On this page: Links Summary Holes/Corruption Names Articles Nancy Grice Statement Alb. Trib. Editorial (2005) Corwin Memo for Senator Bingaman MELANIE MCCRACKEN McCracken Case DEATH August 5, 1995 Bosque Farms/Los Lunas area, New Mexico Police Husband Mark McCracken originally indicted, second review left off with a dismissal - serious questions still surround case LINKS TO NEWS ARTICLES https://www.abqjournal.com/news/839123news02-27-03.htm https://www.abqjournal.com/news/state/127715nm12-30-03.htm https://www.abqjournal.com/news/state/159749nm04-02-04.htm https://www.abqjournal.com/news/state/264822nm11-29-04.htm https://www.abqjournal.com/news/metro/280895metro12-31-04.htm http://amarillo.com/stories/022803/usn_formerclovis.shtml#.WTCtOWjyvtR http://amarillo.com/stories/100399/new_LG3365.001.shtml#.WUVS-GjyvtR http://behindthebluewall.blogspot.com/2011/12/nm-remembering-state-police-sgts-wife.html http://www.news-bulletin.com/news/judge-murderer-will-not-get-new-trial/article_fd9bfdac-0722-11e6-a4cb-ef9dfb4ec3d6.html http://www.koat.com/article/mccracken-turns-himself-in/5016141 http://lubbockonline.com/stories/030600/reg_030600042.shtml#.WTB_7GjyvtS http://amarillo.com/stories/100399/new_LG3365.001.shtml#.WUVLAGjyvtR http://www.nmcompcomm.us/nmcases/NMSC/1917/1917-NMSC-029.pdf 1917 case showing earlier McCracken in Valencia Co any relationship? http://www.nbcnews.com/video/dateline/53066500 https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/158434136/ http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/01/us/execution-set-in-new-mexico-draws-rarity-of-a-challenge.html Bonem case 2001 https://www.policeone.com/investigations/articles/94034-Retired-N-M-Officer-Could-Face-Trial-For-First-Degree-Murder-in-Nine- Year-Old-Mystery/ http://www.realcrimes.com/Corruption_Overview.htm http://www.websleuths.com/forums/showthread.php?51102-NM-Melanie-McCracken-25-Valencia-County-5-Aug-1995 http://www.victimsrightsnm.org/pdf/publications/VRBulletin_Jan-Feb_04.pdf See book - One to the Wolves: On the Trail of a Killer By Lois Duncan. There is a small excerpt there on the Melanie McCracken case. Book authors associated with Real Crimes. https://books.google.com/books?id=Yjf8AgAAQBAJ SUMMARY Questionable death Mark McCracken was a New Mexico State Police sergeant and later lieutenant (it appears he was promoted in the interim between Melanie’s death and retirement) suspected of murdering his wife, Melanie McCracken. The death involved a car wreck in which medical personnel sent to the accident determined Melanie McCracken was already dead; she was blue in the face - either from something like asphyxiation or having been dead for awhile (see Melanie’s mother’s statement below) and there were no signs of car wreck related injuries. Others have suggested a drug overdose involving prescription medication found at her home. She had bruises in varying states of healing otherwise. Many signatures were collected supporting the mother’s stance. TIMELINE 1995 - August 5: Melanie McCracken found dead in car. 1996 January: The case was closed in January 1996 after Mark McCracken passed a polygraph test. 2001: The case was brought back to legal life in 2001 through channels involving making use of a change in the district attorney’s office - a new DA might have been more open to reviewing the case than the older one. 2002: This lead to a 2002 exhumation of the body. 2003: He was originally charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence by a Valencia County grand jury in 2003. Mark McCracken was cleared after a first indictment that was thrown out because a prosecutor investigator was in the grand jury room during testimony. 2004: Second case was a hearing in November 2004 with a special prosecutor to see if the case should be moved forward more formally. From Nancy Grice Statement seen below Updates: 5/3/02: NBC Dateline did a one-hour coverage of Melanie's case, which won them the Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting. 10/31/03: NMSP Lt. Mark McCracken was indicted for first degree murder and evidence tampering, but charges were dismissed because an investigator for the prosecution was in the grand jury room during testimony. Grand jurors also requested that another grand jury be empanelled to review the conduct of the New Mexico State Police investigators. 12/30/03: Albuquerque Journal: Valencia county Magistrate John Sanchez, a former State Police officer himself, filed a federal civil rights suit against the New Mexico State Police for harassment of him and his family in retaliation for his attempts to persuade authorities to investigate NMSP Lt. Mark McCracken. April 2004: Melanie's family, acting upon the recommendation by the grand jury, petitioned a second grand jury to investigate the New Mexico State Police. Despite the fact that the petition contained the required number of signatures, it was denied. Dec. 2004: Judge David Bonem ruled that former NMPS Lt. Mark McCracken will not have to stand trial for his wife's suspicious death. The judge stated that, while "a violent and unnatural death cannot be excluded," there was not enough probable cause to try McCracken on charges of murder and tampering with evidence. He chastised the NMSP for not allowing an outside agency to take over the investigation of a case in which the suspect was one of their own officers. HOLES/CORRUPTION Holes in Investigation, Repeated signs of Corruption Strong indications exist that police and governmental corruption spanned the above timeline. Signs of skewed, poor grade or criminalistally oriented investigations and witness/evidence handling show up repeatedly. What seems to be likely additional murders of witnesses - hangings made to look like suicides - hard to prove perhaps, but glaringly suspicious in the contexts of each situation. Some of the things to consider: cover-ups; possible related murders made to look like suicides of people with evidence; state police connected to Mark McCracken calling deceased “psycho” or “fatal attraction” - taking sides, biased, which includes non-outsider and non-objective outsiders investigating the case (his fellow officers and underlings went to the house). Spooked judge (Sanchez) who put up a lawsuit over being harassed and abused - he used to be a state police officer and might have a had a feeling for their “ways.” An apparently skewed