Jury Wants Police Investigated in Ex-Cop's Case

 

By Colleen Heild -- Albuquerque Journal Investigative Reporter.  November 4, 2003

 

The grand jury that indicted retired New Mexico State Police Lt. Mark McCracken on murder charges believes the State Police should now be investigated for its handling of the case.

 

McCracken on Monday was released on $100,000 bond after waiving arraignment on charges he killed his wife, Melanie McCracken, in 1995 and tampered with evidence. Through his lawyer, he pleaded not guilty.

 

Randall Harris, a special prosecutor appointed to assist the Valencia County grand jury, said Monday evening grand jurors requested that another grand jury be empanelled to "review the conduct" of the State Police in the inquiry. Harris said he has passed on that request in a letter to Valencia County District Attorney Lemuel Martinez.

 

"This seemed to be a very strong request," said Harris, who served 12 years as district attorney for the Ninth Judicial District based in Clovis.

 

State Police were called to the scene after Melanie McCracken's body was found in the backseat of the family car after a one-car accident Aug. 5, 1995, off N.M. 47, south of Albuquerque.

 

Mark McCracken, who was off-duty at the time, said he found her unconscious at their Bosque Farms home and lost control of the car, causing it to overturn, on the way to the hospital.

 

The state Office of the Medical Investigator couldn't determine how the 24-year-old woman died, even after her body was exhumed and a second autopsy was performed last year.

 

McCracken, 41, has denied any involvement in her death, and State Police closed the case in early 1996.

 

Martinez, however, reopened the case after assuming office in 2001 and appointed Harris as a special prosecutor in February. This time, chief district attorney investigators Larry Diaz and Allan Farkas investigated the case. The evidence had never been reviewed by a grand jury until last week.

 

After Friday's indictment, attorneys in the case arranged for McCracken to surrender Monday rather than be arrested.

 

Harris said it was clear from discussions with McCracken's defense attorneys that their client would report to the Valencia County Sheriff's Department, which Harris characterized as an "independent agency."

 

Instead, McCracken surrendered to former State Police colleagues at the office he once supervised.

 

State Police Lt. Robert San Roman said McCracken turned himself in at the Los Lunas State Police office Monday morning. Up until several years ago, McCracken had been a supervisor there. He is a 21-year veteran of the agency.

 

San Roman said McCracken was taken to the detention center by a State Police criminal agent and received no preferential treatment.

 

"He was under arrest and he was being transported just like any other arrestee," San Roman said.

 

About 11:30 a.m., the unmarked State Police car with tinted windows drove by reporters and into the secure area of the Valencia County Detention Center where reporters and the public are not allowed.

 

He was released more than two hours later on a $100,000 bond, for which he had posted $10,000.

 

"I really think the judgment of them (State Police) getting involved like this certainly is questionable," Harris said.

 

A lieutenant with the Valencia County Sheriff's Department did the actual booking, while detention center employees put up a curtain to block news media cameras from taking photos inside the facility through a window.

 

After posting bond, McCracken walked quickly out the front door surrounded by an entourage of detention center officials. McCracken had no comment before rushing into a sports utility vehicle that had pulled up seconds earlier.

 

"We were just hoping to make it as private for him as possible," defense attorney Carolyn Nichols said.