Lost letter of fallen officer returned to mother who wrote it


The paper may now be yellowed from age, and words blurred by water stains, but the love in a 27-year-old letter seeps through. 

“I remember writing this letter,” said Rita McGrane.  

She’s talking about a hand written letter she wrote on February 2, 1991. McGrane is the mother of fallen Bernalillo County Deputy James McGrane, murdered 14 years later during a traffic stop in the East Mountains by a wanted killer, Michael Astorga.  

“I live with Jimmy in my heart everyday, every moment and it keeps my husband and I, and my daughter strong,” said Rita McGrane.   

Rita sent that letter to her son while he was in the State Police Academy. After his death, she didn’t know where the letter wound up, until she heard from State Police Chief Pete Kassetas. 

“In the summer of 2013, renovation of the New Mexico State Police dorm complex began,” said Chief Kassetas.  

The chief said construction workers found dozens of letters.

“Those letters went all the way back to 1971,” he said.  

They were hidden in the heater vents of the dorm rooms. 

“The officers told me that whenever they wanted a message to be lasting they would put it in the ventilation system, so my son did that for me,” said Rita McGrane.  

One of those lost letters was Deputy McGrane’s. 

“I looked at the torn envelope for some time, building up the courage to pull out the contents to determine who had written it,” said Kassetas. 

It was the one written by James McGrane’s mother. 

“The first words written were “Hello, Jimmy,” said Kassetas.  

In it, a line that the chief said resonates with any officer.

“I know times are gonna be rough, but you get tough so you can stay alive,” said McGrane reading the words she wrote over two decades ago. 

And after 27 years, it’s now back in her hands.

“I now return this letter written by a loving mother to her son, back to Mr. and Mrs. McGrane,” said Pete Kassetas.  

“It’s the best gift that I could ever receive,” said McGrane.  

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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