polygraph test by someone who was associated with the state police (the state police seem to be using their own in this case). Mark seemed to be feigning unconsciousness at time of wreck (see Melanie’s mother’s contribution below). NAMES Some names associated with this case B Bingaman, Senator; Bonem, David W. (second hearing) Alb Journ/Heild/11/29/2004; Bradley, Walter; Brown, Luis. OMI field investigator Luis Brown did go to McCracken's home that night. He said he saw nothing unusual and no signs of a struggle in the bedroom. His report described the bedcovers as "messed up in sort of a tent position.He took the only known photos of the bedroom. Those are missing, although five photos he took at the accident scene exist. Brown's deposition said he talked with McCracken after the crash, then went to the home to check for any medications his wife might have been taking. He was accompanied by two state police officers McCracken supervised, who said they went to the house as friends, not investigators. One of them, accident reconstructionist Art Ortiz, said in a deposition that he was off-duty but was called to the accident scene. He drew a diagram and took measurements but said he wasn't assigned to do a reconstruction.(Amarillo Globe/Heild/10/03/1999); C Corwin, Mike (private investigator - see Alb Journ/Emmons/ 04/02/2004); D Diaz, Larry; Dragovic, Dr. Ljubisa; F Fay, Damon; French, Steve. (Mark McCracken’s attorney) (Amarillo Globe/Heild/10/03/1999); G Gamber, Ryan. (Melanie’s brother) (Alb Journ/Sandlin/12/31/2004); Garcia, Lorenzo (Judge) Grice, Nancy (Melanie McCracken’s mother); H Hall, Brad. (Grice’s attorney)(Amarillo Globe/Heild/10/03/1999); Harris, Randall (special prosecutor, ex-DA (former District Attorney Randall Harris of Clovis, who has been in private practice since leaving office last June - Harris said he will determine "whether the case should go to a grand jury, a preliminary hearing or whether there is insufficient evidence to go forward.") Alb Journ/Heild/02/27/2003; Henry, Dr. Thomas. Hauswald, Mark. - Lifeguard medical director, told state police a test that measures responsiveness in patients showed McCracken was "feigning unconsciousness." The state police report notes Hauswald's wife was Melanie McCracken's physician. (Amarillo Globe/10/03/199); Hobbs, Donnie - EMT. Donnie Hobbs, an emergency medical technician at the scene, said in a deposition he believed McCracken was unconscious because he didn't flinch when a breathing tube was put up his nose. But he said McCracken grabbed the wrist of one of the men carrying him when the backboard became unstable. Hobbs said he responded to the calls in 1993 and 1994. Both times, Melanie McCracken was in bed, and her husband did the talking. In the first instance, she wore a turtleneck sweater even though the house was very warm. During the second, paramedics noticed bruises on her shoulders. Hobbs said McCracken explained she was recovering from cancer.(Amarillo Globe/Heild/10/03/1999); K Keryte, James. L Living Cross Ambulance Service (Amarillo Globe/Heild/10/03/1999); M Martinez, Lemuel (Valencia County District Attorney) Alb Journ/Heild/02/27/2003 But the case, which became the subject of an NBC "Dateline" show, was reinvestigated by the office of 13th Judicial District Attorney Lemuel Martinez after he took office in 2001. Alb Journ/Heild/11/29/2004 M Meireles, Robert (witness, hanging death before Dateline); N Nichols, Cammie (defense) O OMI. OMI officials couldn't give the time of death, but Brown's report said Melanie McCracken apparently died before the crash. OMI officials found no evidence of cancer or a seizure disorder. (Amarillo Globe/Heild/10/03/1999). Ortiz, Art. One of them, accident reconstructionist Art Ortiz, said in a deposition that he was off-duty but was called to the accident scene. He drew a diagram and took measurements but said he wasn't assigned to do a reconstruction. (Amarillo Globe/Heild/10/03/1999); P Pennington, Justin. Buddy John Sanchez’s attorney in this case Alb Journ/Sandlin/(12/30/2003); R Runnels, Mike. (Alb Journ/Heild/02/27/2003); S Sanchez, John “Buddy” (Valencia County Magistrate) Recently elected as a Republican magistrate judge (Hispanic politics in New Mexico tends to lean toward the Democrats) in Los Lunas in 1994. Sanchez had worked as a jail guard and as a State Police officer]; Alb Journ/Sandlin/(12/30/2003); Schoenburg, Peter (Mark McCracken’s attorney); Sena, John. State police Lt. John Sena, ranking officer at the accident scene, said he didn't know why the investigation didn't include McCracken's house. But he said he thought the inquiry was thorough. (Amarillo Globe/Heild/10/03/1999); Smialek, John; T Taylor, Frank. Chief, State Police. Fifty-one days after the crash, Taylor met with Grice and promised a complete investigation. Attorney Jerry Walz, who represents the state police and Chief Frank Taylor, said any notion of a cover-up is "ludicrous." He said his clients wouldn't comment. Grice's attorney, Brad Hall, recently filed an amended complaint alleging McCracken negligently caused his wife's death. The complaint accuses Taylor and state police officers of misdirecting the investigation and preventing investigations by other agencies.(Amarillo Globe/Heild/10/03/1999) W Walz, Jerry - Defense Attorney for state police and Chief Frank Taylor “said any notion of a cover-up is "ludicrous." He said his clients wouldn't comment.” (Amarillo Globe/Heild/10/03/1999); Wright, Heath - Ambulance worker Heath Wright said in a deposition that he couldn't revive Melanie. He said in five years as a paramedic he had "never seen another patient that blue, other than somebody who had been dead for a while or . . . had anything happen to asphyxiate her." (Amarillo Globe/Heild/10/03/1999). Z Zumwalt, Ross. OMI Chief. Zumwalt's deposition said it was possible "there was an assault with either a neck compression or some other sort of assault." Other possibilities Zumwalt gave: "Some sort of intrinsic cardiac irregularity or she got involved with some sort of toxic agent or poison." He said she could have had a reaction to medication or withdrawal from it. Toxicology tests showed no signs of known drugs. Asked his personal opinion, Zumwalt said, "I think I would put some sort of violent assault at the top of my list."OMI Chief Ross Zumwalt said in a deposition the photos might not have