"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

We Sell Soul

I feel like a reporter for The Police Gazette, researching and writing this article was not easy. These were people you would never want to meet and they committed hideous acts of violence. How is it that two of the vilest cold blooded killers in the history of this state came from the same community? Poor Margaret Salcedo does not deserve to be mentioned with them, yet she became a victim in the same manner as Marie Parker, both were killed by monsters set loose on unsuspecting people.

Before the Rio Grande was dammed, the sleepy little village of Las Palomas was known for its geothermal hot springs and not much else. With the establishment of a post office in 1914, the name was changed to Hot Springs, the completion of the dam in 1916 transformed this tranquil river valley into a mecca for vacationers, boaters and those seeking the regenerative healing powers of the natural springs. That would be the end of our story, but in 1950 the host of a popular radio show, Ralph Edwards found himself in need of a gimmick to celebrate the show's tenth anniversary,  "I wish that some town in the United States liked and respected our show so much that it would like to change its name to 'Truth or Consequences.'" Except that it wasn't about respect, what Edwards wanted was for some podunk town to whore themselves out, Hot Springs was his kind of town. The nationwide search began and the village formerly know as Las Palomas quickly made its intentions known, " Here was an opportunity to advertise the city and its resources free of charge!  Better still, no longer was our city to be confused with that "other one" in Arkansas" not that anyone was confusing this Hot Springs with the one where FDR played hide the hotdog. A special election was held, however enough residents opposed the idea that it forced a second election, this time the naysayers were browbeaten and the name change was approved. In return for selling their souls to Ralph Edwards, he broadcast his anniversary show live across the nation, from Hot..err! Truth or Consequences. Nobody can argue that it didn't work, 99.9% of what anybody knows about T or C, is a result of the name change. Edwards would return once a year for the Fiesta, he would wave and smile at the town folks,  at times he would bring some minor Hollywood celebrity with him. But, the  truth is, you fuck with the natural order of things and you suffer...the consequences.
There is something slightly fucked up about the place, and whenever T or C has made headlines it's been for all the wrong reasons. The ill will that seems to plague the town may have started way back in 1937. That's when Milton "Doc" Noss a local chiropractor and scam artist first claimed to have found hundreds of gold bars in a shaft at Victorio Peak. That sordid affair set off a stink bomb around Hot Springs. Doc Noss was screwing with the town's karma and as John Lennon once said "Instant Karma's gonna get you, Gonna knock you right on the head" In 1949, an angry business partner did just that, shooting  Milton "Doc" Noss dead in Hatch, N.M. during an argument. That mess was quickly swept under the rug and the focus returned to the town's cash cows, boating and tourism. Every Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day, boaters flock to Elephant Butte Lake, overnight the population swells by 200,000.  The crowd seems evenly divided between folks from Albuquerque and El Paso, they come equipped with all the latest water toys. The Texans are the worst, they take over 1-25 like it's a Texas farm road, speeding and passing people without even a courtesy attempt at a turn signal. Once they arrive at the lake they hog up every campsite and generally behave like assholes from El Paso (does anybody else remember Chinga Chavin?) Once the weekend is over they rush back to Texas leaving a trail of busted ass boat trailers strewn along the roadside. Not that Albuquerque boaters  behave any better, but at least they're New Mexicans. Hot Springs has always been an anomaly, in the midst of a large Hispanic population, it is unrelentingly white, and it's not the farmers, ranchers or even Mormons that you find elsewhere in New Mexico. No, this is a different breed,  they don't run cattle or farm, malfeasance flows in their veins, along with crystal meth. 
On March 3rd. 1996, Albuquerque residents awoke to reports of an act, so depraved and senseless that it defied understanding. Three night employees of Hollywood Video on San Mateo were found shot to death in the store. Each victim (two female, one male) had been shot three times in the head. The family of the young man killed reported that his grandparents had gone to pick him up from work and now they were missing. It wasn't long before their bodies were found in the East Mountains, they had each been shot nine times.  Outrage swept through the Duke City, a reward of $100,000 was offered for any information leading to the killers. Authorities called it "an evil act by evil people" Holly Lawrence who lost her young cousin and her grandparents that night stated: "They didn't do it for the money, you don't rob a store for $1,800 and leave $3,000 behind, I think they just wanted to kill people"  Within days APD got a break in the case when a man contacted them and claimed that his girlfriend Esther Beckley had admitted to taking part in the murders. Beckley was arrested and quickly led police to her  accomplice, he was Shane Harrison an ex-con from T. or C., who had made his way to Albuquerque following his release from prison. He was a shithead going down the wrong path from an early age, a miscreant angry at the world.  The story took a bizarre turn when it was discovered that Harrison had a membership card for that store, and was known to be a regular customer. However, the night before the murders, a young female employee had refused to unlock the front doors for him after closing time. She would later tell police that he stormed off in anger, that young lady remains convinced to this day that what he did was an act of revenge for not opening the door. Both Harrison and Beckley were sentenced to life for the murder of the grandparents, however, to the astonishment of the entire city the jury deadlocked on the killing of the three employees. Former D.A. Kari Brandenburg, under public pressure to convict, instead chose not to retry them, reasoning that both would spend their lives behind bars regardless. Shane Harrison was T. or C.'s psychopathic gift to the land of enchantment, but there was more evil brewing at the Hot Springs and Harrison's deeds would almost pale in comparison.
