PRESS RELEASE: Farmington police seeking public assistance in missing person cold case

Farmington, NM – The Farmington Police Department is seeking information on the disappearance of Melanie James. James was last seen by her sister on Sunday, April 20, 2014 walking on Butler Avenue near McKinley Elementary School with an African American male. James’ sister did not recognize the male who was with her. By the time her sister was able to turn her vehicle around, James was gone. Family has not seen or heard from her since.

Family and friends would sometimes go days or even weeks without hearing from James, but by June it had been close to two months since anyone heard from her, which was out of character to go that long without phone contact. James’ mother called the Farmington Police Department on June 12, 2014 to report her daughter as a missing person.

It’s been nearly five years since anyone has seen or heard from James. Detectives followed up on tips and conducted interviews, but nothing led them to her. Over the years, leads in the case have been sporadic and investigative leads have been exhausted. The Farmington Police Department is reviewing this case again to determine if there are any other investigative avenues to follow.

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Melanie James is urged to contact Detective Heather Chavez at (505) 566-2370 or non-emergency dispatch at (505) 334-6622. Anonymous tips may be submitted through the Farmington Police Department Detective Tip Hotline at (505) 599-1068.

The family of Melanie James is holding a community prayer vigil for Melanie and all the missing and murdered indigenous women and men on Saturday, April 20, 2019 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at Orchard Park located at 105 N. Orchard in Farmington.

PRESS RELEASE: Nationally recognized speakers to present in San Juan County, advocates for cell-free roads

Hang Up and DriveFarmington, NM –  Nationally recognized speakers, Jacy Good and Steve Johnson, are coming to San Juan County to share their story and encourage others to hang up and drive. A free public presentation will take place on April 3 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the San Juan College Henderson Fine Arts Center. During that same week Jacy and Steve will also be speaking at area high schools.  The presentations were organized by the 11th Judicial District Courts, Farmington Police Department and the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management.

Jacy and Steve graduated from college in May 2008. A tragedy struck hours after receiving their diplomas. About halfway back to her childhood home in Lancaster, Pa. the car carrying Jacy and her parents was struck head-on by a tractor trailer as both entered an intersection with green lights. The truck had swerved to try to avoid a man coming from the intersecting road who attempted to turn left through a red light. That man was talking on his phone at the time.

Jacy’s parents never left the scene but an astounding series of fortunate events and unequalled medical care kept Jacy alive in the crumpled car, the ambulance ride and through 8 ½ hours of surgery. She was given a 10 percent chance of survival as she lay comatose and nearly unrecognizable in intensive care that first night. Steve spent 12 hours a day by her side through four months of hospitalization. Jacy’s laundry list of injuries have managed to heal through time and a healthy dose of titanium rods, plates and screws. Due to a traumatic brain injury, she is unable to use her left arm or lower leg and has minor lingering cognitive issues.

Less than a year after that life-altering tragedy, Jacy began to campaign for a cell phone ban in her native Pennsylvania. This unexpectedly triggered an avalanche of interview requests and public appearances. Since April 2010, Jacy has been on The Oprah Winfrey Show, a guest of Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at the United Nations, a “Hero Among Us” in People Magazine, a speaker at Maria Shriver’s Women’s Conference, on NPR’s Car Talk and has been featured in dozens of articles, television news pieces and press conferences nationwide.

Since 2011, Jacy and Steve have spoken at over 850 events across the country to over 250,000 people. They encourage drivers to make safer choices, companies to develop and enforce cell phone policies and legislators to pass necessary laws to protect the public.

For more information about Jacy and Steve, visit


Thin Blue Line Tree at the Festival of Trees, honoring fallen officers

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If you plan on attending this year’s Festival of Trees, be sure to stop by and see the Thin Blue Line Tree. The tree was created by Kristalee Keeling and her mom, Sheila Keeling, both of whom work in law enforcement. Kristalee, a community service officer with the Farmington Police Department and Sheila, a reserve deputy with the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, chose the theme as a way of paying respect and remembering the officers who lost their lives this year. To date, a total of 133 officers were killed in the line of duty; sixty were from gunfire. Kristalee explained, “We are hoping this tree will bring some reality to the public as to how many lives have been lost.”

Kristalee also recruited her sister, Twila Gibson, and FPD code compliance officer, Marc Kennedy, to help with decorating. The names and photos of officers killed since Thanksgiving have been placed by the tree along with a list of fallen K9s. In addition, there is a poster explaining the meaning of the thin blue line.

