SWAT called to home of suspect wanted for killing Dr. Hausknecht after alleged sighting
HOUSTON—Police are continuing a massive manhunt for Joseph Pappas, the man they believe killed renowned cardiologist Dr. Mark Hausknecht while riding his bike to work in the Houston Medical Center.
Pappas 65, a trained marksman who worked for 30 years as a Texas constable, apparently has been hiding in plain sight while putting his affairs in order adds even more intrigue to a murder that already had put the nation’s fourth most populous city on edge.
According to police, someone reported seeing a man riding a bike near Pappas’ home Thursday night.
SWAT teams and officers entered the residence, Houston Police Executive Assistant Chief Matt Slinkard said after an officer reported that a light was on inside the home and a back gate was open. A search of the property revealed that Pappas wasn’t there, Slinkard said.
Now, as the manhunt drags on, police continue to warn that Pappas could be armed and dangerous, and — thanks to his law enforcement background — have access to police radio and tactical channels to monitor the dragnet police have cast to catch him, Houston Police Chief, Acevedo said.
Though Pappas’ whereabouts Friday morning still were a mystery, his activities since Hausknecht’s killing were becoming more clear.
The day before the shooting, Pappas, who also worked as a real estate agent, transferred the deed to his southwest Houston home to a woman who lives in Ohio. And he appeared to be in a rush to make that happen.
A courier who went to Pappas’ home three days after the killing to fetch deed paperwork and take it to a courthouse said Pappas was acting strangely.
“He was very nervous,” said Joe Donalson of Legal Express Texas.
Pappas cracked the door open and peeked out, then opened the door wider.
He was “looking up and down the street, to see if anybody else was there. And then he passed me the envelope,” Donalson said.
Pappas called Donalson three times that day to make sure the documents were filed, the courier said. He said the transaction seemed odd to him, but his line of work demands confidentiality so he didn’t ask many questions.
The document transferred the home deed to a woman from Ohio on July 19, but didn’t indicate whether the three-bedroom, 2,100 square foot ranch house was sold. Donalson said he was unable to pick up the paperwork on July 19, and Pappas called him again on July 23 to pick it up.
In an interview with the News-Herald in Ohio, Janette Spencer of Painsville said she received notification in the mail on July 23 that the home had been deeded to her. CNN reached out to her Thursday but didn’t receive a reply.
“I called him on the 24th and he said he had a terminal illness, and that’s why he deeded (me) the house,” Spencer told the paper. She said she’s known Pappas for about 25 years.
One of Spencer’s daughters was supposed to meet Pappas on July 30 when she visited Houston. However, Pappas texted Spencer that day to tell her he was committing suicide and gave her instructions on how to secure the house.
“Sorry for handling things this way,” the text said, according to the paper. “House and property is now yours. Please make best use of it for you and (your daughter).”
Spencer told the paper they tried to contact Pappas after receiving that text, but calls went straight to voice mail. They then called police.
A delinquent property tax statement from Harris County, Texas, shows Pappas owed $4,409 in back taxes, penalties and interest on the property. The notice said that if the amount wasn’t paid in August, the property would be subject to a lien.
Donalson said he called police after watching a news conference in which Police Chief Art Acevedo named Pappas, 62, as the suspect in the case.
Acevedo told reporters that evidence indicated Pappas put a lot of planning into the alleged crime.