Oliver M. Lee, W. W. Cox's brother-in-law, received the attention of those who were talking and guessing about who might have planned the killing of Pat Garrett. Similarly, Lee had some reason for having considerably less than kindly feeling toward Garrett.

The trouble was with something that had occurred in back in February, 1896. The flamboyant lawyer, Albert Jennings Fountain, a compulsive hounder of all whom he believed to be lawbreakers, along with his little boy Henry, had mysteriously vanished from the face of the earth as they were driving along a lonely stretch of road beside the White Sands. The disappearance--unquestionably a murder--had occurred immediately after he had presented a grand jury with evidence he had gathered, and secured an indictment against Oliver Lee, charged with rustling and brand-burning. These charges were later dismissed but Lee soon faced a more serious charge--he was accused of the murder of Albert and Henry Fountain.

In the two years that followed, Lee was not taken into custody, although a $10,000 reward was offered for the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the murder of Fountain and his son. Then, on April 12, 1898, Sheriff Pat Garrett made an affidavit implicating Oliver Lee and his alleged accomplices, Bill McNew and Jim Gililland, and secured a bench warrant for their arrest. Just before dawn on July 13, Garrett and a posse surrounded Lee's ranch house at Wildey's Well. It had been a warm night and Lee and Gililland were sleeping on the flat roof of the ranch house.

In the ensuing gunfight, Kearney was mortally wounded and the attackers withdrew. By some miracle of chance, both Lee and Gililland were unscathed. Neither sought revenge in the years that followed. Why then should a man like Oliver Lee, if he had score to settle, have waited almost nine years to do something about it? The only answer--a very weak one--is that in 1907, supposedly Garrett was looking for evidence that would again charge Lee with the killing of the Fountains. True, the reward offered for their slayers had never been officially withdrawn, but it was well known that usually an acquitted person could not be tried again on the same charge - Lee had been tried and declared innocent in June, 1899.

Uploaded on 07.28.2014 by El Paso Museum of History

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

  • Oliver Lee
  • pat garrett

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