The Keelings would like to thank the following businesses for their contributions to the Thin Blue Line Tree: Chili’s, Dickey’s Barbeque Pit, Lowes, Home Depot, Chick-fil-A, D&S Kennels, La Mesa Chiropractic, Octopus Car Was, and Los Hermanitos.

The Festival of Trees runs from November 30 to December 3. For more information about this event, visit



PRESS RELEASE: DWI checkpoints to be conducted in December

Farmington, NM – The Farmington Police Department, in partnership with surrounding law enforcement agencies, will be conducting DWI checkpoints during the month of December. These checkpoints are part of a continuing effort to reduce the number of injuries and deaths related to drunk driving. The checkpoints are in addition to FPD’s ongoing RADD campaign, which encourages citizens to call 911 to report aggressive and drunk drivers.

Please remember to drink responsibly and use a designated driver. FPD wishes everyone a safe and happy holiday season!

MEDIA ADVISORY: No Shave November Finale

On Wednesday, November 30th at 2:00 p.m. Born Barbers and Buffalo Wild Wings will partner with the Farmington Police Department for a No Shave November Finale.

Earlier this month, FPD announced that their officers were participating in No Shave November. The department decided that in addition to raising cancer awareness, their participation would benefit a local cause. After learning the Shop with Your Cop program was in need of donations, they were chosen to be the recipient of funds raised.

The fee for officers to participate in No Shave November was $25 to grow a goatee and $40 to grow a beard. The Farmington Police Department is pleased to announce they raised over $1,300 for the Shop with Your Cop program.

Following FPD’s Facebook post about No Shave November, local barber shop, Born Barbers, reached out and offered to partner with them for an end of the month event. During the event, Born Barbers will shave and clean up the officers for a $5.00 donation, which will be covered by an anonymous donor. The donations will also go to the Shop with Your Cop program.

What:              No Shave November Finale                                

Who:               Farmington Police Department & Born Barbers

When:             Wednesday, November 30, 2016, 2:00 p.m.

Where:           Born Barbers 2012 N. Hutton

PRESS RELEASE: Farmington police officers to undergo change in appearance, change will cost them

Farmington, NM – During the month of November, the community may notice a change in our officers’ appearance…

And the change is all for a good cause! The Farmington Police Department will be participating in No-Shave November. This is a time when individuals stop putting a razor to their face and grow out their hair to help raise cancer awareness. Money that’s typically spent on shaving and grooming products is instead, donated to cancer related organizations.

Farmington chief of police, Steve Hebbe, approved officers to take part in this initiative, with one caveat: they must pay to participate. The department’s involvement in No-Shave November will benefit not one, but two causes: cancer awareness and the local Shop with Your Cops program.

The idea was raised after one of FPD’s shift sergeants learned the program was looking for sponsors. Shop with Your Cops is an annual, multi-agency law enforcement event that helps create memorable Christmases for children in our community. The event is organized and managed by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office Foundation. The foundation’s 2016 goal is to provide EVERY child referred to the program, with the experience of shopping with their cops.

“Our community, like so many others, is experiencing economic hardships,” explained Georgette Allen, public information officer. “No-Shave November is close to the holidays. By participating in this initiative in such a way, we can help increase cancer awareness and provide assistance to families right here in San Juan County.”

Officers were informed of this fundraising event on November 4 and donations immediately came in, including from Chief Hebbe, who will be sporting a goatee. Minimum donations are $25 to grow a goatee and $40 to grow a beard. Officers must pay prior to growing their chosen facial hair.

Anyone who would like to make a donation to this year’s Shop with Your Cops event, can mail a check or money order to the SJCSO Foundation 211 S. Oliver Aztec, NM 87410. To make a donation with a debit or credit card, or for more information, email .

If you would like to make a donation toward a local cancer organization, visit

PRESS RELEASE: Farmington Police Department to host women’s conference

Farmington, NM – The Farmington Police Department is working to support women in law enforcement. On November 9 and 10, FPD will host a conference aimed at providing quality training to female officers and non-sworn personnel who work in a law enforcement setting. The Southwest Women in Law Enforcement conference will bring together speakers from New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois and Texas. Topics at the two-day training will address issues faced by women working in a law enforcement setting. This is the first training of its kind to be hosted by FPD, and the department hopes to make it reoccurring. Chief Hebbe explained why the department decided to organize a conference of this nature, “In the United States, women account for approximately 12% of police, which is about where FPD falls. These numbers are not reflective of our population. There is a variety of reasons why women either don’t enter the field of law enforcement, or enter and leave prior to completing their careers to retirement.”

