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Thread: The mysterious death of Adolph Ruth

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  1. #1
    us
    Apr 2013
    Huntington Beach California
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    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    The mysterious death of Adolph Ruth

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    Photo of Tex Barkley with the remains of Adolph Ruth in the Superstition Mountains, January 1932.

    The mysterious disappearance of Adolph Ruth in the Superstition Mountains in June of 1931.


    Adolph Ruth, a 76 year old Washington D.C. resident disappeared in the Superstition Mountains in June of 1931 while searching for the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. His severed head was discovered six months later under a Palo Verde Tree and the rest of his remains were found in January of 1932 in a wash on the north east end of Black Top Mesa about a quarter mile from where his head had been found. Even though his skull clearly showed he had been shot in the head with a large calibre weapon, the Maricopa County coroner ruled his death to be the result of natural causes.

    Eighty-six years later his disappearance and death is still hotly debated. The records of the 1931 Adolph Ruth missing persons investigation by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office were destroyed in March of 2008. The files were sealed by a court order for 50 years until 1982 when they became public record. In those 26 years before they were destroyed, only a few individuals took the time, patience and effort to gain access to those files and copy what they could of the information.

    The information in the Maricopa Sheriff’s files are drastically different from what was publically known and believed concerning the mystery of Adolph Ruth’s death. The files directly contradicted so much of what was publically believed to be the facts surrounding Ruth’s disappearance and death.

    A whole story grew up surrounding the Ruth disappearance and that story centred around Tex Barkley and his Barkley Ranch on the edges of the Superstition Mountains. In spite of many published newspaper accounts of 1931-1932, these stories and rumours persisted until they became the believed narrative of Mr. Ruth’s demise. Several Dutchman books were published over the years which further perpetuated these false rumours and stories.
    The commonly believed story is that Adolph Ruth travelled to Arizona in May of 1931 to stay at Tex Barkley’s Quarter Circle U Ranch on the south edge of the Superstition Mountains. A month later it is told that two of Tex Barkley’s cowboys took Ruth into the Superstitions to a camp in a place known as Willow Spring.

    It is further told that Tex Barkley was away at the time selling cattle and did not know the cowboys had taken Ruth into the mountains in 100 degree summer weather. When the two cowboys went to check on Ruth a week later they found him gone and could not locate him. Tex Barkley was said to be very upset and called the Sheriff to ring the alarm that Adolph Ruth was missing in the Superstition Mountains.
    This story became the accepted version of what happened. The only problem is, the story is not true.

    Adolph Ruth was an aging ex-government employee earning a 42 dollar a month disability pension. He was known to be interested in mines and treasure in the southwest and had made several previous trips to both California and Arizona to pursue lost mines. Adolph Ruth had with him several maps to supposed mines that he had acquired from his son while in old Mexico.

    When Adolph Ruth came to Arizona in May of 1931 he was feeble and in poor health. His ambitious goal was to follow one of his maps which he believed would lead him to the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. When Adolph Ruth decided to search for the lost mine, he did not come to Tex Barkley and the Barkley Ranch, but went straight to the ranch of a man named Cal Morse. Mr. Ruth received all his mail at the Morse ranch while in Arizona and his place of contact with his family in Washington D.C. was with Cal Morse.

    Cal Morse was a prospector and miner in his early years and himself an enthusiast of the Lost Dutchman Mine which he searched for many years unsuccessfully. Later in life Cal Morse became a cattle rancher, planted a large orange orchard outside Mesa, and operated several business establishments in Mesa and at what would become Apache Junction.

    Two of Cal Morse’s business in the 1930's were service stations, gas and auto repair in east Mesa. Both of the two alleged Barkley cowboys who took Mr. Ruth into the Superstitions were not Barkley cowboys at all, but the two, Leroy Purnell and Jack Keenan, were in Morse’s employ at various jobs in the summer of 1931. Purnell and Keenan worked for Cal Morse at everything from ranch hands to auto mechanics and even fruit pickers in his citrus orchard.

