[From news] ...According to deposition testimony, there were at least two prior 911 calls at the McCrackens' home -- but no reports were made... On both occasions, Melanie McCracken was in bed and her husband did all the talking... In one instance, she wore a turtleneck sweater that came up to her chin even though the house was very warm. During the second call, in which she wore a nightgown, paramedics noticed bruises on both sides of her shoulders. According to Hobbs, McCracken explained she was recovering from cancer. Hobbs said that typically with such injuries, rescue crews would have taken McCracken aside to see if there had been some altercation. Hobbs said that didn't occur with Mark McCracken. "We knew him and I guess mainly didn't expect anything like that to be going on in the house"...
In 2003, due to Melanie's mother pressing forward, Mark McCracken was indicted on charges of willful, premeditated and deliberate first-degree murder and evidence tampering. Melanie's body was exhumed, and a out-of-state medical examiner ruled out any cause of death other than homicide. In 2004 a preliminary hearing to determine if Mark McCracken should stand trial was held. As an expert for the defense, a forensic psychologist said that he concluded that Melanie died of an "accidental suicide" - that Melanie McCracken most likely suffered from two mental conditions - a factitious and somatization disorder. The charges against Mark McCracken were dismissed by a judge on a technicality – that the presence of an investigator for the prosecuting attorney had been prejudicial. Mark McCracken retired in good standing with the New Mexico State Police.
POLICE INVESTIGATE OFFICER'S ACCIDENT:
09 Aug 1995:
[Excerpts] Police are investigating a one-vehicle accident that resulted in State Police Sgt. Mark McCracken's receiving minor injuries while he was trying to transport his cancer-stricken wife to a hospital, Department of Public Safety spokesman Dan Hill said Tuesday. McCracken, who is assigned to Valencia County, was driving his wife, Melanie, to the hospital Saturday night when his vehicle went off the road on NM 47 a few miles south of the Isleta Gaming Palace, Hill said. Melanie McCracken was found dead in the back seat. However, Hill said, an initial determination by the Office of the Medical Investigator said she did not die as a result of the accident but was already dead...
JUDGE'S SUIT CLAIMS HARASSMENT: MAGISTRATE CRITICIZED MCCRACKEN INQUIRY
Albuquerque Journal (NM)
December 30, 2003
[Excerpts] 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...
STATE SPENT THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS TO DEFEND FORMER PATROLMAN IN WIFES DEATH: Jury Wants Probe Into Original Investigation
Location: Valencia County
Source: KRQE News 13
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
[Excerpts] The grand jury that indicted former State police Lieutenant Mark McCracken for murdering his wife is also calling for a separate probe of how State police officers handled the original investigation eight years ago. State police shielded McCracken from reporters Monday, hustling him to the Valencia County courthouse in an unmarked car for his formal surrender. There McCracken pleaded not guilty to charges of first degree murder and evidence tampering and was released on bond... A State police investigation cleared McCracken of any wrongdoing although there were serious questions about his story, including why he didn t drive his powerful police cruiser and why he drove past a emergency medical dispatch center. An independent medical investigator examined Melanie McCracken s body after it was exhumed last December and says he believes she was murdered...
KIN SEEK GRAND JURY PROBE OF AGENCIES
By Joline Gutierrez Krueger
[Excerpts] Grand jury indictments in the deaths of Melanie McCracken in 1995 and Stephanie Houston in 2000 didn't come easy, but they eventually did come. The women's families say shoddy investigations by law enforcement and other agencies made the system resist, and they want the system itself and its minions to come under grand jury scrutiny. Today, Bill Houston, the father of Stephanie Houston, and Nancy Grice, the mother of Melanie McCracken, were expected to file a petition seeking the convening of a grand jury to investigate allegations that government employees and others paid by the public improperly investigated both cases... Both families also point to the involvement of the State Police in both cases as part of the reason for the botched investigations. That's largely because of the involvement of retired State Police Lt. Mark McCracken, now charged with his wife's death and the lead investigator in the Stephanie Houston case... Special prosecutor Randall Harris, who handled the McCracken indictment, said the jury strongly believed that the State Police should have never investigated one of its own for murder... "We've been fighting the justice system for years and it's been like chopping down a giant tree with a little ax," Houston said. "You keep chopping and chopping, and sooner or later it will fall down"...
EX-COP'S MURDER CASE DISMISSED ON TECHNICALITY
May 7, 2004
[Excerpts] ...Melanie McCracken’s mother has said she believes her daughter was murdered before being placed in the vehicle and the crash was used to cover up the real cause of her death...
