Crime

KCPD names Buddies bar owner as victim in April house explosion, death ruled homicide

The death of Buddies gay bar owner Melvin “Lee” Mecker in an April 10 house explosion has officially been ruled a homicide, according to the Kansas City Police Department.

The police department also officially named Mecker as the victim in the killing, more than three months after friends had identified him to The Kansas City Star and others.

Mecker was found dead in the remains of his house at East 15th Terrace and Fremont Avenue the day it was destroyed by an explosion and fire. Police have not said how Mecker was killed, or whether he died before or during the blaze.

The Jackson County Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide on July 8. No suspects are in custody and no arrests have been made, said Sgt. Jacob Becchina, a police spokesman.

Becchina declined to say how investigators were able to identify Mecker. Becchina declined to comment further on the homicide because the police investigation was ongoing.

Before his house exploded and burned down, Mecker told police and his friends that he feared for his life.

Mecker told police that in 2017, an ex-boyfriend who was his roommate tried to run him over with a vehicle, set fire to the house, and beat him bloody, according to court records.

The ex-boyfriend was identified through police reports and court records as Dawn Sundancer Grant, who was arrested in 2017 for violently assaulting Mecker.

Police have not identified Grant as a suspect in the homicide or the house explosion.

Grant’s criminal record includes numerous acts of violence against Mecker and at least one other person.

Grant punched Mecker until he bled, according to court documents. He refused to leave Mecker’s house and threw a brick through the window of a vehicle parked there, authorities said.

Later in 2017, Grant held another man captive in his own home for nine days, beating him and forcing him to withdraw money from an ATM.

In that case, Grant forced open the front door of a companion’s apartment in the 1600 block of Linwood Avenue and repeatedly punched and kicked him in the head and torso, according to court records.

Grant refused to let the man leave his bedroom. The victim said he felt Grant held him against his will, prosecutors said.

Grant was later arrested and pleaded guilty in Jackson County Circuit Court to two counts of domestic assault and burglary.

He spent 120 days in jail.

Grant was out on probation April 10 when Melvin Mecker died in the house explosion. Kansas City fire investigators ruled the cause of the blast as undetermined.

That means fire investigators were unable to figure out the cause. They ruled out natural gas and some other possible causes but could not pinpoint a cause due to the extent of the damage, Deputy Fire Chief James Walker told The Star.

Buddies bar at 3715 Main Street in Kansas City closed after Mecker’s death. Mecker had run the bar as a manager and owner for about two decades.

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Glenn E. Rice covers crime, courts and breaking news for The Kansas City Star, where he’s worked since 1988. Rice is a Kansas City native and a graduate of the University of Central Missouri.
Kaitlyn Schwers covers breaking news and crime at night for The Kansas City Star. Originally from Willard, Mo., she spent nearly three years reporting in Arkansas and Illinois before returning to Missouri and joining The Star in 2017.
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