Biggest Unsolved Mysteries in New Mexico: Part III
Following up on Part 1 and Part 2 of the Biggest Unsolved Mysteries in New Mexico, Part 3 aims to address a few more questions and comments on the mysteries of the state. Today, we want to explore: Who killed Cricket Coogler? What happened to Robbie Romero, Jimmy Mathews, and Orlando Valdez? And who killed Rosemary Tellez? Only one of these questions has a solid answer, while others likely never will.
Who Killed Cricket Coogler in Las Cruces in 1949?
How about the murder of Cricket Coogler in Las Cruces in 1949? – Scotty K Kevin
I’ve always wondered if they ever found out who killed Cricket [Coogler]… – Tom Bishop
We received more comments about Cricket Coogler than any other New Mexico mystery, and it’s easy to see why. According to mystery novelist, Tony Hillerman, the major efforts made to cover up this murder are what caused the public outrage that ultimately ‘cleaned up New Mexico.’ In 1949, a young (18 years old) and strikingly beautiful waitress named Ovida ‘Cricket’ Coogler disappeared.
Her body was found two weeks later, raped, murdered, and apparently run over by a car. She had last been seen getting into a vehicle with official state license plates. There were multiple suspects with big names, including football star, Jerry Nuzum. Yet nobody was ever convicted of the crime.
The case was also related to a serious civil rights violation. An African American man was tortured in the desert in an effort to get him to confess to the crime. The parties responsible, Sheriff Apodaca, State Police Chief Hubert Beasley and sheriff’s Deputy Roy Sandman, were sentenced to over one year in prison for their unlawful and unethical treatment of their suspect turned victim, Wesley Byrd.
Unfortunately, this is one mystery that is unlikely to ever be solved.
The murder of Ovida “Cricket” Coogler in 1949. Las Cruces author, Paula Moore, wrote about this unsolved mystery in her book “Cricket in the Web.” This attractive, young woman’s death helped unravel the corrupt political environment in New Mexico at the time. Though no one was ever changed with her murder many high level names were suggested. – Sharleen Hyde
Seven Year Old Robbie Romero Disappeared from Santa Fe in 2000
…the disappearance of young Robbie Romero from Santa Fe, circa 2000. – Sandy Broadbent
In June of 2000, a seven year old boy named Robbie Romero disappeared from the area near his home. Within the next week, the back yard of his home was being dug up by the police and the FBI, though Robbie wasn’t found. Within days, a report came into 911 that the older brother of Robbie Romero, Ronnie, had confessed to murdering the child. By the following month, the police were searching landfills in hopes of finding the body, but without luck. Then, the older brother told the police that his girlfriend was responsible for Robbie’s disappearance.
By the following month, police were searching Fenton Lake to find the body, but again, had no luck. By September, Robbie’s mother revealed that Ronnie had failed a lie detector test, and the police were back to searching landfills. Ronnie failed yet another lie detector test, and eventually told investigators that the body was 60 feet deep.
Ronnie had an already troubled past, and a history of behaving violently, so he was certainly the perfect suspect. He ended up in jail for unrelated crimes of violence and parole violations, but he died in custody in 2008. Robbie’s mother filed a lawsuit for harassment against the Santa Fe police, using a video of the police removing two young children from her home. She won, and expressed hope that her young son was still alive in 2010. This is yet another case that may forever go unsolved, leaving us all wondering what really happened to Robbie Romero.
61 Year Old Jimmy Mathews Disappeared from San Miguel County in 2000
What about the disappearance of Jimmy Mathews in February 2000? – Brenda
Brenda brought the case of Jimmy Mathews to our attention, and we found very little information to shine any light on this mysterious disappearance. We know that Jimmy’s son in law stated that he last saw him a little after 6 pm on February 21, 2000, in Las Vegal, and that he was headed home. He was reported missing by a friend the following day. His vehicle was found, unlocked, keys and cell phone inside.
It was also discovered that the doors to his home and business were all unlocked, which was out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, no other evidence was found in any of these locations. Although his credit cards haven’t been used since the disappearance, it was believed that he had $20K on him at the time. He was not known to travel alone, and he failed to show up to important court appointments concerning his divorce, as well.
Multiple searches of his properties and the area where he turned up missing have been conducted in an effort to find any evidence or remains, but this case remains a mystery.
38 Year Old Orlando Valdez Disappeared from Santa Fe in 1978
I never did find out what happened to my dad Orlando Valdez they never found a body – Cheryl
Commenter, Cheryl, revealed that her own father, Orlando Valdez, has been missing since 1978. His body was never found to confirm suspicions that he may have been murdered. This is one of the most frustrating cases because there is virtually nothing known about the disappearance. He was last seen in March of 1978, reported missing soon after, and simply never found. There was never any evidence of foul play and no indications of motive for anyone to hurt him. Thus, a whole lot of mystery remains, seeming unsolvable given the lack of information and evidence.
18 Year Old Frances Rosemary Tellez was Murdered Near City of Rocks in 1971
Who killed [Frances] Rosemary Tellez at City of Rocks? She was only  and I never heard anything else about her. – Dee Martinez
Once again, we get to end on the one commented mystery that has been solved, though there isn’t much information to report. The men who killed Frances Rosemary Tellez were found and convicted of murder, though there is not much information on what happened or why. In 1971, an 18 year old girl from California was visiting her Domo, New Mexico, relatives. Rosemary was found dead on September 26 near City of Rocks State Park.
Her body was discovered by a passing driver on State Road 61 near US 180. She had obvious injuries to her legs and face. At first, it appeared to be a hit and run. Her cause of death was later found to be head injuries. In the end, three men were charged and convicted of first degree murder in her case. These were Joe Apodaca (29), his brother Antonio (24), and Gilbert Madrid (29). The only mystery that remains is what motivated the terrible crime.
Thanks to all of our readers who have shared their memories of unsolved mysteries in New Mexico. Keep sharing your mysteries in the comments, and we may have a Part 4 in the making. We’re already curious about Carla Simmons, Annette Gonzales, and Dorothy and Barbara of Hobbs.