turned out because his office's cameras aren't well-equipped for indoor photos. ARTICLES and MEDIA COVERAGE NBC Dateline - 05/03/2002 (see Melanie’s mother’s coverage below) By Mike Taibbi;Meade Jorgensen;Andy Finkelstein;Jeanine Dillon;Victor Arango;George Suarez;Michelle Feuer;Shayla Harris NBC News Dateline 2002 - (as of 06/20/17 having trouble finding original material) Albuquerque Journal: Ex-DA to examine 1995 Death; By Colleen Heild; Journal Investigative Reporter (02/27/2003) https://www.abqjournal.com/news/839123news02-27-03.htm Names from Alb Journ/Heild/02/27/2003: Martinez, Lemuel (Valencia County District Attorney); Mike Runnels; Harris, Randall (former District Attorney Randall Harris of Clovis, who has been in private practice since leaving office last June - Harris said he will determine "whether the case should go to a grand jury, a preliminary hearing or whether there is insufficient evidence to go forward.") Grice, Nancy; Judge's Suit Claims Harassment. By Scott Sandlin (12/30/2003) https://www.abqjournal.com/news/state/127715nm12-30-03.htm Names in article Alb Journ/Sandlin/(12/30/2003): Sanchez: "Buddy" John Sanchez [Valencia County Magistrate. Recently elected as a Republican magistrate judge (Hispanic politics in New Mexico tends to lean toward the Democrats) in Los Lunas in 1994. Sanchez had worked as a jail guard and as a State Police officer]; Pennington: Justin Pennington - Sanchez’s attorney in this case Excerpt: Valencia County Magistrate John "Buddy" Sanchez claims he and his family were harassed by State Police, including Lt. Mark McCracken, after Sanchez criticized the department's investigation into the death of McCracken's wife. In a federal civil rights lawsuit, Sanchez, 37, says both he and his family were followed and he became the unfair target of other investigations. Sanchez says the harassment occurred after he attempted to persuade authorities to investigate McCracken in his wife's mysterious 1995 death. He also claims personal injury. As a former State Police officer himself, Sanchez was familiar with the players, the lawsuit says. Sanchez had worked as a jail guard and as a State Police officer before running as a Republican for magistrate judge in Los Lunas in 1994. As a former State Police officer himself, Sanchez was familiar with the players, the lawsuit says. Sanchez had worked as a jail guard and as a State Police officer before running as a Republican for magistrate judge in Los Lunas in 1994….A criminal investigation was launched the next month, but the case was closed in January 1996 after McCracken passed a polygraph test. The case was reopened in 2001 by the newly elected district attorney, leading to the exhumation of Melanie McCracken's body in December 2002. Issues: Federal civil rights lawsuit by John Sanchez; he was the judge who oversaw the case regarding Melanie McCracken’s death. He felt he was being retaliated against for speaking about his feelings that Mark McCracken was guilty. One of his concerns was that his wife was having odd miscarriages connected to retaliation over this case and a previous one. If his suspicions are honest and connect to something real, one idea is that the suspected retaliation might be a secretive and hard to pinpoint form of paramilitary attack. Such attacks go outside our normal expectations. Others are thngs like being followed in grocery stores and experiencing especially heavy scrutiny by the Judicial Standards Commission; Sanchez’s attorney felt he was being “hammered” in retaliation for helping the McCrackens. Other agencies, corporations etc. involved: Judicial Standards Commission; New Mexico Supreme Court https://www.abqjournal.com/news/state/127715nm12-30-03.htm Inquiry of Valencia County Police Wanted. By Jennifer Emmons (04/02/2004) https://www.abqjournal.com/news/state/159749nm04-02-04.htm Excerpt: LOS LUNAS— The Valencia County District Court is being asked to empanel a special grand jury to investigate area law enforcement's handling of alleged domestic violence homicides. The parents of two women whose deaths were investigated by State Police have been gathering signatures in recent months to compel a citizens' grand jury to look into what they believe have been botched investigations. Aided by Albuquerque private investigator Mike Corwin, Bill Houston and Nancy Grice presented about 800 signatures on the petition to a representative for the Bureau of Elections at the Valencia County Courthouse Thursday. At least 674 signatures from county residents are required, Corwin said. The Bureau of Elections must certify the signatures to ensure the names are valid and that all are registered voters in Valencia County….Corwin said there was evidence that both women had been victims of domestic violence.  "This is not about the State Police, this is about much more," he said. "We believe that a variety of government employees and individuals paid with taxpayer money may have intentionally sought to obstruct or block the investigation of both of these cases." https://www.abqjournal.com/news/state/159749nm04-02-04.htm Hearing Today in Death of Cop's Wife. By Colleen Heild, Journal Investigative Reporter (11/29/2004) https://www.abqjournal.com/news/state/264822nm11-29-04.htm Excerpt: For years, questions have swirled around the mysterious death of the 24-year-old wife of a former New Mexico State Police officer. An unusual criminal hearing that begins today in Albuquerque may finally produce some answers. Retired State Police Lt. Mark McCracken is to appear at a preliminary hearing on a criminal information charging him with murder in the first degree and tampering with evidence in the August 1995 death of Melanie McCracken. McCracken, who is free on $100,000 bond, has denied any wrongdoing in his wife's death. The state Supreme Court appointed retired District Court Judge David W. Bonem of Portales to hear the case. Former Clovis District Attorney Randall Harris of Clovis is acting as special prosecutor. This is the second round of charges against McCracken. He had been indicted by a Valencia County grand jury in November 2003, but murder charges were dismissed earlier this year because an investigator for the prosecution was in the grand jury room during testimony. Rather than seek an indictment the second time around, Harris chose to take the case to a public preliminary hearing. The cause