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17. The Defense and Rebuttal

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seventeen

The Defense and Rebuttal

It was now time for the defense to present their case. Their strategy was twofold: attack the credibility of prosecution witnesses and present an alibi for the accused. To open their case, the defense called Tom Tucker to the stand in their first attempt to prove an alibi for the defendants. His testimony was not reported.1

Pedro Gonzales, a member of the initial searching party, testified to trailing the buckboard. Gonzales said there were no tracks around the campfire when they arrived. He thought the tracks measured by Llewellyn were tracks of members of the search party. Jacovo Chavez, another search party member, repeated the testimony of Gonzales, also believing that Branigan and Llewellyn measured tracks of search party members.2

The next witness called was A. N. Bailey, an employee of Lee, who stated that he was at Lee’s Dog Canyon ranch on the day of the disappearance. The defendants were there also.3 Joe Fitchett testified that he had met Oliver Lee at his Dog Canyon ranch on the day of the disappearance.

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14. Jack Maxwell Testifies

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fourteen

Jack Maxwell Testifies

The next day led off with the witness whom the prosecution had been waiting for. Jack Maxwell, who claimed he had been absent due to illness, was brought into town by Ben Williams. Maxwell was finally sworn in and took the stand.

Maxwell stated that he had known Lee and Gililland for five or six years and that his ranch was not very far from Lee’s. “On

February 1, 1896, I was at Dog Canyon ranch and spent the night there. I got there just before sundown. When I got there I found

Mrs. Lee [Oilver’s mother], Mr. Blevins, Mr. Bailey, and Ed, the colored man. I ate supper there that night and slept in the house with Mr. Blevins.”

“What time did you get up Sunday morning?” Childers asked.

“At sunup and I ate breakfast with Mr. Blevins and others.”

“Did you see either of these defendants there for breakfast?”

“No sir.”

“What did you do that day?”

“I stayed down at the corral.”

To an unknown question, Maxwell answered, “Saw four persons mounted on two horses coming from the northeast toward the house. They came within 200 yards from me and dismounted.”

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13. The Trial

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thirteen

The Trial

Hillsboro was a mining town in the mountains in Sierra County with a population of only 1,000. It was a small desert town whose most impressive building was the Sierra County Courthouse, which sat on a hill. The nearest railroad was twenty miles south and the only public transportation into town were the stagecoach lines from the Nutt and Lake Valley train stations.

The Union Hotel was not nearly large enough to hold all of the people expected for the trial. As a result, tent towns were set up. The prosecution set up a camp at the north end of town with its own cook. The defense set up a camp that became known as “the Oliver Lee camp,” at the south end of town. They had a chuck wagon to supply their food. Many friends and curious spectators who had come to town for the trial camped on the mountainsides.1

There was no telephone or telegraph in the secluded town. The

Western Union Telegraph Company ran a line from Lake Valley to

Hillsboro for the trial. Reporters were there from all of the area’s newspapers as well as from many around the nation, the Associated

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9. William B. Sayers

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William B. Sayers

Pinkerton operative William B. Sayers then took over the investigation, arriving in Santa Fe in the afternoon on Wednesday, April

15, 1896.1 When Sayers reached the governor’s office the next morning, he found the governor was out of town and he was asked to remain in town till his return. Miss Crane, the governor’s stenographer, informed Sayers that there was a letter missing from the governor’s table that had been written to him by Fraser. Sayers wrote to McParland asking that a copy of the letter be sent to

Thornton so he could see what if any information an outside party could gain from it.2

Crane also pointed out Tom Tucker, a Santa Fe deputy sheriff closely associated with Oliver Lee, to Sayers. Sayers watched him and hoped for a chance to speak with him, but it never came.3

Could Tucker have been responsible for the theft of the letter from the governor’s office?

While in Santa Fe, Sayers made plans to interview Ely “Slick”

Miller, the twenty-five-year-old who was serving his ten-year prison sentence courtesy of A. J. Fountain.4 The following morning, after getting a rig at the livery stable, Sayers drove out to the penitentiary and met Colonel Bergamer, who ran the prison, in his office. Upon learning that Sayers planned to be in town through the next day,

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3. The Disappearance

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three

The Disappearance

On January 12, 1896, Albert J. Fountain left for Lincoln, but he did not leave alone. The rumors of an attempt on his life worried his family. Family members, especially Fountain’s easily alarmed wife Mariana, attempted to persuade him to cancel the trip, or at least not go alone. Family recollections disagree on whether it was

Fountain’s wife Mariana or daughter Maggie who had the idea that he take his youngest son Henry. Mariana certainly pushed the idea, thinking that no attempt would be made on her husband’s life when a child was with him. She finally won out and Fountain agreed that if Henry was home from school when he left, he would take him.

Henry returned home in time and went on what must have been an exciting trip for a young boy to take with his father.1

The Fountain family received a scare the first night when

Fountain’s horses arrived back home. Later, a miner who came to town delivered a note from Colonel Fountain saying that the horses had run away. Fountain’s son Albert, along with his father-in-law

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