Federal and state authorities identified Ron Cole as a major cocaine dealer. They claimed he purchased cocaine valued at about $300,000 in a single 30-day period. That wasn’t all they knew. Cole was a commercial fisherman. He was thought to move drugs on his vessel. The realities of drugs in the commercial fleet were no mere phantasm.
Hillside Neighborhood, in the shadow of the Chugach Mountains near Anchorage (credit: Fortune Magazine)
On October 1, 1981, Ron and his wife Darcelle were found dead of gunshot wounds in the living room of their Hillside home. Drug paraphernalia was scattered through the house.
In the ensuing days, Michael T. Smith was arrested for possession of cocaine and questioned by state troopers. The troopers advised Smith of his Miranda rights. Smith waived them. He discussed the drug charges with the troopers for approximately an hour, admitting he had been distributing cocaine, Ron Cole was his supplier, he owed Cole $15,000, and Cole maintained a list of persons who owed him for cocaine, one of whom was Smith.
The troopers reminded Smith he himself had pointed out that anyone in Cole’s list of debtors who owed him money for drugs “would certainly have reason enough to kill him,” to which Smith responded, “Yeah. I admitted my name is probably in it.”
The troopers then said: “Let’s face it, you’re a person who dealt with Ron Cole, and you’re a person who owed him a lot of money.”
Smith was arrested and convicted of murdering the Coles. His conviction was later overturned, though related robbery charges kept him off the street. Could it happen again?
With the Cole murders so close in investigators’ minds—and the Smith scenario all too familiar—the idea of a similar motive in the Investor murders lingered as a possibility. Except… LeRoy Flammang’s fishing journals told another story. Mark Coulthurst was a hard working fisherman. Why would he put everything at risk for a batch of cocaine?
Copyright Leland E. Hale (2019). All rights reserved.