The Bandito

In the early years of the Gold Rush the mining camps were terrorized by the bloody exploits of a ferocious bandit named Joaquin Murrieta. It was said he had 20 or more accomplices—all horse thieves or fearsome, savage killers like Three-Fingered Jack—who raided, pillaged, and wantonly murdered in the far-flung Mother Lode region and other settlements, both south and west.  Frightened citizens swore that no more desperate, cut-throat band of outlaws had ever ridden; always on the finest horses, always armed to the teeth. Soon enough, crimes committed hundreds of miles distant on the same day were attributed to Joaquin!  But who was the real bandit?  There were five known criminally-inclined Joaquins: Joaquin Murrieta, Joaquin Carrillo, Joaquin Ocomorenia, Joaquin Valenzuela, and Joaquin Botellier. Perhaps, some of the names were aliases of Murrieta himself, or his lieutenants. No one knows for sure. A special posse of California Rangers authorized by the state legislature at last captured and beheaded the outlaw in July, 1853. Affidavits attesting to the corpse’s identity were duly sworn . . . but then doubts began to circulate in the press. Interestingly, the Rangers had a three-month time limit if they were to reap the generous reward offered.  They captured and executed someone named Joaquin before that time expired.

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