In the Rearview: A snail-inflicted itch, a grisly murder and the return of the hippies

By Harrison Blackman
Posted 7/12/17

As part of our weekly series, The Taos News dug into the newspaper's archives to uncover the top stories of the week from 10, 25 and 50 years ago. We found stories about swimmers with a nasty itch, the scene of a grisly murder and the sequel to The …

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In the Rearview: A snail-inflicted itch, a grisly murder and the return of the hippies


As part of our weekly series, The Taos News dug into the newspaper's archives to uncover the top stories of the week from 10, 25 and 50 years ago. We found stories about swimmers with a nasty itch, the scene of a grisly murder and the sequel to The Taos News' June 1967 search for hippies.

10 years ago 'Snails may be the culprits for swimmer's itch', July 19-25, 2007, By Jerry A. Padilla.

Stubblefield Lake seemed like the perfect place for a swim. The reservoir, 23 miles southwest of Ratón, was a popular recreation area for fishermen and swimmers alike.

But in July 2007, several people took an ill-fated swim in Stubblefield Lake. When they returned to dry land, they developed a nasty rash. The swimmers reported symptoms that were consistent with tingling, burning and itching skin.

Dr. Alfredo Vigil and Deborah Busemeyer of the New Mexico Department of Health identified the condition as cercarial dermatitis, or swimmer's itch. The condition was an allergic reaction to bites from microscopic parasites that live on the backs of snails. Within 24 hours of contact with the parasites, small red pimples could appear and develop into blisters.

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish posted warnings about the risk for contracting swimmer's itch around the lake.

25 years ago 'Brutal beating claims woman's life: Police query friends, associates for clues', July 16, 1992, By Mike Stauffer

On July 13, 1992, Taos resident Eileen Terry Hafner was found dead in her home on Los Pandos Road. The 46-year-old woman, the owner of a Ranchos de Taos store called Coyote Pottery, had been the victim of a brutal beating. Her death kicked off a criminal investigation and saga that hung around Taos for years, a tale worthy of a crime novel.

Hafner's business partner and ex-lover, Nestor Martinez, discovered her body in the house's walk-in closet. A police autopsy revealed that Hafner had been repeatedly struck with a blunt object in the head, front and back, at around 11 p.m. the night before the body was discovered.

Neil Curran, then the Taos police chief, ruled out burglary as a potential motive, although he noted that some of the drawers were left open, perhaps to leave that impression. "Too many valuables were left laying around," he was quoted as saying. He also discounted the possibility of a sex crime.

Nor did it seem like Hafner had been surprised by the presence of the killer. "There was no real disarray in the living quarters," Curran said, adding that the doors to the home had been unlocked. Hafner's unit was one of three that she owned. Her home was located in the middle - between a furniture store and the house of another tenant.

Originally from Los Angeles, California, Hafner was described by her friends as a friendly and cheerful woman who had moved to Taos in 1982. Previously, in 1980, she worked as a docent at the Natural History Museum in Dallas, Texas. Three days before her death, she reportedly talked to her ex-husband, Dudley Hafner, on the phone about selling the Coyote Pottery business and moving to Santa Fe.

The case ended up becoming a long-running Taos crime saga. At the time of the initial investigation, Anthony Archuleta, the victim's lover at the time of her death, as well as a frequenter of the furniture store's workshop - where Hafner was believed to have been killed - was picked up for questioning.

By 1994, Archuleta had been tried and acquitted for beating Hafner to death. In the trial, defense attorney Leon Taylor argued that it was Nestor Martinez, rather than Archuleta, who was responsible for the death. In the years to come, both men were implicated in related civil cases.

In 1995, Martinez and Archuleta were both involved in a lawsuit over their sizable inheritances in Hafner's estate, which was contested by the victim's family. In Hafner's will, it was stated that Archuleta would inherit at least $275,000 (including Hafner's home, stock and two cars), while Martinez would inherit $20,000 and the Coyote Pottery business.

Moreover, on July 12, 1995, Martinez and Archuleta were both implicated in a civil case regarding the "wrongful death" of Hafner filed by Gayle Harvey, legal representative of the Hafner estate. A settlement was finally reached in 2000, closing the door on this case for good.

50 years ago'Hippie-search ends', July 20, 1967, By Leslie Bottorff

In early July 1967, Taos News reporter Leslie Bottorff went on an investigative quest to follow up on "scandalous" hippie sightings in Taos. Her journey took her all across town, but she failed to find any real-life hippies. (You can read about that account in the June 29 edition of "In the Rearview.")

Two weeks after her unsuccessful quest, Bottorff had finally found what she was looking for - a group of hippies who had settled on a farm 10 minutes out from the center of Taos.

Riding in the car with five "hippies," Bottorff asked them about their lifestyle. "What [they] said mainly was that there [was] no such thing as a 'hippie' ... everyone is a 'hippie,' and no one is,'" Bottorff wrote.

But Bottorff marveled at how the hippies were interested in talking about something that most "normal" people enjoyed discussing - the weather. "The corn won't grow without rain," a hippie was quoted as saying.

Three of the hippies had originated from California, and another had come from New York. Why had she left New York? The Northeast native said she lived in the Big Apple for 20 years. That, Bottorff noted, was the woman's entire given rationale for moving to Taos.

By the time Bottorff arrived at the hippie farm, she was surprised that the other residents of the commune paid her little attention. Some men were cutting wood, Bottorff reported, while another was caulking the roof. A third man stood smiling at her, a flower tucked behind his ear.

Bottorff was subsequently brought to the supposed leader of the group, who took the young reporter around the house, showing her the garden, the main house and the bachelor's quarters.

"Sure enough, there were bachelors there," Bottorff wrote. "They came 'down the hill' and stayed for a while, leaving later perhaps never to return, but with a roof over their own for a while."

Moreover, the interior of the house reportedly had "love" and "dust" written on the walls, as well as portraits of Charlie Chaplin and "someone who looked like Burt Lancaster."

Bottorff watched the group take a meal of beans and potatoes, while they passed around and shared a beer. They also discussed the Vietnam War, a conflict all of the hippies eating dinner opposed.

When a rainstorm started, Bottorff rode with the hippies back into town. "There were many questions," Bottorff wrote, "but all blew out the push-button windows, because there [was] no answer."


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