of Melanie McCracken's death has never been determined by the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator. Names in article Alb Journ/Heild/11/29/2004: Bonem: Judge David W. Bonem - The state Supreme Court appointed retired District Court Judge David W. Bonem of Portales to hear the case. Please note Bonem in 2001 had been working on a highly controversial death sentence case (Terry Clark) during this general time period of the McCracken case (1995-2004): http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/01/us/execution-set-in-new-mexico-draws-rarity-of-a-challenge.html Harris: Randall Harris - Former Clovis District Attorney Randall Harris of Clovis is acting as special prosecutor. Martinez: Lemuel Martinez - But the case, which became the subject of an NBC "Dateline" show, was reinvestigated by the office of 13th Judicial District Attorney Lemuel Martinez after he took office in 2001. Grice: Nancy Grice - From the start, Melanie McCracken's mother, Nancy Grice, pushed for an independent inquiry of her daughter's death. A national medical expert Grice hired in 1999 concluded that the death was due to "homicidal suffocation." Grice believes State Police conducted a biased inquiry, overlooking evidence of criminal wrongdoing, because McCracken was a fellow officer. State Police have denied such accusations. https://www.abqjournal.com/news/state/264822nm11-29-04.htm Ex-Officer McCracken Won't Face Trial in Wife's Death. By Scott Sandlin (12/31/2004) https://www.abqjournal.com/news/metro/280895metro12-31-04.htm Excerpt: Earlier indictment: [Mark] McCracken was charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence by a Valencia County grand jury in 2003, but the charges were dismissed because an investigator for the prosecution was in the grand jury room during testimony. Names connected to case in article Albuq Journ/Sandlin-12/31/2004: Main family participants surrounding death: McCracken, Mark; (State Police officer); Grice, Nancy (Melanie McCracken’s mother - pushed for bettter investigations and more); Gamber, Ryan (Melanie’s brother); Attorneys and District Attorney Defense - For Mark McCracken: Peter Schoenburg and Cammie Nichols https://www.abqjournal.com/news/metro/280895metro12-31-04.htm Names/Alb Journ/Sandlin/12/31/2004 Prosecutor - For Melanie McCracken, mother, etc.: Harris: Randall Harris, Special Prosecutor: Martinez: Lemuel Martinez - Thirteenth Judicial District Attorney - whose district includes Valencia County, said referring the case to a special prosecutor was the appropriate course of action. Martinez, who became district attorney in 2001, said it was his decision to have the case reinvestigated, but the decision to take it to a grand jury was up to Harris. Related Personnel: Hobbs: Donnie Hobbs - emergency medical technician Medical Examiners: Dr. Thomas Henry, Denver's chief medical examiner; Dr. Ljubisa Dragovic, critical prosecution witness, forensic pathologist - Oakland County, Michigan. Dragovic testified during the preliminary hearing in Albuquerque that asphyxiation by someone else was the only explanation for the death of a healthy 25-year-old woman. Judges Associated with McCracken case: District Judge David Bonem of Clovis - Retired; a former prosecutor sitting as judge pro-tem on the Valencia County case; Newspapers dot com: earlier material on McCracken https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/158434136/ This article shows up on Mark McCracken earlier within the year of Melanie’s death: Alb. Journal July 16, 1994 Excerpt: Frink says in the suit that in April, Wilkinson told New Mexico State Police Sgt. Mark McCracken that Frink's credentials were fraudulent, that she was mismanaging public funds, violating open meeting laws and that she was duping the safety committee. https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/158434136/ Amarillo dot com: 02/28/2003; http://amarillo.com/stories/022803/usn_formerclovis.shtml#.WTCtOWjyvtR Excerpt: Harris said the investigation appears to have been exhaustive. But he noted that "three or four" potential witnesses have died. Those include two emergency medical personnel. Both were found dead by hanging. A national forensic expert who concluded that Melanie McCracken had been killed died last year. Her maternal grandmother, who spoke with Melanie the day of her death, died of natural causes.Photos that an OMI investigator took of the McCracken house the night of the death have been lost. http://amarillo.com/stories/022803/usn_formerclovis.shtml#.WTCtOWjyvtR Websleuths: from Nancy Grice Statement below (see on Real Crimes) Websleuths: NM - Melanie McCracken, 25, Valencia County, 5 Aug 1995 [note: her age seems to have been 24] http://www.websleuths.com/forums/showthread.php?51102-NM-Melanie-McCracken-25-Valencia-County-5-Aug-1995 From a website http://www.websleuths.com/forums/showthread.php?51102-NM-Melanie-McCracken-25-Valencia-County-5- Aug-1995 with this file; the file is listed in Google as “about to be deleted” as of 06/01/2017, when it was found and copied/pasted here: July 6, 2004 letter directed to US Senator Jeff Bingaman regarding the McCracken case, from the New Mexico Victim's Rights Project, prepared by Mike Corwin. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1JQxy5X7KM0A53HviFksyFiCOdrDVg5qL4kDTKBCXJnI/edit Albuquerque Tribune: Editorial (01/08/2005) McCracken Case Must Lead Us to Make Changes from Nancy Grice Statement below (see on Real Crimes) http://www.realcrimes.com/McCracken/Melanie_McCracken.htm Excerpt in Full: The end--in dismissal of all charges -- of the almost-decade-old murder case against former State Police Lt. Mark McCracken likely means the public never will know for certain what happened to his wife, Melanie McCracken. That uncertainty aside, the public also might never know whether justice has been served. The evidence in this case and in the court ruling ending it suggests it is time to reform New Mexico State Police regulations to ensure its officers are not above public accountability. At the minimum, Gov. Bill Richardson and the Legislature should consider establishing mandatory independent investigative procedures that require outside and credible investigation when state officers are potential suspects. At best, state officials should consider establishing a completely independent state bureau of investigation, such