Friday, August 27, 2010

The Heberer Lorius Case: One of New Mexico's Unsolved Mysteries

Two middle-age couples were on a summer vacation, driving from Illinois to California in a 1929 Nash. It was 1935, when a driving trip through the Southwest was still a big adventure.

George Lorius, a coal and ice company executive from East St. Louis, his wife, Laura, and the couple's friends Albert and Tillie Heberer, arrived in Vaughn on May 21 and spent the night at the Vaughn Hotel.

They got up early the next morning to eat breakfast in the hotel's cafe.

"And," says one of their relatives who is searching for answers 75 years later, "they were never seen again."

~Albuquerque Journal, June 20, 2010

There is something about a murder mystery that fascinates us all; we get a little chill imagining the circumstances, the feelings of the victims, and the grief of their relatives. But when that mystery remains unsolved for 75 years with no bodies ever found, the chill we feel becomes something else--a curiosity and, for some, a drive to find out just what happened. 

The car that the tourists were driving was found later near Dallas, showing signs that it had been in at least one accident. Burned belongings, thought to be those of the missing tourists, were found near the cities of Albuquerque and El Paso. Clues were examined by both local law authorities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. When the trail got cold and no solution was forthcoming, amateurs got involved and have been investigating ever since. 

I recently read a book about a 1949 unsolved murder in Las Cruces (Cricket in the Web, by Paula Moore). The investigations of that murder revealed the complexity (and sometimes the corruption) of New Mexican politics, a place where relationships are intertwined, families don't give up their own, and some folks still wouldn't talk about the case when interviewed over 50 years later. The bungling, and the competition and spirit of non-cooperation between law enforcement agencies after the murder was mind-boggling. I suspect that many of these same factors came into play when the Heberer-Lorius case was investigated. 

For more background on the Heberer Lorius Case:

Murder Mystery Lingers, by Leslie Linthicum. Albuquerque Journal article, June 20, 2010.

"The Mystery of the Missing Tourists," an excerpt from the book Albuquerque Remembered, by Howard Bryan (University of New Mexico Press, 2006). 

Monday: The Pintada Kid on the Case


Deb from WhatsInMyAttic said...

Ooooooooo...I love a mystery! Hey...I forgot to mention this on your post when you said you made a trip to Clovis. My newphew lives in Clovis, and his wife is a dentist there. So, someday, in the off chance that I ever stop working, I may make a trip to New Mexico after all! Don't know why I never thought about this before...maybe because NM seems sooooo far away to me!

Enjoyed your post, and may take a look for the book you mentioned!

becky said...

Stories like these scare me!!! Solved or unsolved... when I read stories of murder/missing persons & so forth... I get the heebie geebies. Probably 'cause I travel alot by myself & stories like these keep my up at night, hearing every little creak & noise...

EG CameraGirl said...

Definitely sending chills up and down my spine. We had an older couple go missing in Alberta, Canada this year. Scary!

Nan said...

This is very, very interesting, and I'm off to read the further postings. I looked up Pintada and it said a place in Brazil. So what does 'Pintada Kid' mean? Maybe I'll find out in the next posting. I expect all states have their missing persons/unsolved murders cases, and they are intriguing and unsettling. Have you heard about the Mother's Day 2009 murder of a mother in Wolfeboro? 20/20 is going to do a show on this unsolved murder. More here (and I apologize for not being able to do the link thing) -I'm hoping you can copy and paste the whole huge address. There are links to further info on the page.'s+'20/20'+to+look+at+mom's+unsolved+killing&articleId=35a743c2-65b6-42ac-917a-863f539a4bf2

clairz said...

It just so happens that we recently had a similar murder in New Mexico of two tourists in a remote area. Their bodies, however, were found in their burnt-out camper, unlike the tourists in this cold case. The murderers had let the tourists' dogs go before setting fire to the camper, and had left food and water out for them--a detail that somehow makes the whole thing more chilling to me. I don't usually follow these things (too much bad news), but everyone was on edge because the suspects were felons that had escaped from a prison in Arizona. They have been caught now.

Nan, I, too was curious about the meaning of "pintada." One of the meanings is "painted," but the actual derivation of the Kid's name is more simple--he was born near Pintada, NM and tells me that his name was given to him by "the old Pintada Kid."

Also to Nan: I will send you an email about how to put links into these comments. I can't do it very easily here, because if I type out the directions, Blogger will just make a link!