Albuquerque Journal from Albuquerque, New Mexico on October 23, 1988 · Page 2
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Albuquerque Journal from Albuquerque, New Mexico · Page 2

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Issue Date:
Sunday, October 23, 1988
Page 2
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A2 ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL Sunday, October 23, 1988 Morning Nation A shoot-out on the packed midway of the Texas State Fair in Dallas sent thousands of panicked fairgoers scrambling, authorities said Saturday. An 18-year-old gunman was killed in a scuffle with police and scores were injured in the melee. A10. Michael Dukakis blamed a George Bush campaign "of fear and of smear" for distorting his image to voters. Bush disavowed Illinois GOP ads asserting that rapists and murderers vote for Dukakis, adding "I don't back some of the stuff they're saying about me." A10. World A Shiite Moslem leader said in Beirut Saturday that kidnappers holding foreign hostages and threatening to hurt the American ones were committing an "unforgivable crime." Nabih Berri, who heads the mainstream Shiite Amal militia, criticized the threats made by the fundamentalist Islamic Jihad group. A4. Dimension Israel's Nov. 1 election is focused on whether to keep the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a buffer to hostile Arab states or trade away the land to preserve the nation's Jewish character. With the country almost evenly divided on the issue, the vote's outcome may be a continuation of a reluctant Likud-Labor coalition. B1. New Mexico In a complex land deal en- Mountainair Officer's CONTINUED FROM PAGE A1 police lieutenant, died only weeks after a major marijuana bust he helped initiate. Deputy Attorney General Steve Westheimer will say only that the investigation into Sandlin's death and other matters is continuing. Many of those in the town of 1,180 at the foot of the Manzanos have their own questions. However, most who knew the happy-go-lucky Sand-lin feel certain of one thing: he didn't take his own life. Stephen Sandlin had a nightmare shortly after he joined the four-man Mountainair Police Department on March 4. He dreamed he had been shot in the head, said Michelle Sturtevant, the mother of Sandlin's 2-year-old son, Robbie. "He told me it really scared him," she said in a recent interview. "He said it was someone he knew but he couldn't tell what his face looked like." Sturtevant, who said she and Sandlin planned to marry, was one of the last people to talk to Sandlin. She said he telephoned her at his family's house in Bosque Farms about 6:45 p.m. The call ended shortly after 7 p.m. A State Police teletype states the shooting occurred between 6:45 and 7:45 that evening. Sturtevant said Sandlin seemed normal during their conversation, telling her he was filling out paper work on several traffic stops he'd made earlier. He said he was going to drive to Bosque Farms the next morning to celebrate Mother's Day with Sturtevant and his mother, Eileen. "He said he was sitting in the chief's office, and then someone came into the room and he muffled the phone receiver with his hand," Sturtevant said. Sturtevant said she could hear someone yelling at him and his voice sounded like he was defending himself. "He got back on the phone and said, 'Oh, she was looking for Town Hall,' " Sturtevant said. "He then said he'd probably be up the next day and hung up. It was kind of abrupt, but we didn't think anything of it." A friend of the police chief's son found Sandlin on the hardwood floor sometime Later and reportedly ran out of the police station and called for help. The mayor and the police chief were among the first on the scene. Sandlin was found in the center of the police station with his .357 Magnum near his head. No one else is believed to have been working in the building that Saturday evening. There was no sign of a struggle. Nothing had been removed. No suicide note was found. The only way in and out of the police office is through one door that opens to the first-floor Town Hall and leads to an indoor stairway to the second-floor police office. It is believed the door was unlocked. "As the investigation shows right now, there were no witnesses, apparently, or eyewitnesses, but we're not positive of that so it makes a more difficult case in which to clearly determine what the cause of death was," said Tom Gillespie, who heads the team of investigators for REPORT 4 Stocking Up for the Storm Residents of Managua, Nicaragua, bought extra supplies and fortified their property Saturday in preparation for torrential rains expected from Hurricane Joan. Story on A5. gineered by a conservation group, uic lusiorii; cux xvancu m ine urgan Mountains will become public property rather than that of developers. C1. Democrat Tom Udall, who has made environmental protection a cornerstone of his campaign, captured the endorsements of four conservation groups Saturday in his race for the 1st District congressional seat. C6. the Attorney General's Office. Gillespie wouldn't say what the physical evidence showed, including checks for fingerprints or gunpowder burns. However, sources say questions have arisen concerning placement of the gun and blood on a wall where it wouldn't have been had Sandlin killed himself. Torrance County Sheriff Bobby Chavez, who also went to the scene that night, said the investigation indicates Sandlin was kneeling