as those created in several other states. That not only would allow an arms-length investigation of cases in which State Police officers might be under suspicion, but it also could provide highly dedicated, professional investigative capabilities for the State Police, the state's counties and its many small cities and communities -- including internal affairs investigations in any of New Mexico's many police agencies…. The investigation into (Melanie's) death, to say the least, was poorly handled by State Police, who really had no business investigating a case of such highly suspicious circumstances, in which one of their own could have been a suspect… In dismissing murder and tampering-with-evidence charges against McCracken … Bonem suggested what many people outside the State Police fear -- that the case was bungled. He rightly observed, "I believe it is clear to all that the failure to involve an independent agency early on to conduct the investigation was not provident. Hopefully the lesson has been learned." New Mexican's should not assume it has. They should press the Legislature and Richardson to implement reforms to assure New Mexicans that justice will prevail in cases with such questionable circumstances. New Mexicans need to have trust in their law enforcement and judicial systems, which should operate in the bright light of day, not under a shroud of suspicion. http://www.realcrimes.com/McCracken/Melanie_McCracken.htm OTHER RESOURCES ON MELANIE MCCRACKEN CASE (letter to Bingaman; statement by mother) Some names, org’s, etc. in these sources Ortiz: Art Ortiz and James Keryte: friends of McCracken: Two New Mexico State Police Officers, Art Ortiz and James Keryte, both of whom were close personal friends of Mark McCracken, and who worked directly under his supervision, accompanied Luis Brown to the McCracken residence. Ortiz and Keryte were with Brown when he notified his superior at OMI that the residence was the place of death. However, neither Ortiz nor Keryte requested a criminalistics team, or notified local law enforcement, as is the policy for unattended deaths. As a result of Ortiz and Keryte failing to follow standard procedures, no physical evidence was preserved from the crime scene. (From letter to Senator Bingaman - see below); Brown: Luis Brown; Keryte, James (see Ortiz); Fay: Damon Fay - threatened to have mother arrested for speaking out Sanchez: Judge William Sanchez OMI Office of Medical Investigators: “Opinion - Violent assault”; Living Cross Ambulance NANCY GRICE STATEMENT FROM REAL CRIMES WEBSITE From her mother: Nancy Grice on Mark and Melanie McCracken Case Copy in full: Melanie Mc Cracken Real Crimes: Copied in full from Real Crimes, a statement by Melanie McCracken’s mother. http://www.realcrimes.com/McCracken/Melanie_McCracken.htm Copy in full: My daughter, Melanie McCracken, 25, died on August 5, 1995. There has never been an official determination of what killed her, but the OMI Chief's personal opinion is "violent assault." Melanie had been married for eighteen months to Mark McCracken, a New Mexico State Police sergeant. One of Mark's stories is that he found Melanie unresponsive and face down on their bed. He didn't call 911, even though they lived one half mile from Living Cross Ambulance. Instead he put Melanie in the back of his 1991 Chevy, (ignoring his State Police car with lights, siren and radio, which was also in the driveway), drove onto the Isleta Indian Reservation, and ran the car into a tree. When rescue arrived Mark pretended to be unconscious, but gave himself away when one of the rescue workers carrying his backboard became unstable and Mark reached out and grabbed hold of his wrist. A test that measures responsiveness in patients showed that Mark was "feigning unconsciousness." Melanie didn't have to "feign" anything. A medic who tried to revive her stated in a deposition that he had "never seen another patient that blue, other than somebody who had been dead for a while or had been asphyxiated." He said he felt at the time that something wasn't right with the scene. "Why was this lady so dead?" The State Police first tried to pass Melanie's death off to Bosque Farms officials as accident related, but the Medical Investigator said she was dead before the accident occurred. The State Police then told the media that Melanie was "cancer-stricken" and had been terminally ill for some time, and Mark McCracken announced that Melanie had leukemia. The autopsy showed no evidence of leukemia or any other disease. The chief of the Office of the Medical Investigator suggested that an outside law enforcement agency handle the case because Mark McCracken was a ranking State Police officer. Darren White, DPS Cabinet Secretary, and Chief Frank Taylor denied that request on the grounds that there was "no conflict of interest." No conflict of interest! Mark's subordinate officers and buddies were the ones who investigated the case, and they didn't do a damned thing! A couple of those officers went to the house as friends, once with the medical examiner and once before, but conducted no official investigation. Photographs that OMI field investigator Luis Brown alleged were taken at the house were nowhere to be found. When I appealed for help to the state Attorney General's Office, the OMI, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney, everyone was furious that I wouldn't just shut up and let it go. Lt. Governor Walter Bradley has certified letters written to him that he refused to answer. The AG's Office was willing to help, but was told by State Police that their help was not needed as the First Judicial District out of Santa Fe was independently investigating, which was totally untrue. I even received a call at work from APD homicide detective Damon Fay, who threatened to have me arrested for obstructing justice if I continued to question the circumstances of Melanie's death and "interfere with an on-going investigation." He told me that he certainly knew where to find me, implying that he would have me arrested at work and dragged off in handcuffs. (I'm a registered nurse and at that time was nurse supervisor at Carrie Tingly, a special needs children's hospital in Albuquerque.) In 1998 -- on my own, without legal representation, (no Albuquerque lawyer wanted to touch such a controversial issue) -- I filed a federal civil rights suit