top of page

A Rape, A Commutation, and An Unser

Updated: May 16, 2023

Sometimes one research focus leads to another. That is how I got to my current project. I have spent some time over the years tackling the folklore of my husband's stepfamily. One of the stories that required quite a bit of research was in regards to the true parentage of a woman affectionately known as "Mama" who was raised by a notable man named Harry Whiting and his wife Maria Samora. This query has been answered, and Mama's biological parents have been identified. However, in the course of this research I was "introduced" to a man named Andres Whiting. Andres was Mama's biological brother.

Andres Whiting immediately caught my attention and has had me down the infamous rabbit hole of genealogical research for quite some time. In previous posts I have mentioned the "colorful" personalities that I tend to be attracted to in my research, and Andres is no exception. In September 1929, Andres was admitted as an inmate in The New Mexico State Penitentiary. He was to serve a sentence of ten to fifteen years for the crime of rape. However, about three and a half years into his sentence, on 28 April 1933, it was commuted by then governor, Arthur Seligman.

I recently reached out to the State Archives of New Mexico in an attempt to track down any possible paperwork generated by this commutation. I received their findings earlier last week. The single page document advises that Andres' sentence of ten to fifteen years was to be commuted to a period of six years and two months to fifteen years.¹ No reason or explanation was given, but the recommendation seems to have come from the original Trial Judge and Prosecuting Attorney. Even with the commutation, Andres presumably still had to serve an additional three years before he was eligible for any kind of release. However, a later parole record seems to indicate that Andres was paroled in just over a month, on 9 June 1933.²

So why did the Judge and Prosecutor recommend a commutation? Much research is still necessary in order to tie up this story with a tidy little bow. In an attempt to learn more about Andres, his conviction, and the commutation which significantly reduced his sentence, I have inquiries out to both the Sandoval County Clerk and the Thirteenth Judicial District Court to determine if they are the custodians of Andres' original court records. Thus far, Thirteenth Judicial District Court has advised that they do, in fact, have several old books in their possession which they are willing to go through, on my behalf. I'll be following up later this week if I haven't heard back.

Many family historians use the internet exclusively for their research. In this instance, one singular bread crumb was found in internet-based records. Everything else sits in physical repositories which must be researched, and contacted or visited, and usually followed up with a time or two. Websites like and have done amazing things for genealogy, but if your research ends there, look at how much of your family's story you may be missing out on.

Andres Whiting died on Christmas night in 1952 when he was struck by a car driven by a member of the Unser family. (For those of you from New Mexico or fans of IndyCar, yes, that Unser family!) A wrongful death case was filed by his daughter and second wife. This is another case for me to investigate, in the future, as I continue further down that crazy rabbit hole, and a story for another day!


1. Commutation for Andres Whiting, 1933, Folder 495, box 13138; Collection 1959-102, Governor Arthur Seligman papers, Series PARDONS AND PENAL PAPERS; State Archives of New Mexico, Santa Fe, New Mexico

2. Parole board record book #9, 1933- 1934, Andres Whiting, pg 37; Collection 1970-006, New Mexico Department of Corrections Records, Box 17171; State Archives of New Mexico, Santa Fe, New Mexico


Disclaimer: Each blog post is created and presented for marketing and entertainment purposes only but are based on larger research which adheres to the standards of The Board of Certification of Genealogists® as set forth in Genealogical Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry Imprint, Turner Publishing, 2014).

48 views3 comments

Recent Posts

See All

٣ تعليقات

٢٧ يناير ٢٠٢٣

Great sleuthing! Very interesting; keep us posted! :)


٢٥ يناير ٢٠٢٣

This is quite a saga. I hope you'll blog about your further research once you hear back from the authorities.


٢٤ يناير ٢٠٢٣

Gotta love those juicy stories! Nice job! Gray

bottom of page