MURDER CHARGES THROWN OUT AGAINST FORMER COP
Location: Los Lunasm N.M.
Source: KRQE News 13
[Excerpts] A stunning announcement was made today in the case of a former New Mexico State Police officer accused of killing his wife. The charges against Mark McCracken were dismissed by a judge on a technicality... McCracken has been accused by his former wife’s family and prosecutors of killing Melanie McCracken on August Fifth, 1995. The death, investigated by McCracken’s own men, had been originally ruled an accident, but a later, more detailed investigation indicated her death was a homicide. After the announcement, McCracken and new his wife were greeted by applause from supporters as they left the Valencia County Courthouse. The defense said the prosecutor broke court rules by having one of his investigators [Allan Farkas] inside the grand jury proceedings... Twenty-five-year-old Melanie McCracken was found dead in the back seat of the family car, which had overturned on New Mexico 47 on August Fifth, 1995. Mark McCracken has said he was rushing his wife to the hospital after finding her unconscious at their Bosque Farms home. He has said the accident occurred when he looked back to check on her and the car swerved, rolling over. McCracken had already passed an emergency medical facility when the vehicle crashed. It was men under McCracken's command who first responded to the crash and investigated the incident, including visiting the McCracken home. Her body was exhumed last December, and a Michigan medical examiner ruled out any cause of death other than homicide. McCracken, retired in good standing as a lieutenant in the state police just weeks before being indicted. He has always insisted that he did not kill his wife.
MCCRACKEN CASE DISMISSED: Prosecutor will set grand jury or preliminary hearing again
Valencia News Bulletin
Saturday, May 8, 2004
[Excerpts] ...Peter Shoenburg, [Mark] McCracken's attorney, filed a motion in court requesting that the indictment be quashed because a man who investigated the case was present in the grand jury room in October. Schoenburg said that Allan Farkas, an investigator for the 9th Judicial District Attorney's office in Clovis and who had helped investigate the McCracken case, was not authorized to be inside the grand jury room during the taking of testimony. According to state law, the only persons allowed in the grand jury room are the "district attorney and the attorney general and their staff, interpreters, court reporters, security officers, the witness and the attorney for the target"... Nancy Grice, Melanie McCracken's mother, said after the hearing that she was disappointed in the turn of events but is still hopeful... In 1998, Grice filed a federal lawsuit against her former son-in-law and state police, alleging the agency did a sloppy investigation to protect a fellow officer. The case was settled out of court a year later. [Special prosecutor, Randall] Harris has credited the efforts of Grice, who, he said, pushed for an independent investigation of her daughter's death soon after state police took jurisdiction of the case... After walking out of the courtroom to a cheering crowd of his family and friends, Mark McCracken said he was thankful for all the support he has received since his indictment. "I've had a lot of people that support me a lot, and I appreciate it"...
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 HERE.
LAWYER FILES TO RE-TRY COP SUSPECTED OF KILLING WIFE
The Albuquerque Tribune
By Joline Gutierrez Krueger
July 31, 2004
[Excerpts] Legal papers have been filed that signal a special prosecutor's second attempt to try former State Police Lt. Mark McCracken on murder charges in the 1995 death of his wife. "It was no secret," special prosecutor Randall Harris said. "He knew it was coming"... "People might have thought this case just went to sleep," [special prosecutor, Randall]Harris said in a telephone interview. "Well, it didn't. We've continued to investigate. We've continue to meet with the attorneys. We've still been working this case. They know it wasn't going to go away"... McCracken, who now lives in Albuquerque and is married, will remain free on the same bond as in the first case...
MAGISTRATE'S CIVIL RIGHTS SUIT AGAINST MCCRACKEN DISMISSED
August 28, 2004
[Excerpts] A federal civil rights lawsuit filed by a Valencia County magistrate against former State Police officer Mark McCracken and other officers has been dismissed... [Magistrate Buddy] Sanchez alleged in the lawsuit that he had been targeted by various entities after he tried to get authorities to look at McCracken after the 1995 death of McCracken's wife, Melanie... Justin Pennington, Sanchez's lawyer, said in December that the alleged harassment stemming from his attempt to have McCracken investigated ranged from being followed in the grocery store to complaints being filed against Sanchez with the Judicial Standards Commission...