when the bullet entered his head. The autopsy by Dr. Karen Griest of the Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque showed Sandlin was killed by a bullet that never exited. Griest states in her report that the bullet entered about a half inch in front and 4Vi inches above Sandlin's right ear 2 inches from the top of the head. The report notes that "abundant blood" was present over the right hand. Sandlin was right-handed. The only other injuries found were several abrasions over Sandlin's left eye, which could have been sustained had he fallen to the floor. The autopsy didn't rule out suicide, Griest said, adding, "It doesn't rule out anything." To ascertain the cause of death, investigators have had to look beyond physical evidence to consider what went on before his death and after. Stephen Sandlin always wanted to be a policeman, from the time he was a small boy who watched his father get dressed for work. His father, Tom Sandlin, spent 21 years in APD before retiring in December. He said that as soon as his son got big enough to dress himself, he would try to put on his father's APD motorcycle boots. "He couldn't move in them yet, so he'd stand there and giggle,'" Sandlin recalled. "He'd put on my motorcycle helmet and it'd swallow him whole." Sandlin graduated from Eldorado High School in 1984. He worked for several cable companies in the Albuquerque area before landing a job in March as a policeman in Mountainair, which is about 80 miles southeast of Albuquerque. Soon after his arrival, Sandlin told his friends that he and other officers had been receiving death threats. Ernie Lopez, 18, said Sandlin told him that he and another officer, Frank Piehler, found anonymous notes on their door when Sandlin lived with Piehler temporarily. "The notes would say that they didn't like them and they were going to kill them," Lopez said, "They would get phone calls every day at the station, anonymous phone calls saying that they were all going to die." Sandlin eventually moved from Piehler's trailer to a place south of main street. "He even had a couple notes on his door when he moved into his house," Lopez said. "He was scared. He wouldn't even spend the night at his own house anymore." Three days before Sandlin died, Lopez said he spent the night at Sandlin's house "because he was scared to be alone." Police Chief David Carson said he was aware of some threats but had no knowledge of any notes. He said there wasn't an investigation into ??7 ASSOCIATED PRESS BUSineSS John McLean, founder of Hon-aghaahnii Marketing & Public Relations Inc., is preparing to give Indian art a major export push. He believes that, with some promotion, he can triple income from foreign sales. D1. Sports The University of New Mexico the threats. "It's a little hard to investigate a phone call," Carson said. " Sandlin, like the other two officers on the force, hadn't yet been certified as law enforcement officers by the state. He chiefly worked traffic patrol and was proud of the number of tickets he'd written. In mid-April, Sandlin was responsible for initating a traffic stop that led to seizure of 50 pounds of marijuana, with a street value of $25,000. Citing the advice of the District Attorney's Office, Carson declined to discuss details or release reports on the April 11 arrest of Melvin King, 40, of Manzano. However, witnesses say Sandlin initially stopped King outside the Rosebud Bar in Mountainair on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. The next day, the Mountainair Police Department received consent to search King's house, about 18 miles north of town, according to a search warrant affidavit. The affidavit states that Susan Sprague, described as King's ex-girlfriend, consented to the search in which the marijuana and related paraphernalia were seized. Sprague also was arrested after State Police secured a search warrant for her Torrance County home on April 15. Authorities found a small quantity of hashish, a vial of white powder and a "marijuana pipe," according to the return on the warrant. The affidavit stated that "it is believed that King and Sprague are in a business association of distributing marijuana." Court records show King was released on a $100,000 bond after his arrest. Charges against both are pending. Authorities intended to seize King's home for possible forfeiture proceedings because drugs had been found there. However, the night of Sept. 26, someone set the house on fire, said Dwayne Merritt, investigator for the state fire marshal. Merritt said the case was turned over to the FBI. An FBI spokesman on Friday declined comment. Neither Melvin King nor Sprague could be reached for comment. Their attorneys disavow any wrongdoing on their clients' part. The estimated 50 pounds of marijuana from King's house sat on the floor of the Mountainair police department for five days. Sandlin and Piehler were among the officers who helped guard the contraband while the police department figured out where to put it. Carson won't discuss what happened next because it relates to the King case. However, Mayor Richard Shovelin said he was told the police department didn't have a secure place to store the marijuana. "We tried to find a place to put it, but the State Police wouldn't take it, and the Attorney General's Office couldn't handle it," Shovelin said last week. So it was locked up at the county jail in Estancia. Or so they thought. The marijuana has turned up missing. Sheriffs