The man wanted in the slaying of Dr. Mark Hausknecht put a gun to his head Friday morning and pulled the trigger just as Houston police closed in on him with their weapons drawn — bringing a close to the weekslong manhunt for the prominent cardiologist’s suspected killer.
Joseph Pappas was pronounced dead on the scene in southwest Houston around 9:35 a.m., Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters during a news conference. Authorities had been searching for him since July 20, when Hausknecht, who previously served as former President George H.W. Bush’s personal doctor, was gunned down by a fellow cyclist as he rode his bike to work at the Houston Methodist Hospital.
“This is our suspect. The suspect’s deceased, he committed suicide when he was confronted by two members of the Houston Police Department Patrol assets here in the South West Division,” Acevedo said.
Authorities first received a tip about Pappas’ whereabouts around 9:20 Friday morning. It came from a person on the Houston Parks board, who had been checking to make sure a popular graffiti spot did not become the subject of overnight vandalism. Pappas began to walk away but stopped and spread his arms as the witness approached.
He managed to make his escape, but not before dropping his wallet, which allowed law enforcement to confirm his identity. Responding officers arrived in the area shortly after and were able to pinpoint Pappas’ location.
Officials believe the attack stems from a grudge Pappas had been holding on to for more than 20 years. Hausknecht operated on his mother in 1997, but she died during surgery.
It seemed the search for the suspected killer was nearing its end Thursday evening after Pappas’ neighbors requested law enforcement presence, fearing the suspect would return home when no one was around.
Deputies patrolling the area the same night spotted an open gate at his residence they did not believe to be previously open as well as a light on inside. They set up a perimeter out of an abundance of caution and called SWAT to search the home.
They did not find Pappas, but they did find an extensive amount of evidence linking him to the crime, including a “very extensive intelligence file” he’d put together on Hausknecht, Acevedo said. Among the trove of documents, he added, was a list of “a couple of dozen names of potential doctors and other employees” at the Houston hospital where Hausknecht worked.
Rumors of a possible hit list first emerged Friday morning, after a former friend — speaking on the condition of anonymity — told KHOU he believed Pappas had been hunting his next victim.
Hausknecht’s wife, Dr. Georgia Hsieh, released a statement last month warning against the “misguided notion that any society with more guns is a safer society” when speaking out about her husband’s “devastating” death.
“After spending his adult life saving and prolonging the lives of others, my talented husband, Dr. Mark Hausknecht, had his life prematurely ended,” she said in a written statement. “‘Senseless’ has become a trite adjective to describe these tragedies, but what is senseless is the misguided notion that any society with more guns is a safer society.”
Bush also mourned the doctor’s death, calling Hausknecht “a fantastic cardiologist and a good man.”
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