Some of the issues women in law enforcement face are the same as in any other profession: balancing family and career, gender bias and sexual harassment. Issues that are more prominent in law enforcement include a lack of peer acceptance, lack of mentors/role models and the perception that women have to “act like men” to fit in a male dominated field. Conference presenters will address such topics and share how they’ve overcome adversity, succeeding in their careers.

Law enforcement has evolved significantly over the last 50 years and is much more diverse than when women first entered the profession in the early 1900s. Farmington Police Department wants to see the profession continue to evolve. The department is actively looking to recruit more women and provide a work environment conducive to career success. “We are hosting this conference to provide support and encouragement to women who may be experiencing various challenges in their law enforcement careers,” said Chief Hebbe. “Women are an asset to the profession, and it’s time we recognize and appreciate their contributions. Studies have shown that female officers can be more effective in utilizing communication skills to defuse hostile situations. This is an area the department strives to improve on. In addition, women bring another perspective to the profession, making us (law enforcement) better as a whole and more reflective of our community.”

Eighty women from 18 different agencies throughout New Mexico and Colorado have registered to attend the conference. Sergeant Sierra Tafoya, lead conference organizer, said, “We are pleased with our first year’s registration numbers and hope to increase them in the upcoming years. We’ll be collecting feedback from attendees so that improvements can be made for future attendees.”

For more information about the SWWLE conference, visit

*Media is welcome to attend

Dates/Times:        November 9th (7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.) & 10th (8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.)
Place:                     Farmington Civic Center

A survivor’s story

by: Vickie Kinnard



My story of abused to survivor began October 4, 2013. It was a beautiful warm sunny day in LaPorte, TX, perfect for a wedding. Family gathered to celebrate the union of me and my fiancé, Sterling. He was tall, over six feet, thin, strong, and handsome. Sterling – his name fit him. I was blindsided by boldness, his humor and his knowing what was missing in my life. I was a successful counselor, having a sharp intuition for reading people. So, how did I misread the man I was about to marry? That is the million dollar question. By noon I had signed what most would call a marriage license; it was my death certificate.

The evil he had hid so well from me was soon to be unleashed. After spending a few days with my family, we left for an extended camping trip to Oklahoma. Driving over a railroad track a little too fast, the car bottomed out and in that instant my world changed. The blood dripping from my nose and running down my chin took a minute for me to comprehend; he had busted my nose and put two of my teeth through my top lip. Having never had a cross word with him in the last six months, surely this was an accident. He could not have meant to hit me.

Arriving where we would set up camp, things were good. I accepted his apology and even apologized myself for not being more careful driving over the railroad track. We talked and I expressed that hitting me was not OK and would never be OK and could not happen again or the marriage would be over before it even got started.

Two weeks passed without incident. I was happy and felt so safe with him. Then we broke camp and I set the GPS for home, back to Louisiana…back to reality. He informed me we were not going back to Louisiana. As I drive south, unsure of where I am actually going, my mind searches for clues to what is going on with my husband. We stop in Texas and set up camp again. We were there a few days; our one month anniversary rolled around. I had purchased him a small gift and was excited for him to have it. He was furious with me. How dare I try to make him feel bad and less of a man by getting him something, knowing he hadn’t gotten a gift for me. He raged for hours and then it happened; he broke my nose and blackened both my eyes. This was going to be the norm for me, and I realized I would not be going home.

While in Texas we celebrated Christmas and New Years. I thought this would be my last of both. He once again raged at Christmas, so angry he picked me up by my hair and threw me off the bed, ripping my scalp. I had never seen so much blood and I faded out of consciousness. When I woke he was sexually assaulting me. The more I screamed for him to stop the more he would hurt me. He punched me in the face and I was knocked unconscious. Grateful I don’t have to know all the details of what he did to me that night, just knowing I couldn’t stand up right for several days without excruciating pain, told me I didn’t want to know.

Over the next eight months we would mostly drive at night and camp deep in the woods of Georgia, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. By deep I mean about 30 miles from any town with no electricity, no water, and no help. During this time I always had black eyes, a broken nose, bruises, was sexually abused, and emotionally tortured.

March 2014, we arrived in Taos, NM. Things were going to be different, he had friends here. My chance to get away, I thought. Surely someone will help me here. We stayed in an abandoned trailer, still no water or electricity, but out of the elements, yet still no help. My screams were heard. I know they were, because porch lights would be turned off as I pleaded for my life. No one called 911 and no police came to rescue me. While in Taos I was beaten daily and at night the abuse would cross into the sadistic realm. He would sit on my chest, punch me in the nose then with a crushing grip around my neck, laugh as my mouth would fill with the blood from my nose. He would let go and watch me choke on my own blood and then rape me. The more blood there was, the more aroused he became. One day he drove out a dirt road to the edge of the Taos Gorge where he dragged me to the ledge. I knew he was going to shove me over, so I had a death grip on his arm. If I was going to die here, so was he.