    Jack Keenan's relationship with Cal Morse was especially close while Purnell seemed to be more of a part time employee. Keenan worked as an auto mechanic in Morse's east Mesa gas station. While both Keenan and Purnell knew Tex Barkley and his family, and certainly had been at the Quarter Circle U ranch on occasions, neither man was working for Barkley as a cowboy in the summer of 1931 as is commonly believed.

    Adolph Ruth and his son Erwin became acquainted with Cal Morse in the 1920's when the Ruth's learned of Cal Morse's interest in the Lost Dutchman mine and his efforts at locating that mine. Morse's searching for the mine was well known across Arizona and parts of the southwest and Morse spent a considerable amount of money in that endeavour. From this mutual interest, a friendship developed between the Morse and Ruth family. Much transpired between the time the two met and Adolph Ruth came to Arizona on his fatal trip in May 1931.

    Adolph Ruth did have an interest in Tex Barkley’s ranch because it was the entry point into the Superstition Mountains. Ruth visiting the ranch and talking to wranglers and prospectors who came and went there may have added to the rumours that he was staying there at the Barkley Ranch. Ruth was aware a lot of other Dutchman hunters hung around the Barkley Ranch and it was a good place for him to pick up information about the trails, other mines and lay of the land.

    In the hot summer heat of June, Leroy Purnell and Jack Keenan took Adolph Ruth into a camp at Willow Spring in the Superstition Mountains. They packed Mr. Ruth in through the First Water ranch on the North West side of the Superstitions. On the morning Purnell and Keenan took Ruth in the mountains they circumvented the First Water ranch headquarters so they would not be seen.
    The reason for this distinction was because Ruth did not want Tex Barkley and others at the Barkley ranch to see him being taken into the mountains through the ranch headquarters. Later on when it was discovered Ruth was missing, Tex Barkley and others at the Barkley ranch were surprised Ruth had been in the mountains.

    Leroy Purnell and Jack Keenan were not very forthcoming with authorities in the beginning themselves on the specifics of how, when, where and why Ruth got into Willow Springs.
    When Adolph Ruth was discovered missing it was Cal Morse, not Tex Barkley, who first knew of his disappearance and alerted Maricopa County Sheriff James MacFadden. It was Cal Morse whom Ruth's wife wired $100 reward money for anyone who might find her husband. It was the Cal Morse Ranch where Ruth’s son, Erwin, came to stay while searching for his father. And it was Cal Morse ranch where the Ruth family in Washington D.C. kept in touch with the ongoing search.

    It is an interesting and highly curious fact that Cal Morse called the Maricopa County Sheriff to report Adolph Ruth missing when he knew for a fact Ruth’s camp was in Willow Spring, and the last place anyone allegedly saw Adolph Ruth, was in Pinal County.

    Why didn’t Cal Morse call the Pinal County Sheriff? It was almost as if Morse was saying, consciously or otherwise, that Adolph Ruth is missing, and he is missing in Maricopa County, not Pinal County.
    The decision for Adolph Ruth to go into the mountains in the heat of summer was not a decision made by someone who didn't know any better. The timing was planned very carefully. At that time, June of 1931, a lot of prospectors and mine hunters as well as transients were in those mountains. It was the depression and many people were jobless and homeless and camping in the mountains and looking for a lost mine was as good a past time as any.

    As the summer heat set in, the number of people in the mountains would dwindle as men escaped the furnace and left the mountains for cooler spots to camp. Ruth going in those mountains when he did, mid-late June, would insure the least amount of people would be in there to interfere or observe his activities.

    Ruth had his limitations and he knew them. But Ruth never planned to hike the mountains and look for the mine under his own power. His plan was to be supplied with everything he needed and taken on horseback to wherever he needed to go. Sometime within the first few days of his arrival at Willow Spring, that plan was interfered with.

    When Adolph Ruth was discovered missing by Jack Keenan, Cal Morse and Keenan did not at first believe Ruth was dead or in any serious danger, but a little later, as the circumstances unfolded and they became more aware of what might have happened, they alerted the Maricopa County Sheriff. But at the same time, they distanced themselves from the publicity that began to fly, allowing the rumours and stories to circulate while they kept a very low profile and worked mostly with Adolph Ruth’s son, Erwin Ruth.