against Sgt. Mark McCracken and the state police. The suit alleged excessive force and conspiracy, and I got it filed just one day before the statute of limitations expired for federal cases. I filed pro-se and had my parties served. When they failed to respond I filed the necessary paperwork for a default judgment. When I started receiving threatening phone messages from one of their attorneys, who then filed a mountain of paperwork, I wrote Judge Vasquez a letter requesting that an attorney be appointed for me. Expert witness Dr. John Smialek (now deceased), head of forensic pathology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, issued a written opinion that Melanie died as a result of "homicidal suffocation." Dr. Smialek criticized both the autopsy and the police investigation and suggested that Melanie's body be exhumed and re-examined. When it began to appear that the case would turn into a murder case, my court- appointed attorney succumbed to pressure to settle out of court. The national television show, "Dateline," became interested in Melanie's story and set up a meeting with a magistrate judge who was sympathetic to our cause. When the producer attempted to meet with the judge, two state cop cars blocked the road and turned their lights in her face. She was so scared that she filed a report with her legal department, something she stated she had never done before. The producer then arranged to interview Robert Mireles, former head of Living Cross Ambulance Service, about numerous 911 calls that had been made from Melanie's home prior to her death. On those occasions, Mark did all of the talking, only allowing medics to check Melanie's vital signs. On one occasion Melanie was in bed wearing a turtle neck sweater that came up to her chin, even though the day was very warm, an apparent attempt to prevent medics from seeing the bruises on her neck. On another occasion, on which she wore a nightgown, paramedics noticed bruises on her shoulders. (Mark McCracken explained those bruises by lying to the medics and saying his wife was "critically ill with leukemia.") Dateline's meeting with Mr. Mireles never occurred, as Mireles was found hanging in his garage in the early morning hours of the day before his scheduled meeting with Dateline. EMS run sheets of 911 calls to the McCracken home, which are believed to have been in the possession of Robert Mireles in his briefcase at the time of his death have never been located to date. Ambulance company employees have stated that there was at least one "report down" at breakfast where OMI investigator Luis Brown stated that something needed to be done about the domestic violence situation which existed in the McCracken home. That "domestically violent" situation had been discussed among the EMs on several other occasions as well. However, Luis Brown, in deposition, denied any knowledge of incidents of domestic violence in the McCracken home. The District Attorney's Office is now looking at Melanie's case as a possible homicide and Mark has hired a criminal defense attorney. To show their on-going support for Mark McCracken, the State Police have now promoted him to the rank of lieutenant. CORWIN MEMORANDUM FOR SENATOR BINGAMAN MEMORANDUM: TO: Linda Atkinson Melissa Stevenson FROM: Mike Corwin DATE: July 6, 2004 RE: Info for Senator Bingaman Melanie McCracken: Melanie McCracken was found dead on August 5, 1995 following a single car rollover accident when a car driven by her state police sergeant husband Mark McCracken suddenly veered from the left lane, left the roadway, glanced off a small tree and rolled over. The accident occurred within the Isleta Indian Reservation just south of Albuquerque and the Bernalillo County line. Moments before the accident, Mark McCracken had driven at a high rate of speed passing a Bernalillo County Sheriff's Officer who then witnessed the accident. A second witness heard the crash and immediately called 911. It was 8:33 PM just after sunset. Within moments, a nurse arrived at the scene and started CPR on Melanie. Mark McCracken was uninjured and breathing on his own. However, within a few hours of the accident, the Office of the Medical Investigator "OMI" determined that Melanie McCracken was actually dead prior to the accident. This determination was based on the lack of blunt force trauma to Melanie's body that is typically associated with this type of accident. Luis Brown a field investigator and acquaintance of Mark McCracken's determined that Melanie McCracken died in the bedroom of the McCracken's home in Bosque Farms, New Mexico and had been removed from the residence by Mark McCracken. In a statement to Luis Brown, Mark McCracken stated that he found Melanie "blue pulseless and not breathing" in their bed at 7:45 PM. Approximately forty-five minutes prior to the auto accident. He did not call 911 when he found her and did not place her into his patrol vehicle equipped with an emergency radio, siren or lights. The accident location was approximately a five-minute drive from the McCracken residence. Two New Mexico State Police Officers, Art Ortiz and James Keryte, both of whom were close personal friends of Mark McCracken, and who worked directly under his supervision, accompanied Luis Brown to the McCracken residence. Ortiz and Keryte were with Brown when he notified his superior at OMI that the residence was the place of death. However, neither Ortiz nor Keryte requested a criminalistics team, or notified local law enforcement, as is the policy for unattended deaths. As a result of Ortiz and Keryte failing to follow standard procedures, no physical evidence was preserved from the crime scene. Melanie died within a very narrow window of time, for Mark McCracken out of town for the entire week prior to Melanie's death, and Melanie was due at her grand mothers in T or C the next morning. Melanie had made a decision to leave Mark McCracken. The Office of the Medical Investigator noted injuries to Melanie that were consistent with a struggle and also bruises in various states of healing. OMI suspected that Melanie died from asphyxia, possibly from being smothered by a pillow, but could not rule conclusively due to the auto accident possibly altering the injuries detected. Yet, for fifty-one days, no police investigation took place. Art Ortiz attended a meeting at the Office of the Medical