MURDER HEARING CONTINUES TODAY FOR EX-COP
KRQE News 13
[Excerpts] Is Melanie McCracken's death a nine-year-old medical mystery or an unsolved killing? That's the question before retired state District Judge David Bonem of Portales in an evidentiary hearing that started in Albuquerque yesterday. If Bonem finds probable cause, retired state police officer Mark McCracken could face trial for first-degree murder in the August 1995 death of his 24-year-old wife, Melanie. On Monday, prosecutors wanted to know why New Mexico State Police did not investigate more aggressively when one of its own officers was involved in a mysterious death. McCracken s own subordinates investigated the crash and prosecutors say the officers did not collect vital evidence at the scene or at the McCracken home. Mark McCracken's attorney, Peter Schoenburg, says Melanie McCracken suffered from mental illness and died after taking too many prescription drugs. Former District Attorney Randall Harris of Clovis is special prosecutor for the case. He says Melanie McCracken died of oxygen deprivation and that the only reasonable explanation is that her husband did it...
PROSECUTION CONTENDS TROOPER FEINED UNCONSCIOSNESS AS DEAD WIFE DISCOVERED
By: Reed Upton
[Excerpts] A defense attorney went on the offense but the prosecution countered during opening arguments in a preliminary hearing for a retired State Police officer producing a witness contending the officer was not unconscious at the time his dead wife was discovered... Monday, during McCracken s preliminary hearing, held in Albuquerque on a change of venue, a witness said that McCracken appeared to raise his head for two seconds upon being transported, while presumably unconscious, from the accident scene. "No sooner then I saw that, I saw another person - I'm sure it was a State Policeman - get the top of his head and push it back down," said paramedic Weldon Heath Wright in Monday s testimony. Heath also said McCracken appeared to brace himself against a potential fall as he was being transported on a backboard to an emergency helicopter. "There was a reaction of the arm to come out as and then come back in, which I remember very distinctly," said Heath Wright. In his opening argument, Peter Schoenburg, the attorney representing McCracken, portrayed Melanie McCracken as a liar and a drug user, calling her a walking pharmacy. He also said her cause of death is at doubt.
MCCRACKEN IN COURT: THE FORMER STATE POLICE LIEUTENANT IS SEEING ANOTHER HEARING ON WHETHER TO BE INDICTED IN THE 1995 DEATH OF HIS WIFE.
Joline Gutierrez Krueger
November 30, 2004
[Excerpts] Melanie McCracken had the bluest skin one seasoned paramedic had ever seen, a possible indication that she had died some time before the crash where her body was found, sprawled outside her husband's car. "One distinct thing I remember was that she was blue, she was very blue," Heath Wright testified Monday during the first day of a preliminary hearing that will decide whether her husband, retired State Police Lt. Mark McCracken, will stand trial for the Aug. 5, 1995, death of the 24-year-old Bosque Farms woman and McCracken's wife of just 18 months. Prosecutors contend that Melanie McCracken died at the hands of her husband, who suffocated her then staged the crash and influenced a shoddy investigation done by his fellow State Police officers - some of whom he supervised... McCracken's attorneys contend that it was not unusual for State Police to lead investigations of car crashes and other incidents in that jurisdiction because of their superior experience. On Monday, they also said that the emotionally fragile Melanie McCracken died by her own hand on an overdose of a prescription medicine. McCracken, they said, found his wife face-down in bed and was rushing her from their Bosque Farms home to an Albuquerque hospital when he turned around to check on her and lost control of his white Chevy Lumina, slamming into an elm tree and a fence post and rolling the car down a grassy slope on Isleta Pueblo land... Defense attorney Peter Schoenburg also attempted to discredit [ medical technician Don] Hobbs' contention that he had been sent to the McCracken home twice before on 911 calls and had seen bruising on Melanie McCracken's neck and shoulders. No written reports could be found for either call...
COURT HEARS TAPED ACCOUNT
By Joline Gutierrez Krueger
December 1, 2004
[Excerpts] Sometime before her death, retired State Police Lt. Mark McCracken said, his ailing wife believed something was going to happen that would require her to be rushed to a hospital. She didn't want to go by ambulance, he said. "She wanted me to drive her," he said... On Tuesday, one of the key witnesses was Mark McCracken himself, his voice heard in an interview taped Oct. 6, 1995, as part of a State Police investigation into his wife's death. The tape details McCracken's life with a woman whose health [HE says] had hung by a thread for much of their 18-month marriage. McCracken said his wife had undergone several surgeries, suffered from endometriosis and depression, experienced seizures and had to take numerous prescribed medications for her ailments.... McCracken said although he and his wife argued like most married couples, usually over his busy work schedule, there had been no violence save for a time when Melanie McCracken threw a TV remote control at a wall. Other witnesses, including two State Police officers who had also been friends with McCracken, said they had never seen any indication of domestic violence. Prosecutors allege that crucial evidence was lost because the case was not treated by State Police as a homicide - they say Mark McCracken suffocated his wife, who he had abused for months. McCracken's attorneys contend that his wife died of an overdose from promethazine, an antinausea medication, and that he was following her wishes in driving her to the hospital when he lost control of their car and crashed. On the tape, McCracken said he worked on the day his wife died and came home to find her weepy, ill and in bed watching the Home Shopping Network. He washed the car and worked out in another room. He came into the bedroom and found her face-down in the bed, he states on the tape...McCracken said he tried to resuscitate her, and when that failed he carried her to his car to take her to the hospital...