    Cal Morse refused to be interviewed by reporters covering the story and all references to him in relation to Mr. Ruth came directly from James MacFadden the Maricopa County Sheriff and his conversations with Cal Morse.

    Cal Morse and his wife Florence, and Tex Barkley's and his wife Gertrude were good friends as each were pioneer Mesa ranching families. They knew each other but strangely as it seems, during the search for Ruth, Tex Barkley and Cal Morse had little or no contact with each other.

    Adolph Ruth made his camp at Willow Spring in Pinal County. The prevailing story is, Ruth was told to camp at Willow spring by Tex Barkley because it was a place of permanent water. However, in fact, Tex Barkley didn't know where Ruth had camped until he was told it was Willow spring, after Ruth had disappeared.

    Tex Barkley and his friend Deputy Sheriff Jeff Adams became the point men in the search for Adolph Ruth as Sheriff MacFadden had his hands full with an even more sensational case that attracted nationwide attention, the Winne Judd axe murder case in Phoenix.

    It was Adams and Barkley that found Ruth’s skeletal remains minus his head in January of 1932. Ruth’s skull had been located a month earlier about a quarter mile away lying under a Palo Verde tree. It was Brownie Holmes and an archaeologic team in the Superstitions that by chance stumbled across Ruth’s skull.

    The whole story took a curious twist when Tex Barkley and Jeff Adams found a map among the remains of Adolph Ruth and decided to follow it to see where it might lead. Adams, Barkley and three of their friends followed the map which led them onto Peters Mesa to a cave where supposedly they would find a nearby mine. The group found the cave shown on the map but never could locate the mine.

    In another curious twist it was Tex Barkley who told Walter Gassler that he and Adams didn’t find Ruth’s remains at the spot a quarter mile away from where Ruth’s skull had been found. Barkley told Gassler they found the remains a few miles away up on Peters Mesa nearby where he and Adams had followed Ruth’s map to the cave. Barkley showed Gassler the exact spot on Peters Mesa where he said Ruth’s remains were discovered. Barkley further told Gassler that he and a friend packed Ruth’s remains down to nearby where Ruth’s skull had been found.

    All this was astonishingly in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s investigation report. It appeared that there were three main local suspects in Ruth’s disappearance and eventual death, and Sheriff MacFadden did not want details of the investigation to get out in public so those details would become known to everyone. If the Sheriff had any chance to catch those who were responsible, his only chance was to try and catch them divulging a piece of information that only someone involved would possibly know.

    In the end the investigation stalled with a goodly amount of suspicion but no evidence to bring anyone to trial. It also appears, if you read between the lines, the politics of the day and certain prominent citizens may have played a role in interfering with investigating the people it really needed to.

    In another curiosity the investigation established beyond a shadow of a doubt that Ruth’s camp in Willow Spring and the last time anyone saw him alive, was in Pinal County. Both Ruth's skull and his remains were eventually found in Pinal County.

    Yet it was Maricopa County Sheriff James MacFadden whom Cal Morse called to report Ruth’s disappearance. And it was Maricopa County who handled the search, investigation and final cause of death for Adolph Ruth. Under the law it was the authority and responsibility of Pinal County to handle the matter and they could not legally defer the responsibility to another jurisdiction. The only reason Maricopa County would have handled the Ruth investigation was because the investigators knew for a fact Adolph Ruth had died in Maricopa County, not Pinal County. Peters Mesa is in Maricopa County.

    The death certificate for Adolph Ruth was perhaps the final curiosity. The Doctor who filled out the death certificate, James Mauldin, listed the cause of death as “unknown”, leaving it open to later be designated as suicide or homicide. The Maricopa County Coroner had already listed Ruth’s death as due to natural causes. Mauldin issued the Maricopa County Death Certificate number of 133 but also assigned it a regulation number of 208 and filed it separately under the 208 number which left it open for change at a later date if more information should be acquired.

    The mystery of the strange death of Adolph Ruth still causes question to this day. The last person involved in the investigation died in 1980. The Sheriff’s office investigation report was released in 1982 and in 2008 the Maricopa County Sheriff destroyed all investigation records prior to 1935.

    We may never know what really happened to Adolph Ruth in the Superstition Mountains in that long ago summer of 1931.
    It will remain another unanswered question of the mysterious Superstition Mountains.

    Matthew
    Last edited by Matthew Roberts; May 26, 2017 at 12:57 PM.

  2. #2

    Jan 2014
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    Another great post from you, Matthew. Thanks for putting in the work, and for sharing.

    As far as Barkley moving Ruth's body- the common consensus seems to be that he did it because he didn't want Peter's Mesa overrun with people who might scatter his cattle to the four winds. That, however, makes him complicit, doesn't it?

    I look forward to more discussion. This forum has been very quiet lately.

  3. #3
    us
    Chuck Chatsko

    Jun 2012
    HOUSTON
    Garrett pro-something
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    Wasn`t Ruth trying to find the area of the Perfil Map? http://www.lost-dutchman.com/dutchman/peralta.htm
    Ecclesiastes 1:18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

  4. #4
    us
    Apr 2013
    Huntington Beach California
    744
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    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    Quote Originally Posted by deducer View Post
    Another great post from you, Matthew. Thanks for putting in the work, and for sharing.

    As far as Barkley moving Ruth's body- the common consensus seems to be that he did it because he didn't want Peter's Mesa overrun with people who might scatter his cattle to the four winds. That, however, makes him complicit, doesn't it?

    I look forward to more discussion. This forum has been very quiet lately.
    Hello deducer,

    Yes, the prevailing story is that Barkley didn't want hundreds of lost mine hunters roaming all over his cattle range looking for the mines/treasure that Adolph Ruth had been looking for.

    Yes you are correct that would make him complicit. But in a much more complicit sense, Jeff Adams the "deputy Sheriff" who was spearheading the search was privilege to all this information and even went with Barkley to look for Ruth's mine with the map Barkley found on Ruth's body.

    Adams and Barkley were close friends, too close to have been so involved in the Adolph Ruth search and investigation. What few realize is Jeff Adams who headed the search was not really a deputy Sheriff at all. Maricopa County Sheriff MacFadden brought Adams out of retirement to lead the search because of Adams past involvement in law enforcement and his superior knowledge of the Superstition Mountains. MacFadden swore Adams in as a special assistant to the Sheriff. Adams only authority was in searching for Ruth, he had no authority to arrest anyone.

    Matthew
    davin, audigger53, markmar and 5 others like this.

  5. #5
    us
    Apr 2013
    Huntington Beach California
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    Quote Originally Posted by 393stroker View Post
    Wasn`t Ruth trying to find the area of the Perfil Map? http://www.lost-dutchman.com/dutchman/peralta.htm
    Hello 393stoker,

    Yes you are correct, partially. Ruth had several maps with him, some he had gotten from his son Erwin and some he had acquired from Morse.
    The prevailing story is that Ruth was looking for a mine nearby a high peak or pinnacle (Weavers Needle possibly). But that is the story the press helped to perpetuate. The Perfil Map.

    When Tex Barkley found Ruth's body there was a map with Ruth. Barkley, Jeff Adams and three other friends followed that map easily to the cave shown on the map but couldn't locate the mine nearby.
    Barkley said this map was easy to follow and he knew of that cave just from seeing the map because the trail and all the landmarks were so clear to him.

    In fact, Barkley and the others were so sure they knew where that map led that they all brought along a sack to put the gold in.

    Matthew

  6. #6

    Jan 2014
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matthew Roberts View Post
    Hello deducer,

    Yes, the prevailing story is that Barkley didn't want hundreds of lost mine hunters roaming all over his cattle range looking for the mines/treasure that Adolph Ruth had been looking for.

    Yes you are correct that would make him complicit. But in a much more complicit sense, Jeff Adams the "deputy Sheriff" who was spearheading the search was privilege to all this information and even went with Barkley to look for Ruth's mine with the map Barkley found on Ruth's body.

