Las Cruces author revisits notorious Fountain murders


Las Cruces author Mary Armstrong has published “The Mesilla - The Two Valleys Saga: Book One,” which is available at and at COAS bookstores.

 “Nearly 125 years ago, a prominent Mesilla Valley lawyer, politician and civic leader (Albert J. Fountain) and his 8-year-old son were murdered as they returned from Lincoln, where Fountain had indicted a large number of cattle rustlers in the Tularosa Valley,” Armstrong said, and that is the basis for her book series.

“Their killers nor the bodies were ever found. The mystery and tension between two valleys simmers below the surface even today,” she said.

Armstrong said her books (the second in the anticipated four- or five-book series is expected this Christmas season) “explore the 10 years leading to that fateful day.”

“The story is told by Jesus, a fictional nephew to the later murdered Fountain,” Armstrong continued.

“Jesus’ coming-of-age story will take you to the wild Southwest, a brewing range war, a territory struggling toward statehood, courtroom dramas, ‘reading law’ and the adventures and adversities of a boy’s quest for manhood.”

Armstrong moved to Las Cruces from the Boston metro area with her husband, Norman “Skip” Bailey Jr., in 2010. A native of Ottumwa, Iowa, she earned a degree in landscape architecture from Iowa State University. Her career included planning and design for recreational and real estate developments, national wildlife refuges and environmental centers.

She started Armstrong Golf Architects in 1990, fulfilling a lifelong dream of designing new golf courses and renovations. Armstrong earned a Green Planets Architect citation for environmentally sensitive golf course design and worked on more than 120 golf courses worldwide.

After a rigorous transition of more than two years, she had gender reassignment surgery and became Mary Armstrong.

Armstrong has continued to do golf design, including redesigning all the bunkers at Picacho Hills Golf Course in 2012.

Armstrong also has an extensive career as a writer.

“During my more technical/design career, I wrote thousands and thousands of pages of technical specifications, planning documents, environmental impact statements and assessments and some trade articles,” she said. “At ISU in 1974, I used an early computer to do early forms of Geographic Information Systems (GIS).”

In 2007, Armstrong began working on “a dystopian dysgenic futuristic novel that is ‘on the shelf’” and she says she needs to do a road trip from Iowa to New Hampshire to finish it.  She also wrote a golf column for the Las Cruces Sun-News from 2010-12.

“I became interested in local history almost immediately after moving here,” Armstrong said, reading as much as she could about the Fountain murders.

Armstrong wrote a play about the murders, “It is Blood,” which was performed at Las Cruces Community Theatre in 2017, and then began work on her book series.

Armstrong said her reason for self-publishing is linked to her mother, who still lives in Ottumwa.

“This genre is one that she loves,” Armstrong said. “I talk with her every day at 4:15 p.m. When I was writing the manuscript, she wanted to hear what I had written that day. It took me a year to write (originally almost 800 pages, now split into two books) and six months to edit. As we neared the completion of the draft manuscript, my mother’s health began to go downhill and a couple months ago she had a fall. She has talked about holding the book in her hands.”

“I haven’t done it all and I may have done too much, but damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead,” is Armstrong’s life motto, she said.

Contact Armstrong at

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Mary Armstrong