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Sister tells photojournalist’s last story

Jeanette King’s last photo for the Journal appeared April 6, 1980, two days before she was stabbed to death. The image is of “Water Woman,” a clay sculpture by Stella Loretto that symbolizes eternal life. (Jeanette King/Journal)

Jeanette King, 25, worked as a photography intern at the Journal in spring semester 1980 until her death April 8, 1980. (Courtesy of Wanda Fishburn)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Photo intern Jeanette King was not scheduled for work at the Journal that day in April 1980. It was Good Friday, two days before Easter, but to King it was still a good day to shoot photos.

Then again, it was always a good day when the University of New Mexico senior could get behind a camera. It was her art, her way of telling stories, her way to capture reality – and sometimes to escape from it.

“She loved what she was doing,” older sister Wanda Fishburn said. “Once she got that camera in college, that was it. She knew what she wanted to do with her life, and she was good at it.”

That day, King planned to shoot photos while shadowing a traffic cop. But the officer had other plans.

“She was nice,” King wrote in a journal she kept on her internship experience. “But she told me bluntly that being followed by a photographer would make her nervous.”

Undaunted, King shot posed portraits of the officer astride her motorcycle instead. The officer asked for a couple of copies.

“She said, ‘I would like my two children to have a picture of their mother in case I get killed,’ ” King wrote.

Four days later, it was King who was killed, stabbed 21 times by a man she met in journalism class who for the last eight months of her life had stalked, tormented and threatened her.

In her short career as a photojournalist, King was able to tell many stories. The one story she didn’t get to tell was her own.

Her sister wants that story told now.

Using King’s photographs, journal entries and other items collected over the 40 years since her sister’s murder, Fishburn is about halfway through a book project she hopes to get published.

It is the story of a talented young woman with a camera who loved what she could see through a lens and throughout her life.

“There is so much to remember about her, and some aspects of her life decidedly deserve the recognition she did not receive,” Fishburn said. “Jeanette loved the time she spent as an intern at the Albuquerque Journal and she showed that in her pictures.”

But there is another story here, a darker one of how the system failed King despite the safety measures she sought to protect herself and the justice her family sought in her name.

“There are many unfair things that happened to Jeanette the last months of her life when she was hurt and stalked, the lack of the people who should have helped her more, her death, the travesty of justice,” Fishburn said.

Jeanette Mae King was her mother’s third child, her birth sparking her mother’s severe case of postpartum depression followed by a nervous breakdown and electroshock therapy that erased some of her memory, Fishburn said.

“My mother loved her children as much as any mother could,” she said. “It was just a hard way for Jeanette’s life to begin.”

King was also born into one of New Mexico’s most well-known families – her uncle was Gov. Bruce King – though that at times felt more like a burden, Fishburn said.

Jeanette King struggled in her first years at school because of a speech impediment, bad allergies and bad teachers. Not until she had a caring teacher in fifth grade did she begin to blossom into the talented woman she became, said Fishburn, who became a teacher herself.

King worked on the school newspaper at Moriarty High and chose journalism as her major at UNM. She took up the camera as a staffer for the UNM Daily Lobo and never let go.

In January 1980, King began her internship at the Journal, but Fishburn doubts she told her editors about the growing danger that surrounded her.

Armando Marquez, a man five years her senior, had worked cameras and radios for all three local TV stations. The two met in journalism class in 1976.

King likely never knew that a year before then, Marquez was charged with aggravated sodomy, rape and kidnapping for an attack on another woman. Under a plea agreement, he received a year of probation.

It’s unclear what Marquez and King’s relationship had been – Marquez testified that the two were romantically involved and that she was his “alter ego” – but it inarguably became controlling, cruel and violent.

In August 1979, King told family members that he had choked and raped her, luring her to his sister’s home under the guise of seeing her recent collection of photos.

Police dissuaded King from pursuing rape charges, Fishburn said. DNA was still years away from being accepted as evidence; believing a woman was even less accepted than it is today.

And, Fishburn said, the family fretted that a rape case would be unseemly to Uncle Bruce, then in his second term as governor.

Instead, King obtained a restraining order, which did nothing to save her.

According to testimony during Marquez’s murder trial, he began posting salacious fliers about her on cars parked at UNM. He made threatening phone calls. In October 1979, he grabbed her on UNM campus. That same month, he showed up at the Four Hills home she shared with her mother and pounded on the door for 25 minutes. He was gone when police arrived.

“Officers told them there was nothing they could do,” Fishburn said, “until he ‘does something.'”

On April 8, 1980, Marquez did something, breaking into the Four Hills home, arming himself with a butcher knife and lying in wait for King and her mother to come home. They had just settled into the den when he appeared, attacking King and ripping off most of her clothing while her mother locked herself in a bathroom, screamed for help and was pulled through a window by a neighbor to call police.

It was too late.

At trial, Marquez testified that as King lay dying on the floor, he told her he hoped “she would be happy now.”

Marquez was convicted of second-degree murder and was sentenced to 12 years.

Before her death, King had never let Marquez stop her from pursuing her photojournalism. In her three months as a Journal intern, she went on most of her assignments alone, fearless.

Fishburn estimates that about a hundred of her photos appeared in the newspaper. Those included images from the infamous riots that raged on for 36 hours that February at the Penitentiary of New Mexico and the widening scandal within the University of New Mexico basketball program known as “Lobogate” as it worked its way through the federal courts.

Imagine the images she could have continued to capture had she lived, the stories she could have told, the good days she should have had.

UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, jkrueger@abqjournal.com or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

 


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