Department records indicate only that Sandlin and Piehler brought four garbage bags of marijuana to the sheriffs department in Estancia on April 17. Gary Watts, the undersheriff in Torrance County, said the mari- lost more than a football game when the Texas-El Paso Miners rolled past the Lobos on Saturday, 37-0. UNM quarterback Jeremy Leach tore the trapezius muscle in his left shoulder and might not play for weeks. E1. A homecoming, of sorts, is scheduled today in Pittsburgh when Tony Dorsett and the Denver Broncos play the Steelers. Dorsett, one of the greatest players ever to come out of western Pennsylvania, is a fan of the 1-6 Steelers, but he's surprised the team is doing so poorly this year. E1. Trends Rather than spring for an expensive new house, many people are remodeling their current homes, or buying cheaper older homes with an eye toward renovation. The nationwide trend now is taking hold in Albuquerque. F1. Fifty Plus About 36 million people in the United States have arthritis. However, most cases are distinct, so it's hard to specify why it develops or what may help alleviate the pain it causes. F8. Arts Albuquerque photographer Tom Barrow uses one of the largest Polaroid cameras in the world to take pictures of burning houses and a Chevy headed west. G1. 5ZZ The night of Sept. 26, someone said a state fire marshal. juana was moved from a storage locker to a trailer that sits in an impound yard outside the sheriffs department May 13 six days after Sandlin's death. Watts said the trailer, which was used to store contraband and items seized during arrests, was locked, but one of its windows was broken. He said sheriffs officials discovered four or five days later that the trailer had been broken into and the marijuana was gone. Shovelin said his undertstanding of what happened was that "most of the 50 pounds" was stolen. He said that it was only a matter of several days after it was dropped off in Estancia well before Sandlin's death that Mountainair officials heard about the disappearance. "If there's going to be any indictments, it's going to be against them (the sheriff's officials), not us," Shovelin said. Watts, who is running for sheriff in the November election, said in an interview last week that at the time he was under pressure to clean out the storage locker to make room for a new juvenile holding area. "I wish we'd never accepted that evidence," Watts said, adding that he compounded the problem by moving it to the trailer. "I made a stupid mistake by moving it out there, but I didn't have any idea it was going to be stolen," Watts said Friday. Watts said he has been questioned by investigators for the Attorney General's Office because of the loss, but denied any wrongdoing or involvement in the theft. Sheriff Chavez said Mountainair police had never before asked his department to store contraband. Officials from the State Police and Attorney General's Office arrived to handle the investigation the night of Sandlin's death. Both agencies were familiar with Mountainair. Two state investigators were in town the day before interviewing Carson and others. Westheimer had no comment when asked why. Officials from the two state agencies searched Sandlin's home the night of his death and found no marijuana, said two sources familiar with the investigation. The next day, a Sunday, Shovelin, Carson and Watts went into the house after Carson phoned the family requesting permission to enter. The following Tuesday, Sandlin's mother and his fiance arrived from Bosque Farms to begin removing the young officer's belongings. Eileen Sandlin said she went into the kitchen, opened a drawer and Death Here are the people to contact and the telephone numbers of the major Journal news departments: Action Line ArtsEntertainment Frank Zoretich City Desk Church BriefsDaily Record Jean Garvey Columnist Jim Arnholz Columnist Larry Calloway Community Briefs Jennifer West Editorial Page Bill Hume Financial News A.C. Etheridge HappeningsArt Calendar Karen Keller Las Cruces Bureau Bill Diven (505) New Mexico Bruce Daniels Photography Ray Cary Santa Fe Bureau Tim Coder (505) Sports Trends Steve Hallock Washington Bureau Paul Wieck (202) Weddings Liz Otero For news information, and to reach staff members: Newsroom Receptionist 823-3800 If your paper is late Your home-delivered Journal should arrive by 7 a.m. If it isn't there by that time, call before 10 a.m. to: Circulation Customer Service 823-4400 Albuquerque Journal PO Drawer J Albuquerque, N.M. 87103 Street Address 7777 Jefferson N.E. Phone 823-7777 SUGGESTED SUBSCRIPTION RATE BY CARRIER Montis; Ji Sunday SS.S0 per month Sunday only $4.00 per month PUBLISHER assumes no responsibility for payments to carriers for more than the current month. SUBSCRIBERS desiring to pay tlx or twelve months in advance will please mall remittance at their carrier nut direct to the circulation department. tirs Suspicions - .. JOURNAL set Melvin King's home on fire, was stunned to see several bags of marijuana. The marijuana was packaged in freezer bags and marked with red and white tape used by law enforcement agencies to label evidence. The marijuana, believed to have been part of the load taken from King's house, was turned over to authorities. Sandlin's mother said her son never used marijuana or any other drugs a contention supported by others who knew him. Toxicology tests performed as part of the autopsy showed no trace of drugs. Chief Carson, in an