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In the Shadows of History: A Research Update

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

Is genealogical research ever done? The short answer is a resounding, "No!" Even the most focused research project should be revisited from time to time, as our skills improve and new record sets become available. Accordingly, this article is a follow-up to a previous blog post, about Andres Whiting, his rape conviction, and subsequent commutation.


After months of digging, the Thirteenth Judicial District Court in Sandoval County, New Mexico, finally uncovered what remained of Andres' original criminal case file from 1929. At just thirteen pages in length, the majority being jury instructions, I was concerned there wouldn't be anything of genealogical value.¹ Boy! Was I wrong!


While short and sweet, the Criminal Complaint reads, in part, "Alberto Garcia, being duly sworn, upon his oath, complains and says that Andres Whiting, late of said county, on to-wit, the 29th day of June 1929, at the county of Sandoval, State of New Mexico, unlawfully and feloniously did perpetrate rape upon and have sexual intercourse with one Bennie Garcia, she then and there being a female under the age of sixteen years, to-wit, of the age of thirteen years; contrary to the form of the statute in such cases made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the State of New Mexico."²


The complainant, Alberto Garcia, was the brother-in-law of the accused, Andres Whiting. Andres was convicted of raping his 13-year-old niece!


Andres was sentenced to ten to fifteen years at The New Mexico State Penitentiary, but records indicate this sentence was commuted by then governor, Arthur Seligman, and Andres was released after roughly three years and nine months.³ While a reasoning for this commutation has not been discovered, the recommendation apparently came from the original Trial Judge and Prosecuting Attorney. Andres was paroled on 9 June 1933.⁴


A little over one year after Andres' release, on 18 June 1934, Andres' niece, Bennie Garcia (age 18) committed suicide by "poison taken by her own hands."⁵ Was Bennie so distraught in the year that followed the release of her rapist, or was her claim of rape a farce which she struggled to come to terms with? Perhaps neither was the cause of her untimely death.


A note left for her mother, Mary Whiting Garcia, at the time of Bennie's death read, "Tired of everything. Goodby [sic], Mother darling. I am better off if I am going to be broken hearted all my life. Love, B.G."⁶


Alone in a home where she had been employed for only about a month, Bennie called a friend, Inez Esquibel, to confide her intentions and asked Inez to call her sister, Grace and her "sweetheart," Louis Jaramillo, with whom she had had a recent quarrel.⁷ "She hung up the phone and drank a cup of ant poison, then collapsed in a bedroom after taking a dozen steps."⁸


While one report indicated that she had been "in the best of spirits," another claimed Bennie "had been despondent a week or more, and had made threats against her life."⁹


In delving into these stories of Andres Whiting and Bennie Garcia, we confront the complexities and tragedies that lie beneath the surface of our family histories. We are left grappling with the unanswered questions surrounding Bennie's tragic fate and the circumstances that led to her final act.


As genealogists, we tirelessly seek to understand our ancestors, their motivations, and their experiences. Yet, there are instances where the fragments of history fail to provide the emotional depth we yearn for. We are left with mere glimpses into their lives, struggling to comprehend the true extent of their joys, sorrows, and the choices they made.


In our pursuit of the past, we must acknowledge the limitations inherent in the records we uncover. The gaps in knowledge serve as a poignant reminder of the human complexities that elude us, urging us to approach our ancestors' stories with empathy and compassion.


May we continue our endeavors with sensitivity and reverence, embracing the remarkable resilience and untold narratives that lie within the annals of our family histories. And as we navigate the labyrinth of time, let us remember the importance of preserving and honoring the voices of those who have come before us, even in their silence.

 

1. Sandoval County, New Mexico, Second Judicial District Court, County of Sandoval, criminal case file No. 432-CR (1929), State of New Mexico vs. Andres Whiting; Thirteenth Judicial District Court, Bernalillo, Sandoval County, New Mexico.

2. Ibid., State of New Mexico vs. Andres Whiting, Criminal Complaint, 30 June 1929.

3. 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. Also, 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.

4. Ibid.

5. State of New Mexico - Bureau of Public Health, Certificate of Death no. 1652 (1934), Bennie Garcia, Albuquerque; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-DY7Q-C2Z : accessed 16 May 2023), “New Mexico death certificates, 1927-1945,” image 2107 of 2643.

6. "Girl Ends Life After Love Row" Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico), 19 June 1934, pg 2, col 3-4; digital image Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/156530533/ : accessed 16 May 2023).

7. Ibid.

8. "Girl Ends Her Life Here By Poison Potion" Albuquerque Tribune (Albuquerque, New Mexico), 18 June 1934, pg 1, col 5; digital image Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/782738272/ : accessed 16 May 2023).

9. Ibid.


 

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).

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