November 20, 2013
Yesterday, Ken and I went over to Z's Asian Fusion for a working lunch. The owner, Zilio, waited on us and went into the kitchen herself to whip up some tasty Asian trout and noodles. Dang it was good!
Zilio, of Z's Asian Fusion, serving us lunch
Working on one of the most bizarre murder cases in the history of the West. No, actually, make that the world! When A.J. Fountain and his eight-year-old son were murdered on the road to Las Cruces in 1896 it didn't take long to find out who did it: the tracks led right to Oliver Lee's front door. And it didn't take long to figure out who his accomplices were: Bill McNew and Jim Gililland. Here's basically what happened next:
The Bizarre Twists & Turns of A Case Going Nowhere
Stymied by the fact that the very authorities who were supposed to be looking for the killers of the Fountains, were one in the same (in addition to being U.S. Deputy Marshals, all three suspects, Lee, McNew and Gililland are deputy marshals for Dona Ana County where the killings took place), the frustrated Governor of New Mexico, William Thornton hires an outside lawman, none other than Pat Garrett, who is now living in Ulvalde, Texas. In addition, Thornton also hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to launch their own investigation.
Garrett is hired at $150 a month, plus a promise of $8,000 if the murderers are arrested and convicted. At the end of February, three weeks after the murder, Garrett is in the saddle but he and his men turn up nothing.
Incredibly, Garrett sees both Lee and Albert Fall on the streets of Las Cruces and El Paso and on the urging of the Pinkerton agent, Fraser, Pat arranges a meeting at Fall's office in Las Cruces. Fall talks freely and readily castigates Fountain's character and repeats a scandalous rumor that Fountain had been caught in a "compromising position" with his daughter and that's why he skipped the country (Fall's house organ, the Independent Democrat pushes this theory in their pages to explain Fountain's disappearance).
As if things could not get more strange, the Pinkertons are called off the case, and one of Garrett's lawmen partners, Charles Perry, leaves town with more than $7,000 in Chaves County tax funds and flees to South Africa. Soldiering on, Garrett has to run for the office of sheriff in Dona Ana County, and he wins. But then, he is powerless until the grand jury will return indictments in the case. Before that happens, Garrett is in Tularosa and drops into Tobe Tipton's saloon where he encounters Oliver Lee, Albert Fall and George Curry, plus another local. Garrett sits down opposite Lee and they proceeded to play poker for three days and nights. After this incredible marathon game, Garrett confronts Lee and asks him if he will surrender if he is indicted. Lee responds, "Pat, you'll have no trouble serving a warrant on me. I have no reason or desire to resist the law." (Lee and Gililland later kill one of Garrett's deputies attempting to do just that)
The grand jury returns zero indictments for the killing of the Fountains! Garrett then has to petition a judge for bench warrants to go after the killers. By the time Garrett can do anything it is July of 1898, two years after the killings and no one has even been arrested.
Believe it or not, it gets worse. If I saw this crazy, byzantine, ridiculousness in a movie, I wouldn't believe it.
"The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence."