Kristopher Gray

My son, Kristopher Gray, 22, was found dead Sept. 2, 1995, by a pump jack at an oil well location on the south side of Farmington, New Mexico.

Kris had left home on Thursday, August 31, to go to work at Riley Industrial. He never returned. On Friday, Sept. 1, he did not show up for work or pick up his payroll check. A Sirgo employee (oil and gas field person) told investigators that he did not see Kris's body when he inspected the well site on Friday. On Saturday, Sept. 2, at about 8:30 a.m., that same employee noticed that the pump jack was off. He went to check the jack and discovered Kris's body. He contacted the Farmington Police Department, but because Kris was a Native American and his death occurred on the Navajo reservation, the case fell under the jurisdiction of the Navajo Tribal Criminal Investigators and the FBI.

At 1:30 p.m., Randy John and Leroy Deal, Navajo Tribal Criminal Investigators, came to our home to inform us that Kris's body had been found at the well site. He told us that Kris had been murdered, that police believed that there had been four vehicles at the scene, and that there were scuffle marks all over the place. A press release, issued by the FBI, confirmed that Kris's death was a homicide and stated that he was killed by blunt force blows to the head. Yet, no evidence such as fingerprints or foot or vehicle castings was collected from the crime scene.

The keys to Kris's pick-up truck were in his pocket, yet the truck itself was missing. It was later found, broken into, hot-wired, and abandoned on a street in Farmington. At my request, the truck was impounded, but police did not examine it for fingerprints or other forensic evidence.

According to the police report, witnesses told police that Kris had been at the Turnaround Bar on the evening of Sept. 1, with a group of other people. When the bar closed at about 1:30 a.m., the group left in a caravan of nine or ten cars to continue partying at a popular drinking area on a bluff on the Reservation. Reportedly a fight broke out between Kris and another man; Kris was knocked to the ground, and his opponent and a buddy of his kept kicking Kris in the head. Kris finally managed to scramble up and escape into the bushes. The two men then started searching for Kris, shouting threats and profanities. Kris reportedly emerged from the bushes and started running down the dirt road. One of the men shouted after him, "I hope I kill you, mother fucker! I hope you're dead out there!"

Kris's footprints reportedly showed that he continued to run down the road and then veered off into a field and headed for the oilrig. This makes no sense unless he was being chased. Our suspicion that foul play was involved is supported by the fact that blood was spattered on all sides of the pump jack, not just in the spot where Kris's body was found.

The autopsy report describes multiple abrasions, blunt force trauma to the head and neck, four broken ribs and a broken pelvis, a severed aorta, and a 4-inch gash on Kris's forehead. What it does not contain is the information that Kris had a stab wound on his right side under his ribs. I noticed that at the mortuary and asked the embalmer, Martin Harris, about it. Mr. Harris told me it was a fresh stab wound that he'd had to patch so it wouldn't leak.

The OMI finding was:

Cause of Death: Multiple injuries

How Injury Occurred: Fall from height

Manner of Death: Accident

The Tribal Investigators and the FBI closed Kris's case as an accident. Our family cannot accept that. FBI Agent Thomas Kneir, in a letter written 3/6/96 to U.S. Attorney John Kelly, ignored the medical examiner's "fall from a height" finding and stated instead that Kris was struck by one of the large counterbalance weights of the rotating pump jack. Yet, when Kris's body was found, the pump jack wasn't rotating! Who turned it off - and why? Are we to believe that, after being debilitated by the pump jack, Kris hopped back up and turned it off, then walked around to the other side of it and dropped dead?

A review by Dr. Harry Bonnell, a medical expert with the Second Opinion Service, sponsored by the Parents of Murdered Children, determined that Kris's injury pattern does not fit any of the theorized scenarios and that the investigation should be reopened.  Dr. Bonnell speculates that Kris was seriously injured in a fight and, while trying to escape his pursuers, was run down by a pick-up truck.

The attitude of the case investigators has been nothing but condescending to our family. They seem to feel that the murder of a tribal member is not worth investigating. Although Agent Kneir assured the U.S. Attorney that he was well informed about the circumstances of Kris's death, statements in his letter indicate otherwise. For example, Agent Kneir says:

"One issue remains unanswered concerning Kristopher Gray. This issue centers around the discovery of Gray's body on 9/03/95 -- two days after he was involved in the fight and last seen alive."

If Agent Kneir had been familiar with the case, he would have been aware that Kris was found on 9/2/95, the same morning as the fight on the bluff. There was no one-day time lapse! I have tried to point that out to the case investigators, but they refuse to accept the information. If that simple piece of information is incorrect in the police report, we have to wonder how much of the rest is inaccurate.

Kris's death was not properly and thoroughly investigated. My daughters and I gave investigators names of people who knew or worked with my son, but police never questioned them. And the witnesses they did interview were obviously lying. The interviews in the case file make it sound like Kris was staggering around, picking fights, and drunk out of his mind, but the autopsy report states that Kris's blood alcohol level was only .0321. I asked an FBI agent how much Kris would have had to drink to reach that level, and he said maybe one and a half beers. Two people have come to me and told me that Kris was trying to break up a fight between others and got killed in the process. I had to plead with the congressman and senator from our state to persuade police to give their witnesses lie detector tests. The police contend that they did administer two polygraph tests, but they won't identify the subjects to whom they were given, and since all the names in Kris's case file have been blacked out, there's no way to know if it's true.

Life has been very difficult for me since Kris's death. I have been tormented by this devastating ordeal. I would like to see justice served on the people who murdered my son. I feel that, because my son was a Native American, his case was never given the time of day. I find it hard to believe that the medical examiner was in a position to determine for certain that Kris "accidentally" fell from a height or stumbled into a pump jack, as compared to being shoved by somebody who was chasing him. And what about that unrecorded stab wound?

My son's death needs to be reopened and reinvestigated by people who are dedicated to truth and justice rather than to a quick and easy case closure.


Marie Gray-Lope