New Mexico Mystery, 75 years ago
They were definetly on a 'life changing' adventure across the Great American Southwest. At that time in history, a trip like this was considered quite an adventure. They were on their way to see the brand new 'Boulder Dam' (now Hoover Dam) and the World's Fair in San Diego. The nation was still gripped in a devastating Depression. Unemployment and Desperation was rampant across the country. Business, due to political unease like today, was reluctant to expand and invest.
Travel in those days, was certainly Not the high speed Interstate highway trips of today. The highways were gravel and narrow. The last time the two couples were seen and positively identified, was in Vaughn New Mexico along hwy 60. They were having breakfast the 22nd of may, after staying overnight the 21st, at the brick two story Vaughn Hotel (no longer exists). Many days later, some of their belongings were found smoldering on the mesa, east of downtown Albuquerque (Nob Hill, today).
The Lorius's 1929 Nash two door, was involved in a wreck in Socorro along hwy 60, on May 23rd. A young dark complexioned man with tatoos on his left arm and uneven ears, was identified driving the Nash and using travelers checks at points along the route. According to one FBI investigator, Quemado NM, hwy 60, was the last tentative ID of the Nash, and receipt for gas. The FBI case investigator 'Gere', believed (due to a 50 mile odometer descrepency) their bodies are possibly within 25 miles of Quemado. This is the Socorro connection in detail
The Nash with signs of being involved in wrecks, was found abandoned in Dallas Texas on May 26th. The Search was huge by the standards of those days. Even Clyde Tingely, the Governor of NM was involved and took residence in a hotel command post at the Albuquerque Hilton. The safety of the State of New Mexico Tourism industry, was in jeopardy, and rightly so. All New Mexico tourism dropped drastically after the news reports. Teams of searchers, included the National Guard, G-men and State Police (27 at that time). Hundreds of Volunteers walked for miles along the route, looking for clues. Amatuer sleuths worked the leads, and searched the routes.
No bodies or graves were found, in spite of the numerous searches. ElPaso Texas was the overnight stop of the young, dark complexioned man with Tatoos on his left arm and uneven ears, driving the Nash east toward Dallas. Luggage belonging to the couples, was also found in El Paso. 300 'Persons of Interest' were checked. The suspected young man was even cashing their forged Travelers Checks along the path of the Nash sightings. For some reason, strangely similar to legalistics of today, no actual arrests were made, or charges were filed.
The National news (UPI at that time) carried the Mystery Crime, from Oregon
Vaughn, 100 miles north of Roswell, was at that time, a very busy railroad stop, and crew change 'layover'. Today it is a veritable ghost town of boarded up buildings, with barely a 24 hour fuel stop and a cafe or two. The historic Railroad Station and switch yard, with it's numerous sidings, is still intact with the heavy train travel being container freight. In stark simularity, the virtually endless miles of desolate open range across New Mexico, is not changed, even today.
The highway routing is different today with the advent of the modern Interstate Highway System. Back then the highway 'Route 66' was mostly a gravel road, proceeded northward around the Sandia Mountains into Santa Fe NM. (Tjeras canyon I-40, was in those days a primitive canyon trail road). At SF, Route 66 then turned back south over the winding, dangerous gravel road of La Bajada Hill, down to Albuquerque, where it continued south to Los Lunas NM. It then turned west toward Gallup NM (some of the search was even done in Gallup and Arizona as far as the Painted Deseert).
Many years later, a woman possibly seeking a few minutes of fame, told a bizarre story, that they were killed over a dispute about Gold treasure. Doc Noss, a NM figure always associated with stories about lost treasure, was supposedly involved. She said, that was the reason their luggage was burned on the mesa east of downtown Albuquerque (Nob Hill).
She claimed the couples had stayed in a hotel in downtown Albuquerque. One woman stayed behind, while the others in the group, went to 'Hot Springs' (Now Truth or Consquences, 'T or C' NM) with other men. There reportedly was a dispute in the temporary Gold stash area, three of the travelers were killed and buried. The remaining woman was killed afterward, and the luggage was burned. Her wild story does not have wide support.
Ironically, controversial Doc Noss was himself killed in 1949, during a dispute over the Gold treasure, supposedly hidden in the Victorio Peak area of White Sands Missile Rang. A later series of well publicized 'Noss family' searches, found no Gold. Stories abound, of how the closed to the public, military range, 'Gold Treasure' was plundered by the U.S. military itself.
One other noteworthy lead with far more plausibity in the tourist's demise, came months later form Oklahoma. Chester Comer, the deadly rampage suspect
Chester Comer, the psychopathic murderer, had been recently released from Huntsville Prison in Texas
Continuation in Thursday's Alb Journal June 24 2010:
Leslie Linthicum's 2nd part of this article, told of more information. State Police agent Norman Rhoades is currently involved on this 'Cold Case', which had at one time, accumulated a stack of records six feet tall. Barbara and Don Ashcraft have made many trips to NM and have accumulated loads of information on this crime. Laura Lorius was Barbara's great aunt.
