40 years after woman’s disappearance, Kentucky police renew investigation
Lexington police have renewed their search for the body of Melanie Flynn, a Lexington woman from a prominent family who has been missing since 1977 and whose disappearance has been one of the city’s most enduring mysteries, Lt. Albert Johnson said.
The people thought to be involved in her disappearance “had influence, they were powerful, there was money,” said Johnson, who heads the homicide unit for Lexington police. The case figured in a book called The Bluegrass Conspiracy: An Inside Story about Power, Greed, Drugs and Murder published nearly 30 years ago. It was also written about in a 1989 Herald-Leader series called “Birds of a Feather” about former local law enforcement officers and others in Central Kentucky who fell into the drug trade.
Lexington and Kentucky State Police officers were at Murphy’s Landing on the banks of the Kentucky River in Mercer County last Friday searching for possible evidence in the Melanie Flynn case.
Johnson said that’s because in February, an elderly person in another state provided new possible information about her body’s whereabouts given to him by a key figure in the investigation, whom Johnson declined to identify.
The source told police that Flynn’s body was placed in Murphy’s Landing and he specifically mentioned “a septic hole.”
Lexington police had asked for aerial maps from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and were waiting on those before they began to dig in the area, Johnson said. Lexington police started looking around, but did not dig.
In the meantime, a few weeks back, Kentucky State Police officials told Lexington police that another elderly man, this one on his death bed, passed along similar information about where the body was.
Kentucky State Police have been digging for the body, Johnson said, and Lexington police plan to go back to Murphy’s Landing this week. But they might not dig until they receive the aerial maps. So far, they have not found Flynn’s body or other evidence, Johnson said.
Johnson said Flynn’s purse was found on the Kentucky River at Camp Nelson in Jessamine County shortly after her disappearance, but that is upstream from Murphy’s Landing.
The case has been the subject of conversation in the community for decades.
Flynn was last seen in 1977 leaving work at the Kentucky High School Athletic Association in Lexington -- at the time in the Cooper Drive area -- where she was a secretary.
Melanie Flynn’s father Bobby was a former state senator and former member of the Urban County County Council.
Her brother Doug Flynn played professional baseball with the Cincinnati Reds.
Kentucky State Trooper Robert Purdy told the Herald-Leader recently that “we had some folks search a farm after receiving a tip about a possible body on a farm. A search was done last week in Mercer County and nothing was located.”
“All I can confirm is that we were looking for a body, “ Purdy said.
Johnson said Lexington police plan to take “some instruments and some technology” to Murphy’s Landing “to pinpoint areas of interest.”
Police dogs have been taken to the area.
Johnson said police had three file cabinets full of records on the case. Officers have recently traveled to a couple of states outside Kentucky as part of the renewed investigation.
Johnson said former Lexington police officer Bill Canan, who in the past was thought to have information about Flynn’s body, had more recently been interviewed and said he knew nothing.
“We have interviewed him,” Johnson said of Canan. “We left the interview believing that he did not know the location of her body.”
Johnson said police were somewhat optimistic about the latest tips because of where they came from. It was the new information about a septic hole and corroborated by a second source, a man on his deathbed, he said.
“We are hopeful,” said detective Rob Wilson, the lead investigator on the case that police can “narrow down an area of interest that may lead to evidence that would assist us on the Flynn case.”
“We will exhaust all of our leads again and hopefully we can come up with something that will help the family out,” said Johnson.
Johnson said Lexington police had been in contact with her brother Brad Flynn.
WLEX previously quoted Brad Flynn as saying that he is glad his sister has not been forgotten and that he “hopes that this tip could finally be the one.”
Brad Flynn recently declined to comment to the Herald-Leader.