There was no disputing that James Alexander didn’t lead the best life.
“Pork,” as relatives and friends called him, had his legal problems — 20 arrests dating to 1999 in Indiana County, almost two dozen court cases, time in jail.
It was no secret, nothing he hid.
“A lot of people who knew Pork knew his history,” said Denise Clark, of Clymer. “But people that knew him knew he was a loving man.”
Friends say Alexander, who turned 46 last Thursday, had substance abuse problems, too, beyond the arrests and convictions for narcotics possession.
Those troubles led to Alexander going into rehabilitation, making progress and showing signs he had cleaned up.
Still connected in drug circles, Alexander was led Monday night, by a belief that he would be selling some heroin, into a deal with people with a different plan — a confrontation with two men intending to kill him over displeasure with past drug deals, according to state police at Indiana.
Alexander died of a single gunshot to his face after being commanded to get on the ground of a hiking trail just off Sixth Street in Clymer, his friend Jeffrey Swigart told police.
Within 24 hours, police had charged two Glen Campbell men, Gregory Patterson and Christopher Salsgiver, with homicide. Patterson implicated Salsgiver in the shooting and told investigators that it was planned, according to charging documents filed at Clymer District Court.
“He might have been out there, how they say in NA (Narcotics Anonymous), he might have been living clean. But no, his body was clean but his lifestyle was different,” said Alexander’s cousin, Brenda Weatherspoon, of Fairview Avenue, White Township. “He didn’t have drugs in him, but he was still out there living that lifestyle.”
Lacy Goss, mother of Alexander’s youngest child, Shakira, was buoyed by how Alexander had behaved in the week before he died.
While rehabbing the past year, he had little contact with his daughter, Goss said.
“Since Father’s Day, it was amazing. He called every day to spend time with his daughter,” Goss said. “It was almost a year he hadn’t called. It was a different him. He said all he wanted for his birthday was to spend time with his baby girl. So she had got him a birthday cake, bought him presents, and we had a little birthday party for him.”
That was the Pork that his friends said they knew.
“He was a happy-go-lucky man,” Clark said. “He tried to make his kids happy. He did time with the kids whenever he had a chance.”
Pork had three children: Jacara Alexander, 20; Haundray Muir, 16; and Shakira Alexander, 6, born to three different women.
He never married.
Alexander’s last night alive had all the appearance of enjoying time with friends.
State police traced his steps through Clymer in the criminal complaints filed against his suspected killer and accomplice: With Swigart, Alexander visited Charles Krouse on Jefferson Street, then stopped by Cloyd Fishel’s house along Penn Street. They headed out along the walking trail and visited Clark at her home along Sage Street.
Alexander was happy about lining up a new job, she said.
“He just got a job driving a truck. He was going to be trained starting today,” Clark said Wednesday. “He talked about that the day he was here and I congratulated him. He was trying to turn his life around.”
When Alexander and Swigart left her house to go to the trail again, Clark said she didn’t know what they had planned.
Swigart had been getting and sending text messages, but “I didn’t know until the next day that drugs were involved,” Clark said.
According to state police, the men met up with Patterson and Salsgiver on the trail. There, Alexander gave Swigart three bundles of heroin and Swigart gave one to Salsgiver, police said. The meeting was set up because Patterson had contacted Swigart and asked to buy heroin from him, Swigart told police.
But then, Swigart told investigators, Patterson “questioned (him) about the heroin being the same stuff.”
Patterson grabbed Swigart, tried to put him in a headlock, and Swigart struck Patterson several times and broke free, according to police.
Swigart said Salsgiver drew a gun from his shirt and pointed it at Alexander.
“Get on the ground, (expletive),” Salsgiver told Alexander as Swigart ran away toward Sixth Street, according to court papers.
Swigart told police he heard a gunshot.
“Maybe Pork wasn’t innocent, but he was loved, he was part of a family,” Clark said.
He did what he had to do to get by. Yes, he sold drugs. And yes, he shoveled sidewalks in the winter, according to Clark.
“He should have credit for at least trying to change himself,” Clark said. “He was still a father, he was a brother, he was a son. No matter how he made his money, Pork survived.”
So relaxed was his lifestyle that even his address was a variable.
The coroner’s office reported Alexander’s last known address was on Store Hill Road, in Ernest. His obituary lists him as a resident of Clymer. Alexander’s cousin said he lived at her house and had his mail delivered there.
“You might as well say he was a gypsy. He was. He lay wherever his legs got tired at the end of the day,” Weatherspoon said.
“He had a heart and he thought of everybody,” Goss said. “I know everybody says that after somebody passes. Everybody had their goods and bads, but it’s like ‘Oh, he was the best person in the world.’
“But he did have his times. When he was good, he was good. And when he was bad, he was bad. Put it that way.”
But he didn’t deserve what happened Monday night, Clark said.
“I don’t care what kind of work you do. Nobody has … to be killed that way. They’re all human,” she said.
Alexander’s funeral is set for 1 p.m. Friday at Greenwood Cemetery in White Township.