    Adams and Barkley were close friends, too close to have been so involved in the Adolph Ruth search and investigation. What few realize is Jeff Adams who headed the search was not really a deputy Sheriff at all. Maricopa County Sheriff MacFadden brought Adams out of retirement to lead the search because of Adams past involvement in law enforcement and his superior knowledge of the Superstition Mountains. MacFadden swore Adams in as a special assistant to the Sheriff. Adams only authority was in searching for Ruth, he had no authority to arrest anyone.

    Matthew
    I agree that on the list of suspects, Jeff Adams is high on it, and at the very least, a co-conspirator.

    Adams wrote of Ruth:

    "We found intact all of his papers including the map or directions to be taken to find the Lost Dutchman Mine which Mr. Ruth was supposed to be trying to locate. After finding and assembling these bones we followed the directions given to reach the alleged Lost Dutchman Mine. This trip took us two days of very hard labor and following these directions we came to the place pointed out in the instructions and found no evidence of any human being ever having been there at any time in the past."
    So we are led to believe that someone was desperate enough to murder a human being in order to find the whereabouts of a mine, but not desperate enough to search Ruth's body for the maps or papers? That does not compute with me.

  7. #7
    us
    Mar 2004
    Severn, Maryland
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    There is something I don't understand about the area he went to. The story I read was that the Dutchman went to Queen Creek for supplies and then went back to the camp where he found Wiesner being tortured be Indians (staked out and being shot with flaming pine slivers. If he had left from present Maricopa county, he would have been closer to Phoenix, not Queen Creek. Maybe the story I read was wrong but it had all the other facts correct of the claim/mine.

  8. #8
    gr
    Oct 2012
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    I believe Barkley never found the Ruth's body in Peters Mesa .
    First , the skull would been too far from its body , second the body would been too far from his camp and third , Barkley would taken a big risk because the Coroner ( who should be present at the scene before the remains of the body would be collected in the bag) , would understood if the body was moved or if was there in the first place . A decomposed body leaves many signs on the ground .

    IMO , because the maps were found with Ruth remains , there was not motivation to been murdered by a treasure hunter. The only motivation to kill him that come in my mind , is how was shot by a sentinel who was guarding a treasure site or a sacred land .
    Also , if the Ruth's head was shot or was bite by a lion , this would be easy recognized in a laboratory . For sure the bullet would left signs of lead in the skull fractures . So , if the coroner did his job correct , then remain only the version how Ruth died of natural causes and his head was carried away by a lion , which has the upper bicuspid bigger than the lower bicuspid and his bite holes look like a bullet shot , small at entrance and bigger at the exit .
    Last edited by markmar; May 28, 2017 at 11:45 PM.
    Marius

    If your true to your heart,you will never go wrong.The truth is the truth,no matter how you look at it,and in every treasure story and legend there is a grain of truth . It's up to your spirit and heart to know the difference. NP





  9. #9
    us
    May 2010
    texas
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    Nothing seems to make sense when it comes to stories about the LDM, new and old. I also say that if Ruth was shot, it was not by anyone looking to get any of his belongings. Couldn't have been Barkley, the only thing he may have being guilty of is lieing about moving the body. He could of taken the map then, not having to share it with Jeff. His reason would be to send other treasure hunters away to another area.

    Cal's reason for calling the Maricopa Sheriff could be that being a close friend of Ruth, Ruth may have told him that his area of intrest was in Maricopa county?

    Homar

  10. #10
    us
    Dec 2008
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    5121 times
    Quote Originally Posted by markmar View Post
    I believe Barkley never found the Ruth's body in Peters Mesa .
    First , the skull would been too far from its body , second the body would been too far from his camp and third , Barkley would taken a big risk because the Coroner ( who should be present at the scene before the remains of the body would be collected in the bag) , would understood if the body was moved or if was there in the first place . A decomposed body leave many signs on the ground .

