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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2009

    TX - David, 41, & Susan Joost, 35, & two children, Buda, 4 March 1990

    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):
    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.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    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.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Houston/San Antonio
    Hello! I happened along your post and I am intrigued to say the least. Can you verify for me the exact date of deaths, please? The press release by Sheriff Hastings is dated 1/5/1990 but the deaths occurred in March. I'm deducing the 3rd and found on the 6th but not sure. Thank you!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    I just stumbled across your post.. I was the President of The Houston Turf Club, and the one that filed the civil court case.. I can't shake the outrage over this obvious cover-up of an innocent family demise, to hide the corruption that reached the highest levels of Texas politics.. I'm curious if you have any additional information to add to your investigation.. Carlo Morelli

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Quote Originally Posted by lapegleg View Post
    Can you verify for me the exact date of deaths, please? The press release by Sheriff Hastings is dated 1/5/1990 but the deaths occurred in March. I'm deducing the 3rd and found on the 6th but not sure. Thank you!
    Their gravestones list the date of death as March 4, 1990.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    I realize this is a really old thread, but I thought I would add anyway.

    I knew this family. They were my neighbors and Eric, the boy, was my brother's best friend. My brother was, in fact, the boy who was supposed to sleepover at the Joost house on the night of the murder and David Joost did call my mom earlier in the day and cancel the sleepover. Eric was such a sweet boy, who had a terrible stutter that he worked hard to overcome. When he and my brother were in kindergarten, Eric would come to our door to play and couldn't even get the words out. Over the years, after speech therapy, he overcame the stutter. My first thought when I learned he had died was that it was such a waste for him to work so hard at that only to be killed in the 5th grade. I was 14 when he died and I cried many tears with the image of 5 year old Eric standing on our front stoop struggling to ask if his best friend could come out to play. Lauren had the most beautiful blonde hair and I learned how to french braid while babysitting her.

    I don't remember much about David and Susan, except that Susan was beautiful and sweet- and yes, a neat freak. I was invited to go water skiing with their family and David was so patient and encouraging when I kept falling. I remember playing in their backyard and all of us kids had a grand scheme to build a raft and turn the ditch behind their house into a lazy river where we would give rides to the neighborhood kids. They were a nice family.

    I have no doubt that the local agencies ruined the crime scene. Good ol’ Billy Reeves, our constable, was first on scene and I doubt he had ever seen anything like that before. Hays County is considered rural now, but in 1990 it was “the country”.

    David was very type A. Eagle Scout, Valedictorian of his high school, Air Force MP. When David lost his job with the tax board the October before the murder, his brother Daniel said he wasn’t worried about it and that he would find another job. My dad, on the other hand, got a different story on a cub scout trip. While sitting in a canoe and chatting, David told my dad he had lost his job and was depressed. It struck my dad as odd, at the time, because although he and David were friendly in their interactions through scouts and as neighbors, they weren’t really friends and my dad thought that was an odd confession to be made. This was the first thing my dad thought of when he learned of the murder. David was kind of odd and my parents, to this day, believe he killed his family and himself. They have never bought into the murder-for-hire idea. He was very controlling over his family and my dad feels like David would not have killed himself and left them behind.

    I remember watching the 20/20 episode where the case was made for this being a professional hit and there were some really compelling theories. Nothing fits neatly with this case.

    Some of the things that make me think there was an outside assailant:
    - David was in his underwear and was lying spreadeagle on the floor, shot in the chest. A self-inflicted gunshot to the chest is far less common and less lethal in suicide attempts. It’s just physically harder to do and to do it standing up seems even weirder. I would expect he would sit or lay down.
    - No prints were found on gun. How is this possible unless someone wiped it clean? David wasn’t wearing gloves.
    - David reached out to a security expert a week before the murder with concerns that he needed to protect himself in case someone came to his home to hurt him.
    - David had a big report to present on Monday morning that was going to “blow the lid off” of goings on at the commission. He worked all day the Friday before, even though it was a state holiday and when the report was filed, it was not initialed by him, which was his custom. Although, on the last item, what was submitted may have been a draft and he hadn’t initialed it yet because he wanted to give it a final look-over.
    - Footprints were vacuumed away. However, as Susan was a neat freak, maybe it was her habit to vaccum before they all went to bed. As far as the vacuum being left out in the middle of the room- if someone vacuumed their footprints as they left a room, wouldn’t the vacuum be by the door?

    Some of the things that make me think David did it:
    -The cancelled sleepover. Some made the argument that David cancelled the sleepover because he knew his family was in imminent danger and didn’t want anyone else at their home, but that makes zero sense to me. If he believed he was in imminent danger, why didn’t he call the police, leave town, take measures to protect his home and family? I believe it’s more likely he cancelled the sleepover because he decided to murder his family or maybe it’s because he and Susan were fighting. There was some claim she was having an affair with her boss and that David found out about it. The boss denied it, but if David had somehow learned of this the day of the murder, that would be a good reason to cancel a sleepover.
    -It’s far-fetched to believe that this was a professional hit. If this was a professional job and had to do with what David knew, why kill Susan and the kids? And since Lauren and Susan were shot, seemingly in their sleep, on the master bed, where was David while this was happening? Their house wasn’t large and all of the bedrooms were grouped together sharing a common hallway. If someone came into the house, they would have found David in the bedroom. If David was in the living room or kitchen, no one would have been able to get to the bedrooms without passing him unless they came in the window and the windows were all visible from the street and would be the least likely place to enter.
    -And the biggest reason of all….the one that has haunted me for years. While David, Susan and Lauren were all shot once, either in the chest or the back, Eric was shot 3 times in the chest and shoulder. I remember hearing, at the time, that the theory was that Eric woke up and when the shooter came into his room he was standing up and maybe even moving towards the shooter, which is why it took 3 shots and wasn’t as accurate. If a 10 year old heard gunshots, stood up and saw his dad come running into the room, his instinct would be to run towards his dad for protection. If it were a stanger that entered the room, he probably would have either cowared or even run towards the corner or the closet.

    Anyhow, it seems the detective work was shoddy all around. I don’t recall my parents being questioned by anyone, despite the call from David on the day of the murder cancelling the sleepover. It doesn’t appear anyone ever got to the bottom of why David had lost his job with the State Property Tax Board, which was abolished that same year. Was he fired for embezzling? Gross mismanagement of finances? It’s all speculation all these years later. I just wish the scene had been processed effectively. It would be satisfying to run DNA.

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