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Ex-Otero Sheriff Found Dead

ALAMOGORDO — John “Johnny” Lee, a former Otero County sheriff, has died at his home in a small community east of Alamogordo. He was 58.

His wife, Kay, found him when she returned from work early Saturday, said his brother, Alamogordo Municipal Court Judge Steven O. Lee. He apparently died of natural causes, his brother told the Alamogordo Daily News.

Steven Lee said the brothers had played a round of golf Friday.

“He was probably the most honest person you’ll ever meet,” Steven Lee said. “He loved to play golf. We golfed six days a week. He was a better golfer than I was, that’s for sure. He would go out of his way to help anybody.”

The former sheriff joined the Marine Corps after graduating from Alamogordo High School. He served in Vietnam during his four years in the service.

He began his law enforcement career with the Las Cruces police, then joined the sheriff’s office as a reserve deputy and the New Mexico Department of Public Safety. He soon rejoined the sheriff’s office and was eventually elected sheriff.

He held the office longer than any other person in the county’s century-plus history. While serving his first two-year term as sheriff, the Legislature changed the office to a four-year term. Lee was re-elected by voters to two more terms as sheriff.

In 2010, Lee ran for a fourth term, but lost in the primary to current Otero County Sheriff Benny House.

During a candidate forum in April 2010, Lee said he had always enjoyed working for the people of the county.

“I had the honor of being elected for three straight terms,” Lee said at the time. “It’s something no one has ever done. It’s a faith and trust that I don’t take lightly. I pinned my first law enforcement badge on 33 years ago. I am not ready to quit. I love it. I am a cop. This is my home. I was born and raised in Otero County. I want it to be the safest place.”

Funeral arrangements and a complete list of survivors were not immediately available.

“He was a good man and an honorable man. He served Otero County,” his brother said. “He did an excellent job while serving the people of Otero County when he was sheriff. He will be missed.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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