By all accounts Angelina Jaramillo was a good girl, she was also a student at Loretto Academy. That’s what made the news of her murder all the more shocking. A murder such as this, any murder for that matter, unsettled the residents in the small community of Santa Fe. According to the local paper, Angelina arrived home early on Sunday night, the 16th of November from a night out with friends. As she went about her tasks of preparing for bed she entered her bedroom and a man was hiding in the closet. He overpowered Angelina then raped and killed her. The girl’s mother, Cleofas Jaramillo, had already been hit on the head with a heavy object. She laid unconscious while her daughter begged for her life.
Murder Accusations Make Headlines
The murder of Angelina Jaramillo was a shocking, traumatic experience for Santa Fe. It was almost unbelievable. The headline in The Santa Fe New Mexican read “Girl Killed; Negro Is Held.” The lead paragraph stated: “Miss Angelina Jaramillo, was murdered last night by a Negro named Thomas Johnson.” After being arrested Thomas Johnson pleaded innocence. “I am not guilty of that,” he was quoted as saying in the newspaper. The warrant charged him with rape and murder. He admitted that he had attacked and beaten a garage attendant during a robbery. But he vehemently denied the accusation of the murder.
A Final Farewell
Another story a few days after the murder included the headline “Mother Taken To See Body of Dead Girl.” It read, “Mrs. Cleofas Jaramillo who is unable to walk, was brought from St. Vincent hospital by ambulance this morning before the funeral. She saw her daughter sleeping calmly and peacefully in death for the first time since the tragedy. For 15 minutes she lay on a stretcher viewing her daughter’s face. Cleofas Jaramillo did not attend her daughter’s funeral. After the viewing Jaramillo was taken back to the hospital while she continued her recovery from the assailant’s blow to her head. Angelina’s classmates served as her pallbearers for the funeral. They wore their white graduation caps and gowns from Loretto Academy for the service at St. Francis Cathedral.
The the police continued with their investigation. They found fingerprints at the murder site that appeared to be similar to those of Thomas Johnson. An unidentified woman told the sheriff that Johnson had been at her house twice before, asking where Angelina lived. In a matter of months the suspect was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. Johnson’s execution was to be held at the Penitentiary of New Mexico located on Cordova Road. Many of the townsfolk supposedly witnessed the execution.The prison guards tied a goat to the chair to make sure it was working properly. Johnson was then tied to the chair and electrocuted for around eight minutes until the guards pronounced him dead.
The tragedy continued to unfold. Doubts began to arise, rumors spread and questions arose. Perhaps Thomas Johnson did not kill the young woman. Angelina’s uncle, who was the husband of Cleofas’ sister, lived right around the corner from the Jaramillos on Griffin Street.
The uncle spent a lot of time around their house, helping with chores and other household duties. The man was supposedly attractive and very interested in pretty young women. There were those who believed that Angelina’s uncle was the murderer. After all, the uncle was instrumental in helping to get Johnson convicted. His zeal for a conviction led some people to believe that he was actually the suspect. After the execution, he supposedly returned to his home in Canada. Everyone seemed to agree on one fact. Years later while the uncle lay on his deathbed he confessed to killing Angelina and begged for forgiveness. Those who knew what really happened on November 16, 1931 have long since died. The murder of Angelina Jaramillo will always be a mystery. What remains constant is that her murder and the execution of Thomas Johnson were both tragic for the city of Santa Fe.