Column: An unusual Pueblo murder case in 1773

"In April 1773, a young woman of Cochiti Pueblo, María Francisca, enlisted the aid of her mother, María Josefa, in a plot to kill the younger woman's husband, Agustín, a native of the pueblo of Tesuque. The events that followed provide one of the most bizarre legal cases to be found in the records of colonial New Mexico.

In this column a few months ago, I referred to several murders under the Spanish regime that led to capital punishment, noting at the same time the rarity of that crime.

Afterward, retired state Historian Robert J. Torrez called my attention to the little-known case of the two Cochiti women, which I had missed. I resolved to look into it and provide a sketch of the shocking affair. So here is a brief outline of what happened.

It seems that María Francisca had willingly married Agustín. For that she had gone to Tesuque, but since there was no priest in residence, the couple went to nearby Nambé. There, Fray Juan José Llanos performed the wedding service.

Apparently, María Francisca was miserable living in Tesuque. After three months of marriage, she persuaded her new husband to take her back to Cochiti to visit her mother.

Once at her mother's home, the girl began complaining about Agustín. She had already decided to kill him because, as later testimony revealed, he had promised to move with her back to Cochiti once they were married, but violated that pledge.

At first, María Josefa tried to dissuade her daughter from doing something so reckless, but in the end, the mother was won over and became a participant. Their folly would lead to disaster."

Get the Story:
Marc Simmons: At Cochiti Pueblo, a murder most grisly (The Santa Fe New Mexican 4/5)

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