interview last week, said he "can't discuss anything" about the discovery. Carson said he went to the house that Sunday because Sandlin "had an interest in guns and so forth. Our concern was 'was his house secure?' " Carson said they were inside the house for a brief period of time but never conducted a search. Shovelin had another explanation. "He (Sandlin) had some animals," Shovelin said, "and we wanted to see if they were okay, and to see if there were any signs of him doing himself in." Watts said he was called by Carson to accompany the police chief and mayor to Sandlin's house. "I wish to God I'd never gone," Watts said, "Because of the things that's been going on. They asked me to go, for what reason, I don't know. I guess they asked me so that people couldn't accuse them of hauling stuff out. I just wish I had used better sense." Watts said they were inside the house for five to 10 minutes and only looked around the rooms. He said he didn't see anything removed that Sunday. Carson said it is his understanding state investigators didn't search the house until after he, Shovelin and Watts went into the house that Sunday. Ivan Riley, who lives just south of the house, said he recalled seeing Carson and the others at Sandlin's house that afternoon. Riley also said he remembered seeing a pickup truck at the house that morning. He said he'd never seen the pickup in town and figured it belonged to the young man's parents. The first members of Sandlin's family didn't arrive in Mountainair until Tuesday. Scores of people turned out for Stephen Sandlin's funeral in Albuquerque on May 11, including Tom Sandlin's friends in the APD motor-cyle and traffic divisions. The Attorney General investigators attended as did members of the 823-3888 823-3920 823-3840 823-3562 823-3930 982-4558 823-3840 823-3861 823-3830 823-3920 526-4461 823-3912 823-3991 988-8881 823-3900 823-3936 338-2240 823-3922 SINGLE COPY RATES Morning $ .35 Sunday Ji.eo NEW MEXICO Morn 4 Sua lyr... SIMM Morn St Sun 6 mos . S 78.M Morn It Sun 3 mos . S 39.W Morn A Sun 1 mo $ 13.M Sunday only 1 mo . S 4.75 Dally only 1 mo ... S 10.50 OUT OF STATE Morn k Sun lyr... $12.00 Mora St Sun 6 mos . S 96.00 Morn St Sun mos . $ 48.00 Mora St Sun 1 mo .. S 16.8 Sunday only 1 mo . S o.M Daily only lmo ... $ 12.09 All mail subscriptions are payable in advance. Foreign Country rates available upon request. Second-class postage paid In Albuquerque and additional mailing offices Albuquerque Journal Publicstion Number (USPSJ (012-7201 Mountainair Town Council and Mayor Shovelin. A published funeral notice mentioned the three remaining police officers on the Mountainair force would be the honorary pallbearers. However, no one from the department showed. Shovelin said Sandlin's death "hit these officers pretty hard. The chief tells me he couldn't bring himself to doing it (attending the funeral). I wish he had, but there was nothing I could do about it." Carson said that after Sandlin's death he told officers Edmundo Diaz and Piehler to "take some time off" to reflect on whether they still , wanted to be police officers. ! He said he couldn't attend be- ; cause he was expecting investiga- tors from the Attorney General's ! Office that morning. Within a week after Sandlin's ; death, Piehler resigned from the department. ; Shovelin said Piehler, who had ; been on the force several months, ! had been "found to have contribut- ; ed to the delinquency of a minor by j giving him alcohol." Piehler wasn't charged, Shovelin said. He since has moved from town and couldn't ; be reached for comment. ' Mrs. Sandlin also said some of her I son's personal belongings appear to ; be missing. According to a June 23 letter she sent the mayor, Carson and City Council, these items in- ; elude tape recordings she said her son made during arrests and traffic ! stops. ; Carson said he doesn't know any- thing about any missing items. Mrs. ! Sandlin said Attorney General's in- vestigators told her they don't have the items. All they kept is Sandlin's ! wallet. Though his career was brief, Sandlin was considered by many in town to be the best cop on the forced "He was a good guy. If you deserved a break, he'd give you one," said Riley, Sandlin's neighbor" and a 12-year resident. ' Said another man who wished to , remain anonymous, "Me, myself, I don't like cops much. But Steve was ' different. Now, him I liked." Many townspeople don't believe he committed suicide. "He acted like he had everything ' in the world going for him," Watts ; said. Several people who saw him in the ' hours before his death remembered ' him as "joking and kidding around." He had ordered flowers May 6 to take to his mother on Mother's Day. Shovelin, who responded to the scene that night because he works ' for the town's ambulance service,' said "suicide was out of the question for Steve." ; ' "I thought it was a homicide," he ' said. ; ' ; However, Carson said Sandlin' was too good of an officer to allow' someone to walk into the police station and kill him with his own' gun. Any notion of it being accidental' also is difficult to believe, said Carson, because Sandlin knew his", way around guns. ', ' Sandlin qualified as "a master shooter" in police target practice, Carson said. Carson said he didn't have ah; opinion asto how it happened. Says Sandlin's mother, "I'm con-.' vinced it had to be someone he" knew, someone who could get close to him." !

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