The Ashcrafts suspect the bodies are in Vaughn, where George Lorius was seeking and most likely met with, a past aquaintance, a nurse. Their bodies are quite conceivably buried beneath a concrete slab in the basement of a long gone Vaughn building.
In 1963 a waitress in Belen, sent a letter to Walter Duke, a great uncle of Barbara's. Duke was an Albuquerque real estate entrepreneur that worked tirelessly on the case. The waitress said, while working in Vaughn, she had witnessed the murder in a basement. Vaughn today, is nothing like the busy railroad town of 'Depression' 1935. Long abandoned slabs of concrete are countless, due to the Vaughn New Mexico 'Ghost Town' nature of today.
In 1935, Laura's sister was startled awake during a realistic dream. Laura appeared and told her she had been murdered and was buried beneith flooring, where it would be very hard to find her. This vivid dream occured the night of the 22nd. On that date, No One even was aware that the couples were missing. Not until the damaged Nash was found in Dallas...several days later.
State Police Agent Rhoades has another theory today. They left Vaughn, took Rt 66 to Las Vegas NM (it's old route), then turned southwest to Albuquerque (based on last postcard mailing date). They have a witness report of the couples taking a shower at an Alb hotel, then supposedly heading out of town south to Los Lunas (old 66 route at that time), and then turning west toward Gallup. Agent Rhoades surmises they were abducted somewhere just out of Albuquerque, before they got to Gallup, were murdered and buried along the barren gravel highway.
Agent Rhoades also is inclined to believe that two assailants were involved. One continued driving the Nash on to El Paso Texas, then to Dallas. His signatures are on the forged traveler's Checks all along the route. The Albuquerque Journal today has a 'composite' drawn by Police artist Celene Wolf. It shows the described image of the main suspect.
If I were a betting man, I would lay odds on 24 year old Psychopath, Chester Comer, mentioned in previous paragraphs. He had a Violent record, was a Career Offender released from Texas Huntsville Prison prior to the dissapearance of several others, including the tourists. Dark complexioned, tatooed Comer, worked on southwest oil drilling crews, was a Serial Killer. He roamed among the southwestern states population, murdering several other trusting individuals during that time frame, and he seemed to enjoy the challenge of taking control of and killing more than one person at a time. One more thing, his photograph in old news articles, is quite similar to the composite drawn by the police artist.
IN 1935 U.S.A. things were quite different than today. In comparison, it was in a major Depression. Few people had cars. Many rode the rails as Hobo's, or Hitched rides. Many tourists and travelers were armed, but carried their pistols in the glove compartment. My own Dad always carried his nickle plated 38 snub nose there, when not in the field. Dad was a Game Warden and also later in traveling Sales.
If accosted on the street, away from the 'glove campartment' they became basically helpless Victims. 'Concealed Carry' was not a common practice, due to many anti-gun laws. Back then, as todays 'hand wringers' believe, only the evil intentioned 'Carry Concealed'. That heavily flawed logic is still practiced today in certain 'High Crime' cities and states with highly Restrictive Anti-Gun laws. The Bad Guys love it that way.
Within six months, Psychopathic Comer died in a point blank gunfight with an Oklahoma Marshall.... He had 'accumulated' three handguns from his Victims....
Comer's death ended a rampant spree of murders (at least nine) in the Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico area of the southwest during his rampage. Although massive searches were organized, the majority of his victims bodies were never found.
1 July 2010:
Leslie Linthicum has now as well, added Career Psychopath Comer, as a suspect ("A person of interest?, as the news refers to them today).
Two, now 80+ year old witnesses, the Marmon brothers, have alledgedly placed the gun loving, tatooed Comer, whom they say worked on the old Rte 66 road project around LaGuna Pueblo, as interested in the 'Owls Cave', One of the countless Lava Tubes in New Mexico's prevelent Malpais landscape
Other writers (Staley, from Las Cruces) associate the killer with Doc Noss at the Gold Cave. Sounds feasable, though mostly unsubstantiated. Also in question is the other supposedly hidden 'Cave' north of Vaughn. Reportedly the bodies are in that remote Cave. As Leslie mentions in the Alb Journal today, The case is expanding it's horizons..
Anyone with more information to add about this crime, can contact Leslie Linthicum at the Albuquerque Journal.. firstname.lastname@example.org .... She will pass it on to the authorities.
Travel safely. Stay alert. Always remain 'Equal'
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Enjoy life in the USA, "One Nation Under God".