History and Southwest

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Cricket in the Web: The 1949 Unsolved Murder that Unraveled Politics in New Mexico

Paula Moore

Ovida "Cricket" Coogler was last seen alive entering a mysterious car driven by an unknown man in downtown Las Cruces, New Mexico, around 3:00 on the morning of March 31, 1949. Seventeen days later, her body was found in a hastily dug grave near Mesquite, New Mexico. The discovery of the eighteen-year-old waitress's body launched a series of court inquiries and trials that would reshape the direction of New Mexico politics, expose political corruption, and spawn generations of rumors that have polarized opinions of what happened to Coogler that windy March morning.;

Containing elements of mystery, conflict, power, fear, sex, and politics, the Coogler case has outlasted the brief amount of attention that most local unsolved murders receive. In this exhaustively researched study of the murder and its aftermath, Paula Moore provides the first objective account to examine the infamous murder and the events that unfolded in its wake.


Paula Moore is the former executive assistant to the president of New Mexico State University. She is coauthor of One Man's Word: A Seven Decade Personal History.


". . . a meticulously researched book that gets as close to the truth as we are likely to get. Moore's narrative is more than just a rehash of an old case; it is a graphic snapshot of life in Las Cruces after World War II."


Tucson Citizen

". . . for people unfamiliar with the case and those who want a well-researched look at the crime and its aftermath, Cricket in the Web delivers the goods."


Santa Fe New Mexican

". . . Paula Moore has done a masterful job of researching and writing . . . a fascinating story. . . ."


Rio Grande Sun

" Cricket in the Web provides a fascinating glimpse into life in a small, politically corrupt New Mexico town in the late 1940s. It also shows that however tragic the murder of young Ovida 'Cricket' Coogler was, her death had a remarkable impact on the life of many people, and who murdered her and why is one of the most enduring mysteries in New Mexico history."


Justice Denied, The Magazine for the Wrongly Convicted

"In the early morning of March 31, 1949, Cricket (Coogler) had the worst date of her life. She got into somebody's car alive and left it dead. She was just 18. . . . Because the mystery remains unresolved, we don't find out who committed the crime. But (Paula) Moore does provide a well-documented timeline of events on Cricket's last night, and she tells what happened to all the players in the story."


Pasatiempo (Santa Fe, NM)

"...(Moore) makes sure that her readers keep turning the pages to find out 'what happened next.'"


The Journal of Arizona History

6 x 9 in. 216 pages 12 halftones, 2 maps