mystery. The deaths were probed in an article by the San Marcos Daily Record, but I can only find it indexed, can't find the article online: "Joost family- deaths probed, 02/25/96." There was also, at the time, a lawsuit brought against the Texas Racing Commission by the "Turf Club" in Houston and this kept the case from disappearing from public sight, at least to some extent.

    There is a book called Great Horse Racing Mysteries that details the Joost case with the story, "What Joost Knew." The promo says, "What Joost Knew - did the Texas Racing Commission official really kill his family and then commit suicide or were they murdered for something he knew?"

    Here are some press releases by the Sherriff's Dept (released sporatically on different dates during the years following this incident):
    http://www.zoominfo.com/people/Hasti...248659607.aspx
    brysonfarms.com/blog/?page_id=235 - [Cached Version]
    Published on: 1/5/1990 Last Visited: 2/6/2008
    Hays County Sheriff Paul Hastings said there was no sign of forced entry into the family's home at 108 Killdeer Drive in the Leisurewoods subdivision just south of the Hays/Travis county line.

    Hastings refused to rule out the possibility of a murder-suicide.

    "I'm not willing to say that," Hastings said.

    He also refused to say whether a note or other message was found in the house.
    ...
    Officials were not able to determine when the deaths occurred, but Hastings said the Sunday and Monday newspapers were found in the driveway.

    Hastings said none of the victims were shot in the head.

    Hastings said he was working with the Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers on the investigation.
    ...
    Hays County Sheriff Paul Hastings said state and sheriff's department investigators believe the pressure of Joost's job may have pushed him to commit what Hehl and Travis County Medical Examiner Robert Bayardo ruled a triple murder-suicide.
    ...
    He basically had an extremely difficult job," Hastings said.
    ...
    A .38-caliber revolver was found next to his body in a hallway, Hastings said.
    ...
    There was no sign of a struggle and no suicide note from Joost, although investigators "still have a lot of paper to go through and still haven't searched his office," Hastings said.
    ...
    Results from ballistics tests being conducted by the Department of Public Safety crime lab were not available Tuesday, but there is virtually no doubt the gun found near Joost's body was the murder weapon, Hastings said.

    "It's really hard for the family to take.I told them earlier that suicide was one possibility and they have to prepare themselves for that eventuality," Hastings said.
    ...
    Hastings said detectives were looking at the possibility that family problems added to pressure on Joost, but said the
    ...
    Hays County Sheriff Paul Hastings said Friday his office no longer was investigating the case."I'm convinced the murder-suicide ruling will stand for 1,000 years," he said.
    ...
    Hastings, contacted at home, said he would gladly appear at the inquest.But he maintains the judge's original ruling is correct.

    "Judge Hehl is a real nice lady, and I'm not going to get crossways with her," Hastings said.
    ...
    Hays County Sheriff Paul Hastings believes Hehl's original ruling was correct.

    And while he would not name the Turf Club, he said recently, "There is a lot of pressure because of that big lawsuit in Houston.
    ...
    Hays County Sheriff Paul Hastings said investigators had discovered that a boy who was supposed to spend Saturday night with Eric did not after Joost called and canceled the plans.
    ...
    As for the gunpowder burn on the left hand, Benningfield and Hastings both said that is not unusual.
    ...
    Hastings said his investigators had talked extensively to officials at Joost's previous workplaces and learned that Joost was under tremendous pressure.
    ...
    Hastings believes job pressure was the motive, although he says motive is secondary in significance to the evidence.
    ...
    Hays County Sheriff Paul Hastings, one of several law enforcement officials who maintain it is a case of murder-suicide, has been in favor of the inquest.

    During an interview last week, he said, "I feel like we need to go ahead and have the hearing so that I can let people know what we know about the case."

    He was surprised Tuesday to learn the hearing would not be held.

    "But the attorney general is the attorney general, and I guess he has legal reasons for his ruling," Hastings said.
    ...
    "To my knowledge, we haven't received any calls on the Joost case in about a month," Hastings said Friday.

    "We are not devoting any man hours to it," he said.
    ...
    Law enforcement officials, including Hastings, are confident it was the proper ruling.
    ...
    "The attorney general's opinion really put the skids on it," Hastings said."On a case like this, a person would be really stupid to be close-minded.But there's a point where you have to say this is as far as we can take the case.We've reached that point."

    Hastings said the case probably dragged on longer than it should have because of outside influence.Specifically, he spoke of the Houston Turf Club, which was embroiled in a $1 billion federal lawsuit filed against the Racing Commission.

