Heightened interest in ‘Cocaine Bear’ punctuates unanswered questions tied to ‘Bluegrass Conspiracy’

Melanie Flynn disappeared in 1977. Her body has never been found.
Melanie Flynn disappeared in 1977. Her body has never been found.
Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 3:37 PM EST
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The movie “Cocaine Bear” is now in theaters. The new horror-comedy, which is rated R, is about a black bear that stumbles upon a stash of drugs, then goes on a bloody killing spree. It is a highly-fictionalized account loosely based on fact, from a story that has its roots in the Bluegrass. This, the final of five related stories this week, looks at the serious consequences - and unresolved aspects - of the ‘Bluegrass Conspiracy.’

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - After years without answers, in the summer of 2019 many hoped a new search on property along the Kentucky River would turn up something.

“This changed Lexington,” Sgt. Donnell Gordon with the Lexington Police Department told reporters who had gathered at Murphy’s Landing in Mercer County on July 16, 2019. “It brought an eye to Lexington that was unfortunate. We just want to make sure we come up with a resolution for the family.”

Yet even today, the 1977 disappearance of Melanie Flynn remains a mystery.

It is perhaps the largest unanswered question stemming from the Bluegrass Conspiracy - a fact now punctuated by the release of the movie “Cocaine Bear,” which is drawing new attention to and interest in the decades-old case of crime and corruption in central Kentucky.

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“It’s one of those enduring mysteries in Kentucky, and it’s taken on kind of a life of its own,” Sally Denton, former WKYT investigative reporter, told WKYT’s Amber Philpott in a 2019 podcast interview, “and I think it will until there’s some definitive answers, if ever.”

When Denton started at WKYT around 1980, she said she started looking into the case after noticing graffiti with Flynn’s name across Lexington.

Pulling on that thread began to unravel the entire Bluegrass Conspiracy.

“I ended up going down that road pretty deeply, which led me to the organization, ‘The Company,’ the organization of drug traffickers, gun runners, headquartered within Lexington Police at the time,” she said. “And Melanie was an informant for the Lexington police.”

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With its ties to the conspiracy, it is a sensational story, to be sure. But it is also a story that left an indelible mark on Flynn’s family and friends, the community at large and many others.

“Melanie Flynn is perhaps the biggest thing, and I’m glad you brought it up, but it’s not the only one,” said Ken Kurtz, who was the news director at WKYT when Flynn disappeared and when Denton began breaking the stories that would later become the focus of her book.

Kurtz has watched over the years as new tips from time to time led to more searches, but still without resolution.

“Yes, there are loose ends, and I wish we had answers,” he said.

But his hope for getting them is fading. Does he think answers will ever be found?

“No,” he said. “I really don’t.”

The Lexington Police Dept. says the Melanie Flynn case is still an ongoing investigation, and there is a detective assigned to the case. Anyone with information is asked to call the Lexington Police at (859) 258-3600. Anonymous tips can be submitted to Bluegrass Crime Stoppers by calling (859) 253-2020, online at www.bluegrasscrimestoppers.com, or through the P3 Tips app available at www.p3tips.com.