RETIRED TROOPER CHANGES STORY ON STAND AT MCCRACKEN HEARING
By: Reed Upton
[Excerpts] A former State Police officer now says he was never at a car wreck scene where a man facing murder charges was discovered with his wife's body. James Keryte, in a 1999 deposition, said that he spoke with officer Mark McCracken the evening of the crash and that McCracken was alert and tearful... Tuesday, Keryte testified that he never spoke with McCracken the night of the accident. When asked by a prosecutor whether he had a conversation with McCracken at the time, Keryte said, No. No I did not, and in later testimony denied ever being at the scene. Also testifying Tuesday was medical investigator Luis Brown who said he discovered no signs of trauma on Melanie consistent with an auto accident. Brown said his investigation led him to the McCracken home where he took several photographs of the couple bedroom. He said his pictures disappeared after he turned them in at work.
MCCRACKEN CASE 'UNUSUAL': PATHOLOGIST SAYS ASPHYXIATION A POSSIBLE CAUSE OF DEATH
By Joline Gutierrez Krueger
December 2, 2004
[Excerpts] Ross Zumwalt has seen plenty of death in a lifetime. But even to the longtime forensic pathologist, the death of Melanie McCracken more than nine years ago remains one of the most perplexing... Earlier Wednesday, the 18-year-old brother of Melanie McCracken testified that he saw Mark McCracken pin her down on a couch and slap her, apparently angry that she had gone to a grocery store to buy sodas and attempted to conceal her trip by taking the phone off the hook before she left...
DEFENSE WITNESS CALLS DEATH OF COP'S WIFE ACCIDENTAL
El Defensor Chieftain!
Dec 4, 2004
[Excerpts] A preliminary hearing to determine if Mark McCracken should stand trial was held. As an expert for the defense, Forensic psychologist Elliot Rapaport said that after conducting a psychological autopsy, he concluded that Melanie McCracken died of an "accidental suicide." Rapaport said that Melanie McCracken most likely suffered from two mental conditions — a factitious and somatization disorder. He said that people who suffer from a factitious disorder will feign, exaggerate or actually self-induce illnesses and those suffering from a somatization disorder, Rapaport said, will completely exaggerate their supposed disease and will submit themselves to unnecessary and intrusive procedures. He said he didn't interview Melanie McCracken's immediate family. Mark McCracken's own account of what happened the night of his wife's death was finally made public - his voice heard in an taped interview during an investigation by State Police into his wife's death... McCracken told the investigators that his wife had told him in the past that if anything ever happened to her, she didn't want to be taken to the hospital by an ambulance. He said Melanie told him that she wanted him to take her.
