UPDATED: N.M. Ghost Town To Reopen

A popular southwestern New Mexico ghost town, struck by a tragic and mysterious death of its longtime owner, is slated to reopen.

Melissa Lamoree, the granddaughter of the late Larry Link, says Steins Railroad Ghost Town will formally reopen next week after being closed nearly a year. She said the family wanted to remodel the old western town near the Arizona border and reopen it to visitors since town reminds the family of happier times.

Link was shot and killed last June during what State Police believe may have been a robbery gone wrong.

The ghost town is located just north of the Mexico-New Mexico border.

Lamoree said the family is raising money for more restoration and they don’t believe Link’s murder was linked to drug traffickers or illegal immigrants.

8:07am 2/16/12 — Police Seek Help in Ghost Town Owner’s Slaying

By Russell Contreras/The Associated Press

STEINS, N.M. — Seven months after 68-year-old Larry Link was gunned down in the dusty expanse of the ghost town he owned and where he once hosted tourists, his murder remains unsolved.

Speculation about the killing — Link was shot five times, his scalp was lacerated and his chest and stomach were bruised — from neighbors and family members ranges from Mexican drug cartels to a random stranger, who might have happened across the collection of dilapidated clapboard, rock and log buildings that is Steins from nearby Interstate 10.

The investigation has stalled, with New Mexico State Police asking the public for help.

Authorities believe Link’s death might have been a robbery gone wrong. A semi-trailer used for storage on the property appeared to have been broken into, with items from inside strewn on the ground.

Meanwhile, family members have announced that they will reopen the Steins Railroad Ghost Town for tours in May. The curious will be able to experience what was once a bustling mining and railroad town, which survived on water freighted in by the Southern Pacific, had competing bordellos and, most recently, a very modern episode of Old West violence.

Steins is located in far southwest New Mexico, atop the state’s Bootheel, where nearby residents have long worried about drug trafficking and its related violence. The U.S. Border Patrol has recently stepped up its presence in the isolated and rugged region.

Rancher Judy Keeler said she and other area residents believe Link’s murder was likely connected to drug traffickers passing through. She said in recent years neighbors have been victims of break-ins, have seen requests jump for food and water by passing migrants, and at times have been nearly run off county roads by high-speed chases between the Border Patrol and suspected traffickers.

Ranchers and authorities say it’s not uncommon to stumble upon lost bundles of marijuana and wandering traffickers, “drug mules,” as they attempt to make it through the Peloncillo Mountains along the Arizona-New Mexico border.

In June, Link’s body was found lying near his vehicle between his property and the Union Pacific Railroad easement in Steins. His son discovered a small-caliber revolver believed by police to be the murder weapon not too far off the property.

The autopsy report said Link suffered gunshot wounds to the heart, shoulder, arm and back.

“Sadly, it wasn’t a surprise when he was killed,” said Keeler. “But it got people scared and they wanted the Border Patrol to do something.”

Before Link’s death, Keeler said area ranchers were on edge with the shooting death of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz, 58, whose 35,000-acre spread is not far from the Bootheel. His murder also remains unsolved, but authorities say they suspect drug traffickers or illegal immigrants. Krentz’s death sparked a surge in gun sales in the region.

Keeler described Link as very involved civic citizen who was always promoting tourism in Lordsburg, a town just east of Steins.

In 1988, Link and his wife bought Steins Railroad Ghost Town joining a number of Old West aficionados who sought to make once-bustling towns into tourist attractions. They offered tours, and even allowed ghost chasers to search the property for spirits.

Before that, Link ran a rattlesnake farm and had worked as a butcher and in the grocery business in Arizona.

Steins, once populated with 1,300 people, was largely abandoned by the-mid 1940s after the railroad stopped delivering water. Located about 80 miles north of Mexico in New Mexico’s Hidalgo County, Steins is among many ghost towns, managed publically and privately, that dot the southern New Mexico landscape..

State police and the U.S. Border Patrol have said local opinions about Link’s death are purely speculative. Link’s daughter, Pamela, told the Las Cruces Sun-News that said she didn’t believe that her father died at the hands of an illegal immigrant since migrants typically just want food, water or a ride.

