New Mexico man facing first-degree murder charges

A 57-year-old New Mexico man charged in the murder of a Gardner woman in late January will be in Johnson County District Court later this week.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Franklin Bluelake, of Albuquerque, N.M., at 11 a.m. Thursday. He made his first appearance in court March 20. Bluelake is facing first-degree murder charges in the killing of 53-year-old Rhoda Morgan, who was found dead in an Olathe hotel room shortly before noon Jan. 29.

According to reports, police were dispatched to a hotel in the 20600 block of West 151st Street to conduct a welfare check after a guest failed to check out. Responding officers found Morgan dead inside the hotel room, which prompted a death investigation. Following an autopsy, Olathe police announced the death was ruled a homicide.

Within days, investigators honed in on Bluelake, who was suspected of fleeing the state. According to reports, investigators teamed up with the U.S. Marshals Service to track down and arrest Bluelake, who was considered a fugitive. He was later found near Flagstaff, Ariz., in mid-February. After spending nearly 30 days in a Coconino County, Ariz., jail, he was extradited back to Kansas to face murder charges.

Bluelake was arrested and booked into the Johnson County Adult Detention Center March 18. He is currently jailed at New Century Adult Detention Center on a $1 million bond.

Bluelake has an extensive criminal history dating back to at least 1987, when he pleaded guilty to an assault charge in Tucson, Ariz. According to court records, Bluelake has faced numerous criminal charges in Arizona and New Mexico, including domestic assault, restraining order violations, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and two counts of kidnapping with the intent to inflict great bodily harm, including death, physical injury or a sexual crime.

According to court documents, Bluelake was sentenced to 120 months in an Arizona federal prison after pleading guilty to committing assault resulting in serious bodily injury on tribal land in September 2009. He was released in 2018 after serving less than 10 years.

About a month before Morgan’s murder, Bluelake was arrested on New Year’s Eve in New Mexico on suspicion of driving while under the influence as well as three other traffic violations. He was later released and was scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 7, but missed that hearing. A bench warrant was later issued in that case.