1979 Incidents

Shortly after the New Year began, a mutilation was reported in Taos. According to the Albuquerque Journal (1.979a) on January 12 a five-year-old cow was found dead about one quarter mile from where a UFO had been seen the year before. Its neck had been fractured.

A few weeks later, a more serious incident was reported in southern New Mexico. At Malaga near Carlsbad, a rancher found four of his horses dead. The Albuquerque Journal (1979b) stated that three of them had been mutilated. In an article appearing in the Rio Grande Sun, a law officer claimed that all four horses had been mutilated (Olson 1979a). These animals were described as "prize racehorses, each worth $10,000." The article also points out that the horses were "found near Carlsbad, the proposed site of the nation's first official nuclear dumping ground" (Olson 1979a).

The district attorney's decision to apply for a LEAA grant was based largely on the information contained in articles such as these and those cited earlier. Also, the police officer from Dulce, who had investigated many of the cases in Rio Arriba County, claimed the mutilations were caused by humans. As Olson (1979a) points out:

"He [the officer] has determined to his satisfaction that highly evolved aircraft are involved in the mutilations and that whoever is responsible has strong resources for backing."

The belief that such mutilations were a major law enforcement problem was also shared by Senator Harrison Schmitt, who at that time was trying to interest the FBI in conducting a special investigation.

Not everyone agreed with this position, however, for on November 9, 1978, the Rio Grande Sun published an article based on an interview with Dr. Jim Prine, a veterinarian affiliated with the Mammalian Biology Group at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratories. In this interview Dr. Prine attributes the mutilations to predators. These cattle, according to him, die primarily from blackleg, red water, and other natural causes. The article also devotes considerable space to interviews with two state officials, both of whom disagreed with Dr. Prine's findings. To discredit the predator theory, one official claimed he has seen fresh carcasses in which the incisions were "similar to laser cuts" (Olson 1978b). Dr. Prine was interviewed again in an article that appeared the following February in a number of area newspapers, including the Albuquerque Journal (1979c).

In support of Dr. Prine's theory, however, some of the mutilations discussed in the newspapers were actually described as rather "sloppy." In fact, the following case, which was reported November 28, 1978, in the New Mexican (1978) clearly seems to be the work of "canine mutilators." A cow belonging to a rancher from Hernandez was found dead and mutilated in a corral about 150 feet from the home. According to the investigating officer, its head was found wedged between two boards, where it had apparently choked to death. Its tail, rectum and sexual organs were missing, as though they had been "dug out." Although the officer claimed that the tail section had probably been eaten by dogs, the neighbor who had found the animal believed the missing parts had been "cut with a knife or a similar sharp object." As an experiment, the carcass was left in the open to see if dogs would feed on it. They did.

A series of mutilations similar to this one were also reported in 1978 in the Rio Grande Sun. Gail Olson (1978a) states that on October 3, "three cows and a two-month-old calf were murdered and mutilated in northern Rio Arriba County." The rectums and sex organs of the three cows were reported missing. The reporter points out, however, that these mutilations had not been very precisely executed: "Though circular, the incisions were ragged and sloppy."

But articles advocating a predator/scavenger explanation were a drop in the bucket compared with the number claiming human causation. In fact, in the case just described, Olson goes so far as to suggest the mutilators were probably "amateurs" who had not yet completed their "mutilation apprenticeship" (Olson 1978a). Moreover, not all veterinarians accepted the predator/ scavenger explanations. On December 14, 1978, the Rio Grande Sun published an article based on an interview with Dr. William T. Fitzgerald, a Colorado veterinarian (Olson 1978c). In this article, Dr. Fitzgerald discusses the results of an examination he performed on a mutilated cow found near Durango. According to him, the cow, which displayed "classic mutilation symptoms," was bled to death using a 12 to 14 gauge needle inserted into the left jugular vein. He goes on to say that the murder and mutilation of this animal would have required "a capture gun, blowgun or special arrow, one or more sharp knives or scissors, and hypodermic needles." Dr. Fitzgerald was then asked to comment on LASL's findings "that area cows similarly found dead had died natural deaths, then were attacked by predators." According to Olson (1978c), "Dr. Fitzgerald remained unconvinced."

The grant proposal was submitted by the district attorney's office on February 1, 1979. The LEAA awarded the grant later that spring, the project to begin May 28. In the intervening months, livestock mutilations and associated phenomena continued to dominate the news.

On March 26, 1979, a cow was found dead and mutilated in Torrance County. The sheriff was assisted in his investigation by the law officer from Dulce. What made this case interesting was the alleged discovery of tripod marks inside the corral where the five-year-old cow was found dead and mutilated (New Mexican 1979). The Rio Grande Sun (1979) reported that the cowls tongue was burned and its neck broken, as though it had been killed elsewhere and "dragged." The article attributed the cause of death to exsanguination.

On April 8, 1979, "a mysterious aircraft thought to be involved in cattle mutilations," was sighted in the Dulce area (Albuquerque Tribune 1979a). The Albuquerque Journal (1979d) reports that two Jicarilla Apache tribal officers were on routine patrol, their vehicle lights off, when they spotted "the aircraft hovering about 50 feet off the ground with a powerful spotlight aimed at the cattle."

A police officer in Dulce subsequently witnessed the craft, which "he thinks had to be connected with a series of 16 recent cattle mutilations in the Dulce area." Although the identity of the craft was not known, one reporter said he had learned from military sources that a relatively quiet, jet-powered helicopter had been developed earlier for use in Vietnam (Albuquerque Journal 1979d). Another reporter also speculated the craft might have been a type of helicopter currently being tested (Olson 1979b).

A connection between livestock mutilations and UFO sightings was also made by Candyce Valerio. In an article entitled "Cattle Mutilations in Northern New Mexico", which appeared in the March/April issue of Taos Magazine, Valerio (1979) rehashes the Taos UFO incident and the cowhide experiment previously described. According to her, the "retired scientist" who participated in that experiment has also been conducting extensive tests on the organs of both mutilated animals and healthy ones. The author claims that his tests have shown that the livers of mutilated cows disintegrate within six to eight hours as though the animal had been subjected to "a high level of radiation in the microwave region." Valerio (1979: 30-31) points out that both the scientist and the Dulce law officer with whom he has been working "are cautious when discussing why such mutilations occur, but note that since the lips, tongue, and rectal area are removed, the mutilations may be related to a scientific study of the lymphatic system and production of bacteria."

Why such mutilations occur was also one of the topics discussed at the livestock mutilation conference conducted April 20 in Albuquerque. Law officers and independent investigators from 11 states attended the meeting, which was hosted by Senator Harrison Schmitt and United States Attorney R. E. Thompson. The purpose of the day-long conference was to help define the scope of the problem and to examine "the possible FBI activities which will be of value in solving these crimes" (Schmitt 1979: 5).

The morning was devoted to a public hearing, which was attended by a variety of people, including government officials, UFO enthusiasts, veterinarians, independent investigators, and concerned citizens. Although a number of different views and opinions were offered, the theory that seemed to excite local reporters the most was one advocated by David Perkins, an amateur Colorado investigator using the name Animals Mutilations Probe. Perkins suggested that environmental testing might be the motive behind livestock mutilations. To support his theory, he displayed a map showing what he claimed was an association between mutilations and nuclear-related activities.

Perkins' presentation received considerable coverage in both the Albuquerque Journal (1979) and the Rio Grande Sun (Olson 1979c). In support of his theory, Olson (1979c) pointed out that many of the New Mexico mutilations have occurred in Dulce, which is located near Gas Buggy, "the site of the nation's first underground nuclear explosion designed to stimulate the production of gas." In an earlier article, she explained that the explosion was set off in 1967 as an experiment by the El Paso Natural Gas Company and the United States Atomic Energy Commission (Olson 1978a).

The afternoon session of the conference, which was closed to the public, was attended by law enforcement officers from New Mexico, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, and Arkansas, as well as representatives from the FBI. Those who had conducted on-the-scene investigations discussed their particular cases. To support the claim that livestock mutilations were not the work of predators and scavengers, one New Mexico law officer said he had found a mutilated cow in the branches of a tree.

The general consensus of the session was that livestock mutilations were indeed a problem that warranted further investigation. It was decided that in New Mexico, the investigation should be conducted by one of three agencies -- the FBI, the New Mexico State Police, or the District Attorney's office in Santa Fe, which was still awaiting LEAA's decision on the proposed grant. Four days later the grant was awarded. Shortly after the announcement was released to the press, I was hired to direct the project.

In the meantime, livestock mutilations continued to dominate the news, for as one reporter astutely observed, "the cattle mutilation mystery [had] become a media event" (Thompson 1979c). Senator Schmitt's conference, of course, received considerable coverage in both local and out-of-state newspapers. Several weeks later, a television crew from ABC arrived in New Mexico to film a documentary on livestock mutilations. Towards the end of the month, Fritz Thompson (1979c) reviewed the New Mexico mutilation phenomenon in "The Cattle Mutilation Mystery Revisited", which appeared in the May 22 issue of Impact.

In addition, mutilation cases were still being reported in local newspapers. In fact, on May 2, one of the most startling discoveries of the year was announced -- the discovery of two drugs in the carcass of a mutilated bull. According to the Albuquerque Tribune (1979b), a Los Alamos chemist had just discovered traces of two drugs in the carcass of a six-month-old bull that had been found mutilated earlier that year in Torrance County. The two drugs were chlorpromazine, "a street drug, often used to tranquilize schizophrenics" and citric acid, "an old-fashioned anti-coagulant once used by ranchers to help drain the blood from the animal."

This discovery excited the two lawmen who had investigated the case. In an interview in the New Mexican (1979), one officer stated that the tranquilizer was probably used to immobilize the animal while the other drug was used "to clog the blood" so that it could be more easily removed through the jugular vein. He also said he is aware of only three other cases where drugs have been found in mutilated carcasses. All three incidents occurred in Arkansas, he claimed, and were reported "about the same time that this case was found." The other officer told the reporter there were "skid marks near the carcass, indicating it might have been dropped from the air."