A 20-Year Grudge Appears to be the Motive in the Shooting Death of Houston Cardiologist

Chief Art Acevedo, center, standing above a photo of suspect in the case, Joseph James Pappas.
Chief Art Acevedo, center, standing above a photo of suspect in the case, Joseph James Pappas. Screen grab of press conference today

Houston police have identified a suspect in the shooting death of Dr. Mark Hausknecht. In a press conference this afternoon Chief Art Acevedo said police work with help from the community led them to Joseph James Pappas, who remained at large at the time of the afternoon announcement.

Acevedo asked anyone who knows the whereabouts of Pappas to call 911 immediately but not to try to deal with him by themselves, considering him armed and dangerous as well as suicidal.

Referring to the cardiologist who was shot three times while riding his bicycle along a street in the Texas Medical Center, Acevedo said "We've said that we believed he was targeted and indeed he was. One of the tips was to the fact that the suspect's mother was a patient of the doctor and died during surgery over 20 years ago. So this appears this may be a 20 year old grudge."

In addition, they learned that the 65-year-old Pappas had not been heard from by people who know him for more than 24 hours. "There was text that he sent to someone that said he was going to kill himself," Acevedo said.

Officers with the Houston Police Department conducted a check on his home at 9 p.m. last night and did not find Pappas at home. At approximately 4 this morning after additional investigation, an arrest warrant was issued for the suspect for the charge of murder.

"Evidence has been obtained that ties this man to this crime," Acevedo said. "We absolutely believe this is the killer. "

Acevedo said the suspect regularly rode a ten-speed bicycle and described him as "very fit." He went on to say that from what he has learned about the shooting so far indicates: "There was a lot of planning and sadly some skill. The shots that he took took some skill."

Mayor Sylvester Turner sent out a statement:

“The Houston Police Department’s identification of a suspect in the shooting death of Dr. Mark Hausknecht is more proof of the excellent results that come from HPD’s top notch investigators working with information provided by the public, from prominent cases to those that escape widespread attention.

"While each homicide is a tragedy for our community, I am thankful that last year’s Houston homicide count fell to a three-year low and that Chief Acevedo and his staff are using preventive approaches designed to reduce the count even further.

"Let us keep the family of Dr. Hausknecht in our prayers as they begin the long road to healing.
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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing