Steve Murphy

Steve Murphy, center right, a former member of the Bluefield Police Department and inspiration for Netflix series ‘Narcos’, during a 2018 visit.

PRINCETON — In September, a retired DEA officer who started his law enforcement career in Mercer County will be sharing the story about the struggle with a Colombia drug cartel and the hunt for narcotics terrorist Pablo Escobar.

Former federal DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agent Steve Murphy and his partner Javier Pena are scheduled to appear Sept. 19 at the Chuck Mathena Center in Princeton. Murphy and Pena’s experiences in Columbia while working to bring drug overlord Pablo Escobar to justice inspired the Netflix show “Narcos.”

Murphy started his law enforcement career in November 1975 when he joined the Bluefield Police Department. He later became a police officer with the Norfolk Southern Railroad before his career took him to the DEA where he first served in Miami and later in Colombia. In Colombia, he worked with Pena and other officers to combat the Medellin Cartel and its leader Escobar, who was once rated as one of the richest people in the world. Escobar was also a terrorist who murdered politicians, judges, and thousands of other people while sometimes presenting a Robin Hood image to the poor.

Since retiring from the DEA, Murphy has been an adviser for the “Narcos” series along with with Pena, plus they have been touring the world and speaking about their experiences.

“We still have our world tour going,” Murphy told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. “Princeton is part of our tour. Next week we’re leaving for three weeks in New Zealand and Australia.”

Beside the speaking tour, Murphy and Pena have been working on a book about their experiences. Scheduled to be released on Nov. 12, the book, titled “Manhunters: How We Took Down Pablo Escobar,” is being published by St. Martin’s Press and is currently featured on Amazon for preordering.

Murphy and Pena have been working on a new television project called “The Lost Clipper,” which focuses on the 1938 murders of 15 Americans in Micronesia, a nation in the South Pacific. A search for the victims’ bodies is now underway.

“Two years ago we were in Micronesia for two weeks,” Murphy recalled, adding that the investigators’ tools included ground-penetrating radar and aerial drones.

Murphy said some possible artifacts were discovered, and the research has tied the case to the case of missing aviator Amelia Earhart, who disappeared on July 27, 1937, while attempting to fly around the world. Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, vanished while trying to find Howland Island, which is located near the equator in the central Pacific Ocean.

“What we’re doing now is negotiating ,” Murphy said of the show. “We’re being represented by United Talent Agency and they’re negotiating a potential TV series for us.”

Murphy said he could not disclose which network or networks would air the show, but he did say it would be a multi-episode series. In addition to speaking engagements and projects like the book and television series, Murphy and Pena have been going to Washington, D.C. to address an important issue relating to drugs.

“Another thing we’ve become involved with addressing the importation of counterfeit medications, so we’ve actually been on Capitol Hill twice; once in front of the Senate, once in front of the House,” Murphy said. “Several states are trying to enact legislation that would make this legal.”

The nation is already having serious issues with opioids and fentanyl, so Murphy said that both he and Pena are “completely against” importing these new controlled substances just to save costs.

“Safety has to be the first concern here and there are too many overdose deaths. There have been tens of thousands of overdose deaths,” Murphy said. “We’ve partnered with a group called Partnership for Safe Medicine, and they don’t represent Big Pharma. They represent the pharmacy organizations, the actual pharmacists. This is in addition to our speaking business, so we’re busy as ever.”

More information by Murphy and Pena’s ongoing projects is available on their website DEA Narcos at

Princeton Police Chief T.A. Gray said the upcoming Chuck Mathena Center appearance came about after he met Murphy in March 2018 during a law enforcement class in St. Augustine, Fla. Murphy and Pena were among the conference’s participants.

“After the conference, I introduced myself and told him I worked in Princeton, which is where he grew up,” Gray recalled. “We talked for a while. He had a busy evening and he asked if I could talk to him the next morning before he left.”

Gray said he hinted then that Murphy’s program would be well received back in Princeton, and Murphy liked the idea. They spoke about the idea again late last year while Murphy was visiting Mercer County.

“In December last year, he invited me out for breakfast during the Christmas holidays,” Gray said. “We sat down and talked and we came to an agreement that if we were going to do this, we were going to do this the best we can. We started planning from there.”

Gray spoke about the idea with the Chuck Mathena Center, and the arrangements came together.

“Without the assistance of (Executive Director) Candace Wilson of the Chuck Mathena Center, this never would have happened. She has been great to work with,” Gray said. “After many months of text messages, emails and phone calls, we finally got a date established, which is Sept. 19. We’re really looking forward to it as a whole.”

Gray said he has been working to see if law enforcement personnel who come to the program can get in-service hours for their participation. The public can attend as well. There will be an admission fee that has yet to be determined, but “it’s not going to be too steep,” he added.

One goal of September’s presentation, besides being a fundraiser for the police department, is to give local law enforcement personnel a chance to interact with speakers they might otherwise never get a chance to hear.

“There’s people that work here who will probably never get the opportunity to go to a big law enforcement conference to hear speakers like this speak,” Gray said. “That’s why we’re trying to bring people of this caliber to the area, to let them have the opportunity to hear speakers such as Murphy and Pena. It gives them the opportunity to do something they probably would never have a chance to do.”

Contact Greg Jordan at


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