On June 2, 2014 he told me we were leaving. I had ruined things with his friends, and because I had bled all over the trailer, we had to move. He wanted to go toward California; I wanted to go home. He had been successful in spending every penny I had and maxing out my credit cards. A payment on my car hadn’t been made since September and he was sure the police would be looking for it. I had officially become worthless to him. With the last full tank of gas, we drove toward Farmington. I knew Farmington would be my final chance to escape. I made that few-hours-long drive last over nine; then we ran out of gas at a Wal Mart. He hustled enough money for a tank of gas. We filled up but I refused to drive any further that night.

Resting was not going to happen as I sat in my car with a knife to my throat. My husband yelling at me, the details of how he’d slit my throat, gut me, and leave me in the desert where no one would find me if anyone even cared to look for me. I listened to this all night. At 3 a.m. he said it was time; he was pumped and ready to get this done. I told him I had to go to the restroom. It was an argument, but I convinced him if I went behind the store the security cameras would see me and the police would be called. To my surprise he allowed me to go inside. Unaware he was following me, I went in and at the first register was a lady with a look of total disgust and disbelief. She was looking right at me. I mouthed the words please call the police as I walked toward the bathroom. She was already on the phone before I finished my statement.

Literally, it took less than a minute or two for Officer Aikele to be walking toward me. As I looked past him, I saw my husband standing at the first register. In a blink of an eye my husband was gone. Had I really see him standing there? Yes, I did but I would not see him for several months after that moment. Scared, battered, bruised, and broken, Officer Aikele had the task of trying to comfort me, take my statement and even comprehend what I was saying. I am not even sure if I could put together a complete sentence. He was so professional and stern, yet gentle and comforting. I knew I was going to be safe.  He made calls to find me a safe place to stay. I knew no one and had nowhere to go in New Mexico. Securing me a spot in a nearby safe house, he escorted and placed me in their care. In the safe house I met my case manager Amanda Lobato, who later became my victim advocate with the Farmington Police Department.

My story is not over, but I am no longer broken. My abuser will be released from his Hobbs, NM prison cell in February 2017. Regardless of what the future holds, the unknown is nowhere near as scary as my past.

I wanted to share my story of survival and to openly thank Officer Aikele for saving my life and Amanda Lobato for helping facilitate my recovery and being there for me during the trial and his entire court process. Words can never convey the gratitude and love I have for these two wonderful people. I pray for them by name daily and for the rest of the Farmington Police Department as a whole.

PRESS RELEASE: Law Enforcement Torch Run to host fire truck pull benefiting Special Olympics

Farmington, NM – The Four Corners Law Enforcement Torch Run would like to invite the public to attend the 2016 LETR Fire Truck Pull benefiting Special Olympics. The event will take place on Saturday, November 19 at the Farmington Museum. Registration begins at 12:00 p.m. and the first pull is at 1:00. This free, family-friendly event will provide a variety of festivities, including face painting, touch-a-truck with SWAT, fire, and EMS, exhibitors, food and more.

Anyone who would like to form a team and compete in the pull may download forms from the events page at or contact Officer Brian Johnston at (505) 258-8615. Teams must be comprised of 10-12 people. Entry fee is $50 per team member with the minimum team fee being $500. All registration fees benefit the Special Olympics.

Farmington Police Department has been a longtime supporter of the Special Olympics and an active member of the Law Enforcement Torch Run. “The LETR is the largest public awareness vehicle and grass-roots fundraiser for Special Olympics. It engages law enforcement worldwide, championing acceptance and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities, starting first with their own communities. Over the years, the Torch Run has evolved and now encompasses a variety of innovative fundraising platforms,”

Media is welcome to attend this event.

PRESS RELEASE: Farmington police respond to a fatal traffic accident involving a pedestrian

Farmington, NM – At approximately 12:56 p.m. today, Farmington police were dispatched to the 3000 block of Northridge Drive in reference to a pedestrian who had been struck by a vehicle. The pedestrian, an elderly man of Farmington, was heading south on Northridge when he was struck by a Toyota Tundra exiting a nearby parking lot. The pedestrian succumbed to his injuries at the scene. There were no indications that the driver was impaired but the incident remains under investigation.