One source postulated that Marino Leyba, known as the Sandia Mountain Desperado, was born in Bernalillo in July 1857.
As a youth, he was something of a hellion in the villages east of the Sandia Mountains.

Several sources agree that one of his favorite antics was racing through various communities on horseback and shooting chickens as he went.

He graduated to more serious crime when he was involved in the murder of Col. Charles Potter in October 1880.

When the dust settled, five of his associates in the crime had been lynched, and he alone escaped the rope.

He could not then be tried for the crime because all of the witnesses were dead at the hands of vigilantes, and thus there was no evidence against him.

In December 1880, he engaged in a gunfight with famed Sheriff Pat Garrett near Puerta de Luna and was wounded in the shoulder. He missed the lawman.

He was captured in February 1881 and tried for taking a shot at the sheriff. He was fined $80.

Leyba was arrested again in 1882, tried and convicted of horse stealing and threatening Constable Lorenzo Sanchez. He was sentenced to seven years in prison, of which he served about four, in both federal prison and in New Mexico’s new territorial prison.

Don Bullis

After his release, in March 1887, Leyba is believed to have participated in the murders and robbery of sheep ranchers Joseph Lackey and Julian Tessier.

In late March, Santa Fe County deputies Joaquin Montoya and Carlos Jacome located Leyba in the Sandia Mountains, near the town of Golden.

The wanted man chose to resist arrest, and the deputies shot and killed him.

Leyba’s body was laid out on a table at the Santa Fe County jail, and an estimated 2,000 people trudged by to get a last look at the outlaw.

The Albuquerque Democrat reported on April 1, 1887, “The bandit Marino Leyba was buried in the Santa Fe potter’s field, after an inquest exonerating the officers who killed him.”

It is noteworthy, too, that Bernalillo County Sheriff Perfecto Armijo called Leyba “without a doubt the worst villain within the bounds of the territory.”

(Don Bullis is a Rio Rancho resident, New Mexico centennial historian and award-winning author. He was named the Best Local Author in the 2018 and ‘19 Rio Rancho Readers’ Choice contests. “Ellos Pasaron por Aqui” is translated as “They Passed by Here.”)

Don Bullis’s latest book, “New Mexico Historical Chronology,” is available from riograndebooks.com.

About the author

Don Bullis