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Ex-officer released from U.S. prison

Bill Canan, a former Lexington policeman who was involved in the city's first war on drugs in the 1970s before he turned to dealing drugs himself, has been released from federal prison.

Canan, now 63, was released on Sept. 3, according to Bureau of Prison records. Details on his whereabouts were not available Wednesday.

He had been convicted in 1993 on charges of conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, threatening witnesses and carrying a false badge that identified him as a federal drug officer. He was sentenced to 17 years without parole.

Canan was one of several people involved in crimes described in a 1989 Herald-Leader series called "Birds of a Feather," and in a book, The Bluegrass Conspiracy.

Also involved was fellow officer Drew Thornton, who died on Sept. 11, 1985, when he jumped from a small plane over Knoxville with 75 pounds of cocaine strapped to his back. His parachute failed to open.

Another was Henry Vance Jr., a former Fayette County deputy sheriff and legislative aide, who served nine years in prison for coaching a Lexington woman in the 1982 murder of a Florida prosecutor. Vance now lives in Frankfort.

Canan was linked to, but never charged with, the disappearance of Melanie Flynn. She was a 24-year-old secretary whose disappearance in January 1977 remains one of Lexington's most enduring mysteries.

Canan once told newspaper reporters that Flynn worked as an undercover agent for him. In a detention hearing for Canan in 1993, a fellow officer testified that Canan had admitted killing Flynn.

Canan was a Vietnam veteran with a Purple Heart when he joined the Lexington force in 1971. He had long hair, wore blue jeans, and soon was chosen to help infiltrate the city's drug culture.

He later became president of the Fraternal Order of Police. But Canan was fired from the force in 1979 after raising allegations about Kentucky State Police troopers breaking into an advertising agency run by a man they were investigating. Lexington police officers helped them cover up the break-in, Canan said.

In 1979, the Urban County Council fired him after a lengthy hearing on charges of insubordination and making false accusations.