    Hastings said Turf Club attorney Stuart Collins was using Joost's brother, Daniel, to further his own goals.
    ...
    "If the Turf Club attorneys hadn't been interested in lawsuits, I don't think they would have had any sympathy for the Joost family," Hastings said."They are strictly looking for money."
    ...
    Hays County Sheriff Paul Hastings said he is tired of hearing about the case and that the questions raised by the Joost family and their representatives are "beating the same dead horse."
    ...
    Hastings, during an interview in July, said his investigators found that the day before the shootings are thought to have occurred, Joost suddenly canceled plans for a friend of his son Eric to spend the night.
    ...
    Hastings has not identified the boy or his family.
    ...
    "I don't remember where we got that information," Hastings said.
    ...
    When contacted on Wednesday, Hays County Sheriff Paul Hastings, whose agency investigated the case, had no comment.

    The insurance companies, Group Life Health Insurance Company and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening at their offices in suburban Dallas.
    ...
    Asked on Tuesday if there is a suspect in the case, Hays County Sheriff Paul Hastings would not comment.
    ...
    Hays County Sheriff Paul Hastings was not in his office Friday afternoon, his secretary said.No one answered the telephone at his home.
    ...
    But Hays County Sheriff Paul Hastings said Wednesday he had kept his files confidential - even though his agency was doing minimal work on the case - because DPS had asked him to.

    He testified that his agency considers the case closed.
    ...
    Hastings, reached at his home Wednesday night, denied making such a comment.
    ...
    "If someone comes up with information to indicate otherwise, I'll eat crow and go after it," said Hastings, whose deputies and investigators were among the first on the scene.
    ...
    And they believe the subsequent investigation, led by Hays County Sheriff Paul Hastings, was completely botched.
    ...
    They interviewed as many officials as they could, including Sheriff Hastings, who dismisses the new evidence as well as the inconsistencies in old evidence turned up by private investigators Randy Cunningham and David Raines.
    ...
    One piece of information provided by the private investigators, which Sheriff Hastings categorically rejects, is a blood stain in an area of the house where none of the bodies was found.


    Ok, that's all I have on this one, but this case has always haunted me and there are so few data sources to review.

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    Just wanted to update this with some additional coverage I've found. Apparently the murders occurred in 1990 and not in the 80's. As part of a Texas Monthly article in February 1994, The Twilight of the Texas Rangers, http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/tw...gers/page/0/7:

    So tarnished was the Ranger image that by the beginning of the nineties, it was just as easy to suspect the Rangers of covering up evidence as it was to assume that they were doing their jobs honorably. When David Joost, the Texas Racing Commission’s chief financial officer, his wife, and their two children were found shot to death in March 1990, the Rangers promptly took charge of the case—and for the next four years seemingly did nothing. Though the Hays County sheriff’s department’s ruling had been that Joost had shot his family and then himself, numerous clues pointed to a multiple murder. Joost’s brother begged the state to let him know what the evidence in its possession suggested, but the Rangers refused to disclose anything, saying that the investigation was ongoing. Their silence, along with their refusal to pursue a number of angles to the case, led the media (including the news show 20/20) to speculate that the Rangers might be covering up a contract killing at the behest of powerful racing interests. Individuals involved in the Joost investigation say that this is not the case—that in fact the Rangers have been gathering evidence and are in the final stages of producing a documented finding. But the Rangers’ arrogant refusal to respond to earnest questions surrounding a high-profile case virtually guarantees that their conclusion about the Joost murders, whatever it happens to be, will not be accepted on faith.

    This is an interesting article that talks about a man named Stuart Collins, currently in the food industry in Canada, formerly an attorney in Texas (now debarred) who is in the middle of some sort of lawsuit as a result of legislation against the Texas Racing Commission. The story seems to insinuate that perhaps Mr. Joost and his family were killed perhaps because he planned to give evidence in that lawsuit (which was dismissed nine months after his death).

    Bittersweet Harvest, The Ottawa Citizen, October 2007, http://www.canada.com/story.html?id=...-cfa1536c5077:

    Then the case took a deadly twist.

    David Joost, an executive with the Texas Racing Commission, was found dead in the hallway of his home less than two weeks after the lawsuit was filed.

    A .38-calibre revolver reportedly lay beside his body. Mr. Joost's wife, 10-year-old son and five-year-old daughter lay in beds in the house, also killed by gunshots.

    Family members and friends were shocked -- even more so when police ruled it a murder-suicide.

    Mr. Joost was a loving husband and father who coached his son's soccer team and took his kids camping, relatives said. How could he be a killer?

    Relatives suspected the family was murdered because Mr. Joost knew something controversial about the Texas Racing Commission. They called for further investigation. Several weeks later, Mr. Cunningham offered to help.

    Mr. Collins soon joined the case, but some thought the lawyer's involvement was a conflict of interest.

    Authorities said Mr. Collins was using the Joost family's tragedy to buttress his charges of corruption within the Texas Racing Commission and keep the lawsuit in the spotlight.

    Mr. Collins and Mr. Cunningham were consumed by the cases and believed they were intertwined.

    Then, in September 1990, a U.S. District judge dismissed the Turf Club's billion-dollar lawsuit.


    I've found more press clippings, which I'll try to add later.

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