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Makers of film about Cricket Coogler murder to speak at NMSU Library

Santa Fe filmmakers Charlie Cullin and Richard Startzman will give a presentation on the making of the documentary film "The Silence of Cricket Coogler: A Political Murder and Cover-up" at 3:30 p.m. Friday, March 22, at New Mexico State University. The free public program will be presented in Branson Library, second floor east.


wings of "The Silence of Cricket Coogler" are scheduled for Saturday, March 23, at the Fountain Theater in Mesilla, at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. The feature-length documentary covers all aspects of Ovida "Cricket" Coogler's unsolved murder, which changed history in Las Cruces and New Mexico.

Coogler was last seen alive at 3 a.m. Thursday, March 31, 1949, when she entered an official state car on Main Street in downtown Las Cruces. Her body was found 17 days later in a shallow grave south of Las Cruces. Jerry Nuzum, a professional football player and former Aggie, was arrested for the murder and then released for lack of evidence.

Students at the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, now New Mexico State University, were so enraged by Nuzum's arrest that they submitted a petition to the governor requesting a grand jury be appointed to investigate the murder. The grand jury was unable to indict anyone for Coogler's murder, but the investigation resulted in the removal of the sheriff from office and the shutdown of local gambling joints.

Cullin, a former journalist and public relations specialist who once headed the New Mexico Film Commission, said the grand jury would not give up -- it handed down 58 indictments against 25 people.

Nuzum, a Clovis native and star running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was interviewed for the documentary before his death in 1997. Walt Finley, who covered the story as a reporter for the El Paso Herald Post, and several grand jurors also tell their stories.

The documentary produced by Cullin and Startzman, an award-winning cinematographer, is narrated in part by the late John Ehrlichman with commentary by Tony Hillerman. In his remarks, Hillerman says "this strange little murder, and the incredible effort to cover it up, caused a kind of outrage that cleaned up New Mexico."

The March 22 presentation is a Special Collections Event of the University Library. For more information contact Cheryl Wilson at (505) 646-3279 or chwilson@lib.nmsu.edu. The program is made possible by an American Library Association Reference and User Services Facts on File Grant for current events programming.

March 13, 2002