Investigator, and identified himself as an investigating officer who worked for Mark McCracken. He attended this meeting prior to the New Mexico State Police formally opening an "inquiry" into Melanie's death. Several years later, while under oath in a deposition in a civil lawsuit, Ortiz, denied he that he was ever an investigating officer on the case. Despite concerns about a conflict of interest expressed by Melanie's parents, the NMSP refused to turn the case over to an outside agency. Melanie's mother requested help from the state attorney general's office, the FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Melanie was part Cherokee Indian. The state AG's Office expressed a willingness to investigate the case but later wrote to Melanie's parents that the state police told the AG that the investigation had already been assigned to an outside agency. The FBI declined citing that the death did not occur on the reservation. (The FBI failed to treat the auto accident as an intentional effort to conceal Melanie's death i.e. evidence tampering, which amounted to a felony occurring on the reservation involving a person of Indian descent). However, there was no outside investigation. A district attorney investigator from Santa Fe was brought in to assist a state police investigator. However, in his own report, the DA investigator referred to the investigation conducted as being the state police's. His role was only to serve as a witness to interviews conducted by the state police. Dr. Ross Zumwalt, the head of the Office of the Medical Investigator, requested that the case be reassigned to an outside agency. However, Darren White, the DPS secretary at the time refused to pull the case from the state police. Dr. Zumwalt told White that there was a conflict of interest and that the state police were doing an inadequate job of investigating. In particular he cited the state police's refusal to look into any history of domestic violence. The state police refused to interview Melanie's younger brother Ryan, who had in fact witnessed multiple incidents of domestic violence. To close out the investigation, the state police sent Mark McCracken to James Wilson, a polygrapher retired from the state police. Mark McCracken nearly failed his polygraph, scoring –4 when –6 was considered deceitful and +6 truthful. However, in violation of national polygraph standards, Wilson immediately administered a second test in which no direct questions were asked concerning Melanie's death. Instead Wilson dictated two statements to Mark McCracken, who then wrote the statements down. McCracken was only asked if what he wrote down was true. This action appears to be an intentional effort undertaken specifically to get McCracken to pass the test. Dictating sentences and asking about those sentences is never a permissible polygraph technique when questioning a possible murder suspect. McCracken then passed this slanted polygraph. The state police stated that since he passed a polygraph, Mark McCracken was "cleared of any wrong doing in Melanie's death" and dropped any further investigation. Throughout the course of the state police's inquiry, Melanie was described as a Psycho, and it was learned that Art Ortiz had disparagingly nicknamed Melanie "FA" short for fatal attraction. In 1998, Nancy Grice, Melanie's mother, undertook a pro se civil lawsuit in Federal Court against Mark McCracken and several individuals from the New Mexico State Police. During the lawsuit, the lawyers for DPS and State Risk Management refused to produce documents and a witness that had been subpoenaed. On the record, DPS cited the refusal to produce this information as being based upon the fact that the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of McCracken had not told. (First degree murder has no statute of limitations; however, second degree murder may have a six-year statute of limitation). Thus it appears that the state's lawyers had made an assessment of Mark McCracken's exposure to criminal charges and intentionally chose to prevent the release of information that could be used against him in a criminal case. Of course, since the state police refused to relinquish the case, and refused to release information that might be useful in another investigation, the NMSP effectively shut down the possibility of getting another agency to investigate. During the civil suit, Dr. John Smialek, the chief coroner for the state of Maryland, who had been hired as an expert on cause and manner of death, ruled that Melanie died from "homicidal suffocation". Smialek was so highly regarded that he co-authored the US Dept. of Justice's field guide on death investigations. In addition, a paramedic testified in a deposition to attending multiple calls to the McCracken residence on what appeared to be domestic violence calls. Former state police officer and then Valencia County Sheriff Juan Julian, in violation of state law destroyed the records of those calls. The state of New Mexico decided to settle Nancy Grice's lawsuit for $70,000. However, in violation of public policy, as a condition of settlement, the state required that Nancy Grice be permanently barred from speaking to anyone including law enforcement about the events leading up to Melanie's death unless she was under a court order to do so. The state attorneys told Nancy's attorney that the confidentiality agreement was designed to allow Mark McCracken to move on with his life and career. Nancy would be unable to pursue any criminal investigation into her daughter's death. It appears that the State of New Mexico tried to use a civil lawsuit settlement to try to protect Mark McCracken from prosecution. The state police did not re-open their own investigation despite the new information developed during the lawsuit. Instead, Frank Taylor, the chief of NMSP, promoted Mark McCracken to lieutenant approximately three months after the case settled. In January 2000, I met with investigators from the New Mexico Attorney General's Office and formally asked them to open an investigation into Melanie's death and to investigate whether any state actors involved with the case had sought to cover up her death. However, I was told by the AG's Office that they would not investigate officers they worked with. No effort was made by the AG's Office to request a special prosecutor or to forward the information