Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Finding Col. Fountain: Dona Ana County Sheriff's Office pursues 118-year-old cold case as family waits for answers

One hundred and eighteen years after a pillar of the Mesilla community disappeared outside of the Las Cruces area, the case is still open. Members of the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the murder of Col. Albert Jennings Fountain and his 8-year-old son Henry in what may be the oldest cold case still being worked in the United States today. On February 1, 1896 Fountain, a prominent politician and lawyer was returning to his home Mesilla with Henry. Their horse-drawn wagon carried them along the white sands of the New Mexican desert and they were never seen again. “In almost all place of time, there are bad people,” said Capt. Manion Long of the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office. “The evidence at the time indicates empty rifle cartridges and a pool of blood,” he said. The mystery still eludes investigators today. “It truly was the wild, wild west,” said Stephanie Johnson-Burick, the great-great-great granddaughter of the colonel. After more than a century, the family still wonders what exactly happened to the colonel and Henry. “Why hasn't something been found?” Stephanie wonders. The Fountain family and investigators believe they know who likely killed the colonel and his son. “The killers, Oliver Lee, James Gilliland and Bill McNew were hired by Albert Bacon Fall to get rid of Col. Fountain,” said Albert Jennings Fountain, the great-great grandson of the colonel. The colonel’s ideals
clashed with many of those in the wild, lawless land, giving him many political enemies. One in particular, Albert Bacon Fall, is suspected to be the mastermind behind the colonel's murder. Days before his disappearance, Fountain, then an assistant district attorney, journeyed to Lincoln County where he secured indictments for cattle rustling against Fall and a cast of Fall's associates. “People, friends, told him he had signed his death warrant,” said Albert Jennings Fountain. The powerful gang of Fountain’s enemies was alleged to be stealing cattle from ranchers. “The colonel actually, allegedly received a note while he was still in Lincoln that said drop this or you won’t make it back to Mesilla alive,” said Long. But the colonel pursued justice. There was a trial for both Oliver Lee and James Gilliland. But they were acquitted maybe largely in part because no bodies were ever discovered. The sheriff in charge of the case, Pat Garret, later was also murdered; to this day some believe it was because of his connection to the case...more

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