An antiques dealer scheduled to go on trial next month is accused of stealing a rare pistol from a private collection near Santa Fe, then trying to sell it on national television.
Wylie Gene Newton, also known as Ashley Newton, was living in the Eldorado subdivision near Santa Fe at the time of the alleged theft. He has been in jail in Greeley, Colo., for three weeks on charges of harassment and being a fugitive from justice.
Newton, 65, is charged in New Mexico with larceny of more than $20,000 for allegedly stealing an 1848 .44-caliber Colt Dragoon pistol with a military holster and powder flask owned by Jim Gordon of Santa Fe.
Gordon, who says he began collecting as a child and bought the firearm at an auction eight to 10 years ago for $19,500, asked that the exact location of his private museum of Western memorabilia not be publicized.
In the most recent motion in the case, on Monday, Gordon’s attorney, Lee R. Hunt, asked that the antique firearm be returned to the museum, where it would be “more secure.” But District Attorney Angela “Spence” Pacheco said her office must keep the pistol as evidence.
“I’ve been without this gun for [nearly] two years now,” Gordon said in an interview. “I keep pleading with the District Attorney’s Office to give me my gun back. They keep saying, ‘Well, you know, until he gets a lawyer and the lawyer agrees … ’
“I didn’t create this problem, and they’re perpetuating my problem of not having my gun and [not] having it on display. As far as I’m concerned, the thief might as well still have the darn gun.”
The case began in early 2011, when Jim Hengesbaugh, described as the curator of Gordon’s museum, contacted Newton about jewelry he had for sale on Craigslist.
Hengesbaugh then arranged for Newton and two other men to see Gordon’s collection. About two weeks later, on March 5, 2011, Newton returned for another look with his wife, Alexis Newton, and her friend and co-worker Diane Broome, according to an affidavit for the arrest warrant by District Attorney’s Office investigator Frank O. Jacoby.
While Hengesbaugh led the two women through the collection in an old schoolhouse, Wylie Newton hung back in the front room, where antique firearms were kept in a case, the affidavit says. When Hengesbaugh was in a middle room, it says, he heard a loud crack he believed to be the wooden door of a gun case slamming shut. But he was deterred from checking it out because the two women kept asking him questions.
Less than a minute later, Hengesbaugh heard the sound of electronic door locks on Newton’s truck, parked just outside. But he didn’t notice anything missing, so he went to lunch with Newton and the women in Pecos. Two days later, Hengesbaugh got a call from Gordon, who had noticed that the gun was missing. Hengesbaugh found a number for Newton and called. Alexis Newton, who answered, was “shocked” at the accusation against her husband.
Broome told Hengesbaugh that Wylie Newton acted “strange” after the tour and said he wanted to visit a man he called “The Judge” in Colorado, and that he left for Colorado about 2 a.m. the next day. She said he returned either the next evening or early the following morning. When Hengesbaugh reached Newton on his landline telephone in Eldorado, Newton claimed he was in Texas, that he did not have the pistol and that he would call back later that afternoon. When Newton called back, he said he needed to travel to Colorado, but that when he returned to New Mexico, he would “make it right.”
After Newton did not return to Eldorado or return the weapon, Hengesbaugh reported the matter to the state police. But state police did not believe they had enough evidence to arrest Newton. Almost a year later, on Feb. 10, 2012, Hengesbaugh reported that while he was watching a television program called American Gun on the Discovery Channel in a motel room during a business trip to Gallup, Newton appeared on the program with the missing Colt Dragoon and a Colt Walker.
Hengesbaugh later learned that Newton had been filmed at the Gunsmoke Gun store in Wheat Ridge, Colo. Robert Larry Wilson, an antique gun expert who examined Newton’s firearms on the program, told Hengesbaugh that the Colt Dragoon was authentic, worth $15,000 to $35,000, and that its serial number matched that of the stolen gun. But Wilson said the Colt Walker was a “fake” and worth far less than the $700,000 that Newton had claimed.
“Wilson further shared that while filming the episode with the Dragoon and Walker, he had become concerned for his personal safety while in the presence of suspect Wylie G. Newton, and he perceived him to be aggressive while exhibiting a threatening personality,” the affidavit says. “Mr. Wilson was so concerned about having a physical confrontation with suspect Newton, that Wilson refused to share his expert opinion about Wylie’s Colt Walker.”
Online Santa Fe County jail records indicate Newton was in custody there from Aug. 5 to Aug. 22, when he was released after posting a cash bond for $40,000. Newton was among six inmates injured when a jail van rear-ended another vehicle on N.M. 599 on the way to District Court on Aug. 20.
Jury selection in the larceny trial is set for March 5 before state District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer, according to online court records.
District Attorney Pacheco said she understands that Newton’s wife cannot pay for an attorney or the $50,000 cash surety bond for jail in Colorado, and that Newton is in jail for allegedly threatening his wife — complications that could delay the New Mexico case from coming to trial.
Newton’s defense lawyer listed in court records, Joaquim Marjon in Santa Fe, said he no longer represents Newton, and cannot say more about the case.
Contact Tom Sharpe at 986-3080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.