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Fountain Trial: Garrett festival recreates historic event


Three years after Albert Fountain and his 8-year-old son, Henry, went missing in the desert between La Luz and Las Cruces, two men – Oliver Lee and James Gilliland – were tried for the murders. There was plenty of evidence of kidnapping and murder, and Pat Garrett was called in to investigate. It was his exploration of the facts that informed the trial.

“The case is fascinating because of the mystery,” said area historian and author Dave Thomas. “Fountain was such an important person. He was a Union soldier and a member of the California Column.”

That 14-day trial has been abbreviated by Thomas and will be recreated live during the afternoon of the Pat Garrett Festival, Saturday, Feb. 29, along with several other festival events at the Rio Grande Theatre, 211 N. Main St., in Las Cruces, starting with music by Dan Crow and friends.

Crow will play both original and cover songs. His company includes John Wood, Ash Soular and Don Kinghorn, who will perform “Lawdog Lament,” “The Coffin Note,” “Bob Fitzsimmons,” “Rodeo Lady,” “Latigo,” “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” and “Sidekicks & Saddle Pals.”

Festival events begin at noon:

Noon: “Sing the Legend”

2 p.m.: “The Disappearance of Colonel Fountain,” A presentation by Thomas on the events leading up to and following the disappearance of Fountain and his son on Feb. 1, 1896.

2:30 p.m.: 1899 Fountain murder trial re-enactment. Twelve members of the audience will serve as the jury. The script is taken from the transcripts of the trial. Audience engagement follows.

4 p.m.: “The Fountain Murders – What Answers do we Have Today?” presented by Karl Laumbach of Human Systems Research Inc.  Laumbach will summarize what he has learned about the Fountain murders after decades of research.

5 p.m.: Area authors, including Thomas, will be on hand to sign their books in the lobby of the Rio Grande Theatre.

7 p.m.: “The Left Handed Gun” (1953), a movie directed by Arthur Penn with Paul Newman as Billy the Kid and John Dehner as Garrett.

At the time the movie was made, many believed Billy the Kid was left-handed because they did not realize the famous tintype photograph of him reversed the image left to right.

Tickets for the festival are $10. Call Chris Faivre at 575-541-2150 or visit PatGarrettWesternHeritage.com for more information.

Pat Garrett Festival, Albert Fountain