on to another agency that could investigate such officers. In the Summer of 2000, Dateline NBC decided to do a story on Melanie's death and whether public employees covered up her manner of death. One day after being contacted by Dateline, Robert Meireles, the manager of the local ambulance company who allegedly possessed copies of records regarding domestic violence calls to the McCracken home turned up dead of an apparent suicide. Just prior to his death he told his brother and his ex-wife that he intended to turn those documents over to Dateline. In November 2000, I wrote a letter to Federal Magistrate Judge Lorenzo Garcia regarding the McCracken case, the confidentiality agreement and supplied him with information that I believed showed Mark McCracken and Art Ortiz covered up a second domestic violence killing in Valencia County, that of Stephanie Houston. Judge Garcia responded immediately to my letter and wrote that he was forwarding a copy of my letter to the State Risk Management Contract Attorneys from the case. However, once again, the state failed to initiate an investigation. In January 2001, I personally requested that the newly elected district attorney for Valencia County, Lemuel Martinez re-open the investigation into Melanie McCracken's death using his own staff to investigate the case. In February 2001, he agreed to do so and assigned DA investigator Larry Diaz to the case. In the Spring of 2002, I formally requested that the AG's Office investigate McCracken and Ortiz's role in covering up both Melanie's and Stephanie's deaths, under NMSA 1978 29-1-1. This statute makes it illegal for peace officers to fail to investigate a crime when a reasonable person believes a crime has occurred. Despite AG Patty Madrid personally calling to offer her offices assistance, Michael Cox from her office refused to initiate such an investigation or to refer the investigation to another agency. Over the course of several months Dateline conducted its own investigation into Melanie's death. However, at least one state police officer conducted surveillance of the producer following her from meeting to meeting to determine which individuals she spoke with during her investigation. This surveillance also included a meeting the Dateline producer held with current and former state police officers who had expressed concerns about the state police's handling of the investigation into Melanie's death. The producer filed a report detailing the surveillance with the legal department at General Electric, the parent company of Dateline NBC. Dateline aired the show, "Mystery on Highway 47" on May 3, 2002. The showed was watched by an estimated audience of 16 million viewers and made the Gallup poll's list of the top 25 most watched shows in the country. A second witness, Dale Claycomb, a life guard paramedic who appeared on the Dateline program where he stated that Mark McCracken feigned unconsciousness at the accident scene was later also found dead in suspicious circumstances, again ruled self- inflicted. Art Ortiz was part of the death investigation team that investigated this death. Lemuel Martinez requested that Michael Cox of the AG's office take over the case. However, in a meeting with Michael Cox to discuss the case Michael Cox told Nancy Grice that he would not look into any wrongdoing committed by the state police, as he would not investigate any agency that he worked with. He made no effort to refer the case to someone willing to prosecute the state police who may have broken the law to protect their own officer. Cox then withdrew from the case. In February 2003, Lemuel Martinez appointed Randall Harris as a special prosecutor on the case to review whether charges could be brought against Mark McCracken.13th judicial district attorney investigator Larry Diaz was assigned by Martinez to continue on the case and to work with Randall Harris. Therefore, the 13th still remained involved with the case. Another top forensic pathologist from out of state, Dr. Dragovich, the chief coroner for Detroit, Michigan was hired as an expert and he too ruled the death a homicide. Grand jury dates were set on multiple occasions and then dropped. Finally at the end of October 2003 a grand jury was convened and Mark McCracken was indicted for first degree murder and evidence tampering. The grand jury officially requested that Lemuel Martinez convene a second grand jury to investigate whether the state police had covered up Melanie McCracken's death. He refused to do so. Judge William Sanchez was assigned the case. In March 2004, Randall Harris told me that Lemuel Martinez had requested that he find a way to postpone the McCracken trial until after the November election in which Martinez was running to keep his DA position. In April 2004, William Sanchez dismissed the murder indictment citing that another DA staff person's presence in the grand jury room had the potential to influence grand jury deliberations. No effort was taken to poll the grand jurors or to see if in fact any undue influence had occurred. (CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS FROM DEFENSE WITNESSES: Two individuals whose names appeared on the defenses' witness list contributed money to Lemuel Martinez's re-election campaign. Bob Casey- who was the risk management investigator who represented Mark McCracken during the civil case brought by Nancy Grice contributed money three days before the grand jury was convened that indicted McCracken. Geraldine Rivera a Republican district court judge in Bernalillo County and who is Mark McCracken's wife's best friend contributed money to Lemuel Martinez' campaign approximately three days before the defense filed the motions to dismiss the McCracken case that ultimately led to the dismissal of the case). See intuitive input 2017-13a McCracken Case (also in drop-down menu and Notes Index) Link to Stephanie Houston Case Stephanie Houston case - Mark McCracken worked on that case also, one involving a husband who killed his wife by running over her. Some of the same players were involved, like Ortiz. See Stephanie Houston Case linked to McCracken Case 2017-13b Updates: from earlier rivergold dot net: updates 06/20/2017; 06/19/2017; 06/17/2017; 06/08/2017; 06/07/2017; 06/05/2017; 06/04/2017; 06/01/2017
POLICE FACTOR - NEW MEXICO Policing, Borders, Drugs, Crime and State Corruption: Resources