(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)
On this date in 1896, the not-yet-a-state of New Mexico executed four convicted murderers in three separate towns.
Actually, six men had been scheduled to swing, but two got reprieved. New Mexico wasn’t trying to win some kind efficiency contest … it just worked out that way.
The unlucky four were Dionicio Sandoval in Albuquerque, Antonio Gonzales in Roswell, and Perfecto Padilla and Rosario Ring in Tierra Amarilla. Their stories are told in R. Michael Wilson’s Legal Executions in the Western Territories, 1847-1911. All four were convicted of quite ordinary murders.
Sandoval, a sheep herder, shot another sheep herder who accused him of stealing animals from his flock. The sheep didn’t even belong to either one of them: both men were tending herds owned by the Bernalillo County commissioner.
Gonzales had a buddy named Eugenio Aragon who asked him to help kill someone who was threatening to prosecute Aragon for the theft of some lumber. Always eager to help out a buddy, Gonzales assisted in the homicide, only to find himself arrested and then deserted by his so-called friend. (Aragon slit his own throat in jail, leaving Gonzales to face the noose alone.)
Padilla supposedly killed a miner with his own pick for two burros, a hat and a $30 watch. The evidence at his trial was very shaky and many people believe he was an innocent man, perhaps deliberately railroaded for mysterious reasons.
Ring had come to New Mexico from the Colorado territory, which had gotten too hot for him; he was a suspect there in the murder of his wife and baby, and if he did that crime the near brush with the law did not teach him caution in his new environs: one night during a drunken spree he broke a beer bottle over another man’s head, then shot him in the back. The victim died in his mother’s arms. Ring had a friend who was with him that night and started the fight, and they were tried together for the murder, but the friend was acquitted.
Padilla and Ring were not actually hung together side by side as is sometimes done; instead, Padilla went first while Ring waited his turn beside the scaffold. After they cut Padilla’s body down, Ring stepped up.
That’s all, folks.
In 1897, New Mexico would repeat their “four executions in one day” trick by hanging four men, two of them brothers, for a single murder.