HEARING LUMBERS TOWARD END
The Albuquerque Tribune
By Joline Gutierrez Krueger
December 8, 2004
[Excerpts] The bitterly fought preliminary hearing to determine whether retired State Police Lt. Mark McCracken will stand trial for his wife's death in 1995 showed no signs of cooling down as it headed to its conclusion today. Attorneys for both sides were expected to battle this morning over what a domestic violence expert can testify to - if her testimony is accepted at all. Special Prosecutor Randall Harris is seeking to introduce the testimony of Anne O'Dell to advance the theory McCracken's police training taught him how to hide a trail of domestic violence that ultimately ended in Melanie McCracken's death by asphyxiation on Aug. 5, 1995. O'Dell, a former San Diego police officer, calls such perpetrators "sophisticated batterers." But the court on Tuesday heard only snatches from her because Harris and defense attorney Cammie Nichols spent most of the afternoon in heated debate with retired state District Judge David Bonem over O'Dell's credibility. Nichols argued O'Dell would merely introduce "triple quadruple hearsay," calling her testimony a backdoor to let in the rumor and innuendo that has swirled around the case. Defense attorneys say Melanie McCracken, 24, was no victim of domestic violence but of herself. They say she often feigned illness to get attention, telling many people she was dying of leukemia. To keep herself seeming sick, she went to great lengths, including taking promethazine, an anti-inflammatory prescription drug used to reduce nausea. But her charade backfired when she overdosed on the drug, killing her and setting off a mystery that has endured for more than nine years because of the lack of irrefutable evidence. Bonem on Tuesday said he would allow the introduction of O'Dell's testimony and two of her articles, including one specifically on officer-involved domestic violence, but would determine later whether they would remain in evidence... Dr. Ljubisa Dragovic, a forensic pathologist from Michigan, testified that the only logical explanation for Melanie McCracken's death was asphyxiation, and no evidence existed to support defense claims of a drug overdose. Dragovic, who was present at the second autopsy on Dec. 11, 2002, after Melanie McCracken's body was exhumed, said there were ways to kill someone by asphyxiation that would leave no anatomical trace. Dr. Nancy Kerr, an Albuquerque obstetrician and gynecologist, testified that leukemia had never been discussed or diagnosed in the six years she treated Melanie McCracken... Kerr said she last saw McCracken during an appointment Feb. 16, 1995, and remembered the woman's last mysterious words afterward. " 'It was good to see you. It makes me feel like everything is OK,' " Kerr recalled McCracken saying. "That left me with a lingering concern," Kerr said. "I didn't know what she meant." Six months later, Melanie McCracken was dead.
PATHOLOGIST: TROOPER'S WIFE WAS SUFFOCATED: Former State Police Lieutenant May Be Tried For Murder
December 8, 2004
[Excerpts] A forensic pathologist said he believes the 25-year-old wife of a retired state police officer was suffocated. The chief medical examiner for Oakland County, Mich., Ljubisa Dragovic, testified Tuesday in state district court in Albuquerque during a preliminary hearing for Mark McCracken...McCracken's current wife of six years, Leann McCracken, has said that the cloud of suspicion hanging over her husband's head all these years has been pure hell for the family. "At least now Mark's side of the story can come out, not half-truths," she said. "Because Mark is innocent. Mark did not do this. "We've had to listen to lies - I've had to try and console my kids because people are not kind, and they tend to believe the first thing they hear. I've had to answer questions why their dad is plastered all over TV, being accused of such awful things"...
NO MCCRACKEN TRIAL
The Albuquerque Tribune
Joline Gutierrez Krueger
December 30, 2004
[Excerpts] Evidence does not support murder charge, judge rules The nearly decade-long nightmare for former State Police Lt. Mark McCracken is over today after a judge ruled he will not stand trial for his young wife's mysterious death. But the nightmare the dead woman's mother, Nancy Grice, has lived since the day Melanie McCracken died in 1995 continues. "She's crushed," Mike Corwin, a private investigator close to the case, said today of Grice after learning retired state District Judge David Bonem will not bind over Mark McCracken for trial... In his ruling, Bonem did question why the State Police and not an independent law enforcement agency investigated Melanie McCracken's death...
EDITORIAL: MCCRACKEN CASE MUST LEAD US TO MAKE CHANGES
January 8, 2005
[Excerpts] 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... Melanie McCracken, her family, Mark McCracken and all other New Mexicans deserve better than a lingering cloud of speculation. 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 - and are never thought to be - 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 local police agencies.... [State District Judge David Bonem] 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 Mexicans 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...
DECISION UPHELD IN MCCRACKEN, HOUSTON CASES
[Excerpts] The state Supreme Court has upheld a lower court's dismissal of a petition for a grand jury to look into the alleged mishandling of death investigations in Valencia County. The high court said today that a state district judge was right to reject the petition because it did not contain enough information. The grand jury had been sought by family members of Melanie McCracken and Stephanie Houston.
FAMILY DISAPPOINTED WITH HIGH COURT'S REJECTION
Sep 16, 2005
[Excerpts] Two families who wanted a grand jury to investigate alleged mishandling of death investigations in Valencia County say they're disappointed with the state Supreme Court's decision to reject their petition. The high court yesterday upheld a lower court's dismissal of the families' petition... Today, the families said they would craft a new petition specific to individuals and allegations of criminal conduct and malfeasance. The families say they will also seek a federal investigation into the actions of current and former state employees who they believe conspired to obstruct justice in their daughters' cases.
[police officer involved domestic violence oidv intimate partner violence ipv abuse law enforcement public safety lethal fatality fatalities alleged suicide said suicide murder new mexico state politics unsolved unresolved]