She also said she didn’t believe the motive was robbery because her father’s wallet was on the nightstand of his house in Steins. She said he had no enemies.

Meira Gault, 62, who along with her husband, Stephen, 71, operates a 20,000 acre ranch south of Steins, said it’s hard to pin Link’s death solely on drug traffickers or illegal immigrants.

“That area also gets a lot of traffic from California, Arizona and Texas,” she said. “A lot of strange characters pass through there.”

An email and phone call to the Link family was not returned. However, Link’s granddaughter, Melissa Lamoree, recently wrote on a popular ghost town website that Steins was going to reopen.

“I am not sure if you heard but my grandfather (Larry Link) was murdered here on the property the morning of June 7th,” Lamoree wrote. “It has been a horrible nightmare every day, but his passion was the town and being able to share the history with all the people that came. We want to share that with people again.”

10/29/11 UPDATE/CORRECTION — Our item on Thursday described the railroad ghost town of Steins, N.M., as a “town of 5,000,” but reader Robert Sorrels points out, “If there are 5 people in this poorly constructed Hollywood set, I’d be surprised.” A ghost town is a ghost town is a ghost town. Historians say the town’s population may have reached its peak at around 1,300 in the early 1900s.


8:43am 10/27/11 — Graffiti Could Be Clue in Town Owner’s Death

Journal Staff Report

New Mexico State Police investigators may have gotten a break in the stalled investigation into the June 7 death of 68-year-old Larry Link in Steins, a town of 5,000 people located alongside Interstate 10 about 3 miles from the New Mexico/Arizona state line.

Link and his wife Linda were longtime owners of Steins Railroad Ghost Town, and his body was found lying near his vehicle between his property and the Union Pacific Railroad easement, according to a State Police news release.

About 100 feet from Link’s body was a semi-trailer that the Link family used as a makeshift storage container, and items that belonged inside the trailer were found strewn on the ground outside, according to State Police.

Investigators also found three markings or graffiti on one of the trailer’s interior walls — markings that family members told police were not present a couple of days before Link’s death, the release said.

The markings appear to depict the letters “U” or “W,” “S” and a vertical line drawn through the letters, as well as what appears to be the word “GOKU.”

Police now believe that the person or persons who killed Link may have entered the trailer before being confronted by Link and may have been on the property in order to burglarize the trailer, according to the release.

Family members earlier said they didn’t believe robbery was a motive in the killing, saying Link’s wallet was found on his nightstand.

Police now theorize that the suspect or suspects may have just been traveling through New Mexico, possibly on nearby I-10.

Anyone with information about the markings or the suspects is asked to call State Police at (575) 524-6117, or if you wish to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at (575) 542-8827.

A $2,000 reward is being offered for information that helps solve the case, the news release said.


10/18/11 — Investigation Stalls in Town Owner’s Death

Journal Staff Report

LAS CRUCES — The murder mystery of a man who owned a ghost town near the New Mexico-Arizona line remains unsolved four months after he was found shot to death, and investigators say the case has stalled.

“We need help,” said Capt. Ryan Suggs of the New Mexico State Police. “We need to turn up a new lead.”

The body of Larry Link, 68, and a small-caliber revolver nearby were found by his son on June 7 just outside his property in Steins, a town of 5,000 people that borders Arizona. Link and his wife, Linda, were the longtime owners of Steins Railroad Ghost Town.

Suggs said that the only people who have been ruled out in the killing are Link’s family members.

The death initially lit up the Internet with innuendo about border violence, creating a wave of speculation on blogs and comment boards that an illegal immigrant likely was to blame. The town is about 80 miles north of Mexico.

State Police Lt. Tim Johnson said those assertions had no substance and that investigators never had a suspect or a specific lead. He said the migrant claims died down after police made fact-based announcements about the investigation intended to squelch rumors.

Link’s daughter said she would find it hard to believe that her father died at the hands of an illegal immigrant.

“In my experience, they are the least threatening thing out here,” Pamela Link said of immigrants who cross illegally into Hidalgo County. “Everyone I’ve ever seen wanted one of three things: a drink of water, a sandwich or a ride to a big city.”

She said she also didn’t believe the motive was robbery because her father’s wallet was on the nightstand, and she added that he had no enemies.

The family offered a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to his killer.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal

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