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W. W. Cox is one of many individuals who was either directly or indirectly involved in the murder of Pat Garrett, the man who killed Billy the Kid while acting as sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico. Cox was a New Mexico rancher who's action of paying $3,567 made it possible for Pat Garrett to remain in possession of his ranch in Dona Ana County, New Mexico. Every subsequent debt owed by Garrett for his ranch was paid for by Cox. It has been suggested that Cox may have in fact been involved in a plot to get Pat Garrett isolated and murdered, whether this is true or not was never discovered.

In casting about for possible motives, neighbors remembered how angry Cox had been in the summer of 1899 when he returned to his ranch and learned that then sheriff Garrett and deputy Jose Espalin had invaded the Cox home and killed an unarmed young man named Reed in the kitchen where he was helping Mrs. Cox with the dishes. Seeing two men with drawn pistols burst into the room, Reed had turned to run when he was shot dead. Garrett later explained that it appeared the young fellow was leaving to get a gun. Today it makes no difference that the wrong man was killed. An exceptionally large reward had been offered in Greer County, Oklahoma, for an escaped murderer named Norman Newman, and the sheriff had reason to suspect that the wanted man was at the San Augustine ranch. Garrett never collected the reward. It was bad enough that the raid had been staged when Cox was away from the ranch, but the thing which angered him most was that his wife, witnessing the killing, suffered a severe shock.

Another theory is that Garrett was killed because W. W. Cox wanted his ranch. This offers a quick and easy answer to the question of motive. Perhaps too quick and easy, when one considers the facts. The Cox range, extending all the way from the watershed of the Organ mountains to Cox's Well at the foot of the Jirallas, was already so vast that "he didn't know what to do with it all." Most significantly, in later years he could have acquired the ranch merely by foreclosing the delinquent mortgage he held on the property. It would not have been necessary to kill Pat Garrett in order to obtain his little ranch.

If--and this is a big IF-- W. W. Cox conspired to have Pat Garrett killed, he must have had some motive which no one has even been able to discover.

Uploaded on 07.28.2014 by El Paso Museum of History

Out of Area / Out of Area, (1880 - 1889), Conflict

  • pat garrett
  • W. W. Cox

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