Route 66 - The Sad Story of Budville

Crime along Route 66 back in the day was actually pretty rare. It wasn't because times were better then than now or people themselves were better and had more regard for their fellow human beings; at least to some degree it was because in most towns along the Mother Road, the only way into and out of town was Route 66. With no other way to get out of town and nowhere to hide in the small towns, criminals just didn't stand a chance of getting away with much. In 1967 though, a crime was committed in Budville, New Mexico that shocked locals and travelers alike.

The Budville Trading Co., 2012
Budville was named after "Bud" Rice who, beginning in 1928 with his wife Flossie, built and operated a gas station, garage, grocery store, post office, and wrecker service on Route 66 west of Rio Puerco out in the middle of nowhere. He also sold bus tickets, owned the local State Motor Vehicle Department concession, and got himself elected Justice of the Peace. He liked to claim he was "The Law West of Rio Puerco" and did not hesitate to use this position to increase his business dealings. The fines he charged speeders caught in his speed trap were extraordinarily onerous and he antagonized other wrecker services by passing a law which declared all wrecks east of the Rio Puerco were the domain of Albuquerque, all those west of the Rio Puerco were his and those on the bridge belonged to whomever got there first.
 
Although he had a kind, generous side for kids (he often bought shoes in the winter for the poor kids who lived in the area), he was well-known for being testy with most people. He often stated to anyone that would listen that he didn't care if anyone liked him or not. One time a traveler complained about the price Bud charged for putting a new fan belt in his car. Bud simply took out his large pocket knife and cut the new belt off. When the driver complained again and asked, "What do I do now?" Bud told him he should move his car across the street unless he wanted to pay storage charges to his garage. The motorist pushed his car across the street and arranged for a friend to bring him a new belt which he installed himself the next day. Before he left though, he had to pay Bud for parking his car overnight since Bud also owned the property across the street from the garage.

On the night of November 18, 1967, after 39 years in business, Bud, Flossie, Blanche Brown, an 82-year-old retired school teacher who worked part-time at the trading post, and another employee were getting ready to close the store when a desperado entered to rob them. Before it was over, Bud and Blanche lay on the floor dead. The gunman then ran out the door and disappeared, leaving Flossie screaming, but unhurt and the other employee hiding in the bathroom. It was a gruesome scene and the site soon was being called, "Bloodville."

State authorities soon arrested a young sailor who had been seen hitch-hiking in the area when Flossie identified him as the killer in a line-up. In spite of the ID by Flossie, there was no other evidence which pointed to him and indeed, there were a number of people who said they had been with him or seen the sailor in a location miles from the scene of the crime at the time it happened. He was released for lack of evidence and the crime went unsolved for several years.

The police eventually caught a break when 3 criminals agreed to tell what they knew about the Budville murders in exchange for lighter sentences for crimes they had been convicted of. They all fingered a young drifter by the name of Billy Ray White, a man with a long criminal history, and provided numerous items of proof. Eventually, after the FBI placed Billy Ray on their 10 Most Wanted list, he was found, apprehended and stood trial.

Flossie this time identified Billy Ray as the killer and with the proof presented, it seemed sure that the accused would be convicted and justice would be served. However, the defense lawyer made sure Billy Ray was clean-shaven, wore a nice suit and looked nothing like the dirty, scroungy individual he had been when the crime was committed. In fact, he cleaned up so well he looked just like one of the clean-cut, innocent young high-school boys who attended the trial as part of their civics class. The defense pointed accusing fingers at a multitude of possible scenarios to throw doubt into the juror's minds. Did Flossie have something to do with the crime? After all, she did get married again an embarrassingly short time after her husband was murdered, and to a convicted felon at that! And why did the murderer leave her standing there alive and unharmed instead of killing her too? And if she was mistaken about the sailor she first identified, couldn't she be mistaken this time too? And what about a possible hit being placed on Bud by rival tow truck drivers? And just a few days before he was murdered, Bud testified in a Texas drug trial - could he have been hit because of that?

Less than 2 hours after beginning deliberations, the jury returned with a verdict of "Not Guilty" and Billy Ray White walked out a free man. Officially, the crime has never been solved, but Billy Ray was later convicted of robbery and murder in a small store in Louisiana, just like Budville. On June 8, 1974, he died an apparent suicide in a Louisiana State Prison after supposedly confessing to his cell mate that he did indeed commit the crime in Budville. 
Abandoned ruins around Budville
After the murders, Flossie and her new husband continued to operate the businesses in Budville until he was killed in a fight in 1973, dying just 3 feet from where Bud had died in 1967. Flossie married for a 3rd time and passed away of natural causes in 1994. After 66 years in business, the Budville Trading Post finally closed. 
 
After being sold, re-opened as the Budville Trading Company and closed again, the building today is probably one of the most photographed landmarks of Route 66 in New Mexico. Standing about 30 feet from the highway shoulder, it is just an abandoned, 1-story, white cement-block building with a large non-functioning neon sign in front. Its only function now is to serve as a fascinating reminder of one of the legends of Route 66.
 

 
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