The Crimes of Robert Lee Haggart

In the early morning of Saturday, September 24, 1977 Doris Arndt was seen leaving a bar near her home of Midland Michigan and was never seen alive again.  I heard Doris described as the "Norma Rae of Midland."  If you do not know the reference, it refers to a movie called, of course, Norma Rae.  The movie was based off a book from 1975 written by a woman named Crystal Lee Sutton.  She worked in a textile factory and a fighter for unions, which was a rare thing for a woman, but apparently Doris Arndt had those qualities herself.

Doris was married and had two children but she had a rather unconventional marriage it seemed. Doris and her husband John apparently loved each other but had discovered that one thing they could not do together was go out to bars.  They had been together for over a decade and it just seems that every time they went out together the night ended badly, so they each had their own set of friends that they went out with.  On the night of September 23, 1977 Doris had gone out with some co-workers.  For his part John did not seem too worried when she had not returned home that weekend but when he was informed that she had failed to show up at work on Monday he knew something was wrong and reported her missing.

Of course suspicion fell on John almost immediately.  First officers wondered why he had taken so long to report her missing.  Secondly, even back in 1977 law enforcement knew that most murders were committed by people closest to the victims, so John was looked at very hard. But, it seems that they too realized this was out of character for Doris and despite whomever may or may not have been responsible for her disappearance they still needed to find her and amassed a large search.  Two weeks later a hunter stumbled upon Doris' remains in a wooded area.

It was soon discovered that on the night she disappeared Doris was seen having a bit of an argument with another patron at the bar.  No one truly knows what the argument was about or exactly what happened but the man was described by others and investigators found their way pretty quickly to Robert Lee Haggart.

Just a few months before Doris was murdered Robert Haggart had been released from prison.  In 1974 he had been convicted of sexually assaulting a 14 year old girl (Robert was in his early 20's at the time).  Then in May of 1975 he was sent to prison again for violating his parole when he committed another sexual assault.  He was released in July of 1977 and was living with his mother.  Finding this out obviously investigators spoke to Haggart but could not conclusively connect him to the murder of Doris Arndt.  Obviously this was long before DNA techniques were available and they just could not find enough to secure a conviction.  The case went cold.

Haggart moved on and in mid 1981 he got married.  The marriage did not last but about six months and his wife filed for divorce.  My research indicates that they were living in Tennessee but that after the split his wife, Garnetta moved to Florida.  In February of 1982 she went to visit her mother and stepfather in Farwell Michigan where the family was planning an impromptu family reunion.  Garnetta and Robert had a final divorce hearing on February 17th (possibly in Michigan but I cannot be certain).  

Late in the evening of February 16, 1982, Alice Russell, Garnetta's sister (or step-sister), went to the home of her parents, Gerald and Vaundry Post for the said reunion with her husband.  Things seemed odd when they pulled up and there were not any lights on in the house.  She entered freely and yelled out.  When there was no answer she turned on the light and saw the bodies of Vaundry and Garnetta lying on the kitchen floor.  The nearby phone seemed to have been disabled so Alice and her husband ran to a neighbors house to call the police.  Upon their arrival investigators discovered that Vaundry and Garnetta were not the only victims.  In the basement of the home lie the body of George Post, the local mailman and a respected member of the community, but even still that was not the worse they found.  Outside, in a pickup that was riddled with bullet holes lay Gerald's daughter, Helen Gaffney. Inside the truck with her were her four children, Angela age 10, Tom age 8, Amy age 4 and 1 year old Mandy.  Of all the children Mandy was the only survivor as it seems her mother covered her body with hers.  Seven victims, all from one family, all shot with what was determined to be a shotgun.  

Alice Russell would tell investigators the story of her sister in town to obtain her divorce and her fear of her husband.  In fact, Alice would say that her sister had told her earlier in the day that during the night before someone had knocked at the door and she was convinced it was her estranged husband, Robert Haggart, but apparently no one opened the door.  Later a witness would claim to have dropped Haggart off near the town of Farwell between midnight and one A.M.  A manhunt was on and a trail was followed back to Tennessee where Haggart was quickly arrested.

In October of 1982 Haggart was convicted on 7 counts of murder and received 7 life sentences.  He would die in prison in 2003 of what would be described as natural causes.

As far as Doris Arndt's case... it was still inactive and officially unsolved.  Then one day an investigator received a call from a man in Arizona who was writing a book.  He had been childhood friends with Haggart and found it interesting that he had been serving time in prison for the mass murders and wondered if he could get some more information.  Well, actually he was not calling to information on the Post family murders, he was asking about the Doris Arndt case.  By this time it had landed on the desk of a cold case detective who found it interesting that this man calling was connecting Haggart to the case and wanted to know what he knew.  According to the caller, he had interviewed Haggart before his death and he had confessed to killing Doris.  Well, that was more than they had before, but even when the suspect is dead investigators still like to have the same amount of information they would have if the person was alive and could be charged.  To his surprise the detective discovered that there were semen samples from Doris' case and now with the advent of DNA maybe there could be answers.

In 2009 investigators officially closed the Doris Arndt case and named Robert Lee Haggart as the perpetrator.  They determined that DNA from the case matched the Post Family case.  While Haggart would never serve, or even be tried for this murder, Doris' family were relieved to know it was solved.  Many obviously wish it had been solved much sooner, and prior to the Post Family losing their lives.  

Investigators believe there were likely many more unsolved cases, possibly in other states even, that Haggart was responsible for.  It is unlikely that these were the only crimes that he committed.  

Comments

  1. I was a former corrections officer in Michigan who got to know Bobby Haggart very well. I caught him off guard one day when I asked him how he could kill the children...after a few seconds he gave an explanation for his killings. I assumed he had already confessed and didn't know until now that he hadn't. If you're interested in hearing his side of the story please contact me at bigdavemac@hotmail.com.

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