David Parker Ray a resident of Elephant Butte had devoted his adult life to being a sick twisted fuck. While he nurtured the outward appearance of an average sixty year old man, inside he was a perverted misogynist and sociopath. He might have got away with his sadistic crimes if not for the miraculous escape of Cynthia Vigil.  Cindy Hendy a drifter from Seattle and Ray's girlfriend and  accomplice, had lured Vigil to his house, once there she was held captive and brutally tortured by Ray with the help of Hendy. On March 22nd. 1999, with Ray gone from the house, Cynthia Vigil grabbed a key to the padlock of the chains holding her, Hendy had left the key on a nearby table. As Vigil tried to free herself, Hendy returned and the two struggled, Hendy smashed Vigil over the head with a lamp, but Cynthia persevered and removed the lock. She then armed herself with an ice pick and stabbed Hendy in the neck. Cynthia Vigil fled from the house naked with an iron collar padlocked around her neck and sought help from nearby houses.  A few people turned their backs on her before she found a lady who took her in and called the police. For David Parker Ray the day of reckoning had finally arrived. As Criminal Investigators arrived at Ray's house it became clear that they had stumbled on something sinister. On his property, authorities found a sound proofed travel trailer that housed his "Toy Box" a room equipped with torture implements and devices  that he used to inflict pain on his restrained female victims. Many were crafted by Ray, complete with diagrams and instructions, police also found an audio tape, that he used to taunt his semi-conscious victims after torturing them.
They came across a video of Ray torturing an unknown woman, A local woman came forward to tell police that she had been imprisoned and tortured by Ray. However, she wasn't the woman in the video, investigators began to wonder just how many victims were out there. The lady on the tape was eventually identified and played a key role in Ray's prosecution. The mounting evidence also connected Ray and Dennis Roy Yancy, a drifter who was known as Ray's disciple to a missing T. or C. woman, Marie Parker. Yancy would confess to strangling Parker, a single mother of two, while Ray took photos. Cindy Hendy, who had quickly turned state's evidence in return for a lighter sentence., told investigators that Glenda Ray (David's daughter), Dennis Yancy and herself would troll the local bars looking for potential victims at David Parker Ray's request.  She would also claim that Ray told her that he killed at least 14 women and dumped their bodies in the lake. Information from Hendy allowed investigators to solve the murder of Billy Ray Bowers, who was David Parker Ray's boss when he lived in Phoenix. Bower's body had emerged from the lake in 1989 wrapped in  a tarp. Until Ray's arrest, police had not been able to i.d. the body and had filed it away as an unsolved "John Doe" case. While in custody, David Parker Ray would claim that he committed one murder per year for 40 years, FBI agents working the case put the possible count at 60. Ray's first trial in Tierra Amarilla would end in a hung jury, he was retried in Lovington and convicted of abduction and sexual torture. He was sentenced to 223 years in prison, but would only serve 8 months, he died after suffering a heart attack while incarcerated at a state prison.
I wish there was nothing else to report, but bad things just seem to happen in T. or C.  On Easter Sunday of this year, 48 year old Margaret Salcedo, while out walking was attacked in the street, by a pack of four pitbulls, who had escaped from a nearby yard. Salcedo desperately fumbled for her cellphone but dropped it when one of the dogs bit her arm.  A man driving by, stopped to help her but was driven back to his car when the dogs turned on him.  A police officer arrived within minutes, one dog attacked, forcing him to fire several shots wounding that dog and driving off the rest.  The officer James Harrington, then assisted Salcedo who had suffered grievous wounds during the brief attack. Salcedo was rushed to the local hospital but succumbed to her injuries a few hours after the attack. Officer Harrington then followed a trail of blood to the home of John Hardiman, who was not at his residence at the time. Harrington found all four dogs on the property, he shot and killed one dog under the house (it was the same one he had wounded earlier) and Animal Control captured the other three canines. Margaret Salcedo who lived alone, did not own a car, she was known to walk everywhere she had to go. "The officer arrived on the scene in less than three minutes, but it must have felt like an eternity to the poor woman being attacked." stated T. or C. Police Chief Patrick Gallagher. Salcedo's brutal death sent shock waves through the community,  T. or C. resident Elizabeth Stout said it best: "I think it's like living in the Middle Ages, where you hate to go outside because the wolves are going to eat your grandchildren."  Authorities are trying to determine if criminal charges will be filed against John Hardiman.

No comments:

Post a Comment