    IMO , because the maps were found with Ruth remains , there was not motivation to been murdered by a treasure hunter. The only motivation to kill him that come in my mind , is how was shot by a sentinel who was guarding a treasure site or a sacred land .
    Also , if the Ruth's head was shot or was bite by a lion , this would be easy recognized in a laboratory . For sure the bullet would left signs of lead in the skull fractures . So , if the coroner did his job correct , then remains only the version how Ruth died of natural causes and his head was carried way by a lion , which has the upper bicuspid bigger than the lower bicuspid and his bite holes look like a bullet shot , small at entrance and bigger at the exit .
    marius.......maybe the people that killed him took the map they wanted and left the others behind because they considered them worthless.......it's very possible ruth only had one valuable map

  11. #11

    Dec 2005
    Arizona
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    Quote Originally Posted by coazon de oro View Post
    Nothing seems to make sense when it comes to stories about the LDM, new and old. I also say that if Ruth was shot, it was not by anyone looking to get any of his belongings. Couldn't have been Barkley, the only thing he may have being guilty of is lieing about moving the body. He could of taken the map then, not having to share it with Jeff. His reason would be to send other treasure hunters away to another area.

    Cal's reason for calling the Maricopa Sheriff could be that being a close friend of Ruth, Ruth may have told him that his area of intrest was in Maricopa county?

    Homar
    Homar,

    Have to agree with your post. I have never believed the original story of the circumstances surrounding Adolph Ruth's death. Believe I've written that many times over the years.

    Matthew's story has been floated by him a number of times. I have never seen a verifiable source for his tale. Until that happens, I have serious doubts, but that and five bucks may get me an average cup of coffee. Maybe he will supply sources when his book is published.

    My own belief is that Ruth never made it farther than the saddle that separates West Boulder and Little Boulder Canyons. I was told, and believe, that this was the view of Weaver's Needle that Ruth was looking for:



    The marker is for a claim at that spot. Believe Sims Ely made a slip as to where Ruth was really found in his book.......

    Good luck,

    Joe
    " Hell, I was there!" Elmer Keith
    "There is an ancient proverb that says a man can never forgive you for a wrong he has done you." From a wise friend.

  12. #12
    gr
    Oct 2012
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    Quote Originally Posted by azdave35 View Post
    marius.......maybe the people that killed him took the map they wanted and left the others behind because they considered them worthless.......it's very possible ruth only had one valuable map
    Dave

    I believe every Ruth's map without his notes would been worthless . The notes were with Ruth's body and the rest info in his brain . The Coroner had two months to realize if the skull was shot .
    And , if he was not sure , I believe he would asked from the researchers when they would find the body , to leave it intact and to call him , to see the orientation of the body and in regards with that , to search for skull pieces in the direction of the shot or around .
    So , IMO no thoughts to move the body .
    Marius

    If your true to your heart,you will never go wrong.The truth is the truth,no matter how you look at it,and in every treasure story and legend there is a grain of truth . It's up to your spirit and heart to know the difference. NP





  13. #13
    gr
    Oct 2012
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    I am wondering if there existed a detailed report made by the Coroner on how the investigation was occurred . The different opinions of the two Coroners , leave a feeling how were not used the recommended by law actions in a suspicious of murder death .
    Marius

    If your true to your heart,you will never go wrong.The truth is the truth,no matter how you look at it,and in every treasure story and legend there is a grain of truth . It's up to your spirit and heart to know the difference. NP





  14. #14
    us
    May 2010
    texas
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    Howdy Joe,

    I have no reason to doubt Matthew's story, it's how investigations are handled. Until the cases are solved, the rumors are all that is known. However, this case was never solved, so if Tex lied about moving the body, that never got investigated, or contested in court. One should not kill the messenger.

    Homar

  15. #15
    us
    Dec 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by coazon de oro View Post
    Howdy Joe,

    I have no reason to doubt Matthew's story, it's how investigations are handled. Until the cases are solved, the rumors are all that is known. However, this case was never solved, so if Tex lied about moving the body, that never got investigated, or contested in court. One should not kill the messenger.

    Homar
    nowadays if someone goes missing in the mountains a flood of people turn up to look for them...law enforcement...search and rescue and various volunteer private citizens,,,but in 1931 things were a bit different...all you had was the sheriff and different counties would argue about who's jurisdiction it was ..and when they did finally start searching it was usually just a few guys and it would have been fairly easy for them to rewrite history...i read that a few other men were with barkley and adams..Hosie Cline, Gabriel Robles and Ace Gardner,..maybe some of their descendants know what really happened

 

 
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