Mel King

The hoopla about the dead cop in Tijeras got me thinking about my old friend, Mel King, and another dead cop just down the road from this one in Mountainair, New Mexico, in 1987. 

That one changed Mel’s life in a multitude of ways, for all the remainder of it.  I posted this on another blog December 21, 2005, the anniversary of his death:

If I ever write another book, Mel King will have to occupy a few chapters of it.  I’ve mentioned him a few times on this blog, but mostly, I’ve not been able to write much about him at all.  I’m still digesting what happened to him.

On one of the threads recently the discussion drifted to the War on Drugs.  I suppose if I’d never met Mel I probably wouldn’t have thought much about that issue, would never have bothered to form an opinion about it.

But in many ways, Mel was a product of that war, from the time it began during the Reagan Administration, he was one of the adversaries.  It changed him from a small-time marijuana growing woods-vet to a wealthy man.  When the ‘war’ drove the price of jade sky-high he was approached by a number of ranchers in the area, asked to teach them how to grow weed in quantity.  He became their broker, as well as a grower.

The War on Drugs involved Mel in a major felony arrest, confiscation of much of his property, caused the mysterious death of a police officer, got Mel targeted repeatedly on America’s Most Wanted television series, and constant harassment by the FBI, State Police and local police for the remainder of his life.

They wanted to believe he killed a Mountainair, NM, police officer because it was the only construction of the facts that didn’t expose the rotten core of the War on Drugs.  If Mel didn’t kill that cop, another cop, or cops, almost certainly did.


Shortly before he was murdered in December, 2004, he showed me an anonymous, hand-written letter accusing him of killing the policeman and threatening to come balance it all.  The undertone and nuances of the letter suggested it was written by another member of the ‘policeman brotherhood’ who wanted to even things out, not because he knew the dead cop, but because a person doesn’t get suspected of killing a cop and get by with it.

It’s time I began writing down a few things about Mel King anyway.

Mel King was a major, financially successful marijuana grower and large-scale broker in New Mexico for many years.  During that time he was also a long-term heroin addict.  (He first became addicted to morphine while in the hospital recovering from wounds he got in the Marine Corps in Vietnam).

The only way Mel got away with what he was doing for so many years was by being considered a complete maniac, and by making certain the authorities got their fair share of the proceeds.  He drove around in a VW van with bullet-holes in the windshield from the inside.

When he got busted in 1987, with 150 pounds in his house it was because he made himself too big a nuisance to be allowed to go on.  He was attracting too much attention.

But even so, he never came to trial.  That 150 pounds of high-grade vanished from the evidence lockers.  The empty bags with his evidence numbers on them were found in the home of the policeman who made the initial stop during his arrest.  But someone murdered that policeman, probably for the marijuana, which is how they happened to find the empty evidence bags.

While he was in jail awaiting bail, Mel resolved to turn his life around.  He freed himself from heroin and when he was released he started a successful furniture business, did his best to stay clean for the remainder of his life.  Succeeded in being a trustworthy, successful man and one of the best friends I’ve ever had.

During the years I knew him, Mel was a deeply spiritual man.  He was honest, guileless, hard-working, sincere, courageous, and in many ways, wise.  We prospected a lot of canyons together, talked of many things over campfires listening to the wind in the pines.  He was also my partner during Y2K.

Mel and I disagreed on many things, but he believed, as I do, that he knew what happens to a man when he dies.  He never feared death and he never believed he’d done anything in this life to give him any reason to fear it.

I believe he was right.

Old Jules

7 responses to “Mel King

  1. When a Third World Came West

    did you used to be a cop in New Mexico? Ive recently started watching breaking bad and i am so impressed by the dea…it seems like they have a lot of experience because it seems like the drug trade is so strong down there

    • Hi Tracy, I’ll go ahead and reply to this because I’m not sure when Old Jules will be online to respond to comments. No, he’s never been a cop.

    • Tracy: I’ve never been a cop, though when I first met Mel he thought I might be another one, come into his store to try catching him out on something. But we ended up doing some hard bargaining over a used couch and chair. That’s how our friendship began, two guys trying to out-bargain one another.

      Yeah, there’s a lot of drug trade in New Mexico, same as everywhere else in the US. I don’t have a television, so I’m not that impressed with the DEA, nor any other copshop. I’m not into the worship of gangs, whether they’re cop gangs or some other kind. Thanks for the visit. Jules

  2. Wow! A very moving post Jules. The first thing that came to my mind was the fact that the Viet Nam war screwed up so many young lives in America. I was there in LA in the late 60’s and got to know a couple of the guys who had just returned from duty over there. It seems that his injuries were responsible for his road to addiction, but he beat it. And let’s face it, Marihuana is not and never has been the most deadliest of drugs (if you can call it a drug). So, to get killed for making a success of growing it for himself and other farmers isn a complete joke!
    From what I can gather the drug is on the verge of being made legal now anyway. I know from the regular newsletters that my wife receives (she has MS) that they already have a Marihuana spray in production and is currently being tested, certainly in the UK and possibly in the States.
    When you say Mel was your Partner, in what sense, were you in the furniture business together, or just trail partners?
    Thanks for another great post Jules, get that book going my friend.


    • Hi Mark, I’m sure Old Jules will elaborate when he has time, but a quick response in the meantime.. Mel and he were partners during y2k when they bought a piece of land together and were involved with preparations.

    • Good morning Mark. Thanks for the visit. I suppose every war screws up a lot of lives, one way or another. Mel possessed an acute awareness that his life was fairly screwed up, but never blamed the three tours in Vietnam for his being screwed up. He went into the military because he was an angry young man and had ambitions toward being a badass, which he was, at least for the remainder of his life. But Mel recognized that his own life was driven by the choices he made during it. Not by the folks who took advantage of his foolishness, but rather the foolishness itself. He believed the Vietnam War was crap, but his own involvement in it was his own and everything that happened as a result was his own responsibility.

      Mel never had any patience with vets who blamed the war for screwing up their lives. He figured he’d have managed to screw up his, with or without the war, and so would they.

      As Jeanne explained, Mel and I weren’t business partners, though we occasionally did ‘joint ventures’ monetarily on aspects of the search for the lost gold mine. And we were partners on the Y2K land.

      Thanks again for the visit. Jules

  3. Simply wonderful. Wish I’d known him.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s