What Happened to Robert Merle Harrod?

Robert Merle Harrod, of Placentia, California was last seen at his home on Carnation Drive by his son-in-law, Jeff Michaels on July 27, 2009.

Harrod, who was 81 at the time, had recently married and Michaels was at the home that day to assist him with odd jobs he wanted done in preparation for the arrival of his new wife, Fontelle who had returned to Missouri to pack up her belongings for the move to her new home.

At approximately 2:30 pm PST Michaels left the home to pick up some needed supplies. When he returned at approximately 3:15 pm he found Harrod’s housekeeper waiting outside. The door was locked and no one had answered when she knocked. Michaels let himself and the housekeeper in through a backdoor. Harrod was not there and his keys and wallet were gone but his car was still in the driveway.

Assuming Harrod had gone for a walk or to visit a neighbor and would return shortly, Michaels continued working and the housekeeper went about the business of cleaning. The housekeeper finished her work and left. When Michaels left at around 6:00 pm, Harrod had still not returned home.

As the evening wore on and attempts to reach Harrod failed the family became worried. One family member called police and requested a welfare check be done at his house. Harrod’s grandson lives nearby and met officer’s at the home to let them in. According to reports there were no obvious signs of a struggle or any other indication that a crime had been committed in the home.

At approximately 9:00 pm Fontelle Harrod was contacted by Harrod’s youngest daughter and informed that he could not be located. Concerned because Harrod had still not returned home his wife called Placentia Police Dept. (PPD) to report him missing at approximately 12:20 am PST, July 28, 2009.

Family and friends say Harrod would not have gone anywhere for an extended period of time without letting someone know and would not have left with a stranger. There have been no indications that Harrod has tried to access his bank accounts or contact anyone since July 27, 2009. Authorities have not publicly named any persons of interest or suspects in his disappearance.

On July 26, 2009, the day before Harrod disappeared, he held a family meeting at his home. Police had said that the family had fought over money.

According to Harrod’s daughters he had called the family meeting to give them documentation and discuss obligations surrounding the Harrod Family By-Pass Trust and Georgia Harrod’s will. Georgia was Harrod’s first wife and the mother of his three daughters. She passed away on March 3, 2008.

While the family members in attendance admit that things became heated at some point during the meeting they maintain that it had nothing to do with money and that the meeting ended “OK”.

Harrod’s grandson had told officers during the welfare check that there had been fighting in the family recently, that his grandfather was frustrated by it and he speculated that Harrod left to get away from family problems. Other family members and friends said that Harrod was very happy and looking forward to his new wife’s return to their home and their future together.

One family member says they were asked to take a polygraph test about 6 months later. However, after taking their vital signs the examiner decided a note from a doctor was needed before proceeding. The note was obtained but the examiner did not schedule another appointment for the test. Other family members say they were never asked by authorities to take one. It has been alleged but not confirmed that authorities did approach another family member to take a polygraph test and that person refused.

Police said that Michaels is not a suspect. They have the receipts for his purchases that day and said that his story checks out. Family members say that authorities took Michaels’ truck for forensic testing. According to them nothing was found and the truck was returned within a few days.

Authorities also stated that none of Harrod’s daughters are suspects and there has been no indication from them that there have been any discrepancies found with the whereabouts provided for that day.

Michaels’ has said he noticed a black SUV drive slowly past the Harrod home several times over a short period that day. Harrod has a female friend who owns the barber shop where he got his hair cut that drove a black Chevy Tahoe at the time. Family say Harrod had been loaning the barber money to help with bills and that she had been trying to reach Harrod for several weeks. It was speculated that Harrod may have gone with his friend and that she may try to get more money from him. A public notice indicates the woman’s home was scheduled for foreclosure sale on August 4, 2009.

According to family members most of the checks written to the barber were marked “loan” suggesting that Harrod did not intend the money to be a gift. They say the majority of the money has never been repaid. After Harrod went missing someone claiming to be a neighbor posted a comment on a media website alleging they had witnessed the barber at Harrod’s home yelling and screaming at him. However, its unclear when that was supposed to have happened.

Family members were concerned about Harrod’s relationship with the much younger woman and the large sums of money he had been loaning her. They felt she may be taking advantage of Harrod and they tried talking to him but Harrod was unreceptive to any discussion of the matter. A decision was made by family members to contact Adult Protective Services (APS). They say an investigation was started and that APS also felt there may be a problem. However, when APS attempted to talk to Harrod he did not want to talk to them so the matter went no further.

The Orange County Courts website shows that a gentleman filed a complaint of elder abuse against the barber on February 4, 2011. There are no criminal charges shown in connection with the complaint but the record shows there was a hearing on February 28, 2011 and that a judge issued a restraining order.

It has been reported that the barber had a solid alibi for the time of Harrod’s disappearance and has been cleared. PPD has never confirmed this and the family maintains that authorities have told them nobody has been officially cleared.

On March 18, 2011, nearly 2 years after Harrod’s disappearance PPD along with an Orange County Sheriff’s forensic team searched his home. Sources say they were searching for trace evidence or anything that might establish a crime scene but they don’t think anything was found. Its unknown what prompted the search. Harrod remains missing and the investigation continues.

Meanwhile family and friends are left wondering… What happened to Robert Merle Harrod?

The Harrod Family Trust is offering a $50,000 reward for information that leads to Harrod’s whereabouts or the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in his disappearance. See official reward poster here.

Anyone with information should contact Detective Dave Radomski at (714) 993-8176, or the homicide hotline at (714) 993-8166.

Notes:

Information was gathered from media reports, family members, and various other sources. Any errors are unintentional and those of the author’s.

Originally posted to the forum on April 18, 2011

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2 Responses to “What Happened to Robert Merle Harrod?”

  • Wendy Barnes says:

    As a geriatric nurse, what I saw on the Disappeared episode about Mr. Harrod, was someone who was being scammed by the barber. This is very common as people age, even though they were never susceptible to these people or schemes in their younger days. Studies have shown there are physical changes in the brain seen on CT scan related to this behavior. His family and attorney and APS all failed him by either endless confrontations or a complete lack of due diligence. When older people become confused, they frequently cover it in the exact way Mr. Jarrod did. Sad in this day and age that family would not bring their concerns to his MD and go from there. Actually, I do not think they had any concerns despite repeatedly saying,”He’s never done this before.” They were so self-absorbed and worried they might miss out on some money, it never occurred to them his behavior could be related to a physical problem. Greed kills in more ways than one.

    • Jan Kopel says:

      I totally agree with you, Wendy. With all the fuss about the Trust, they totally missed what might really have been going on. They kept saying he was supposed to give them information about the Trust & he was “legally” supposed to do that and didn’t. That should’ve given someone a clue as to the state of mind he may have been in. At least, worth a check-up with a doctor.