Ray Sutton

Image of Prohibition Agent Ray Sutton
Date of Birth: 
1873
Date of Death: 
August 28, 1930
Location of Death: 
Clayton, NM

Circumstances of Death

On August 28, 1930, Prohibition Agent Ray Sutton disappeared in New Mexico and his body has never been recovered.  Deputy Sheriff Fletcher of Raton, NM, was the last known person to see Agent Sutton alive.  He drove past Agent Sutton, who was standing beside his Government vehicle seven miles south of Raton, near Dawson Fork.  They waved a greeting to each other and it was assumed by Deputy Fletcher that Agent Sutton was waiting for someone, "probably an informant."  When several days passed and Agent Sutton did not check in, his supervisors became concerned.  A search of his room at the Hotel Seeburg found his personal effects, records and clothes intact.  In fact, his daily diary listed his arrival in Raton on August 27, 1930.  A massive, albeit unsuccessful, search was undertaken by Federal and local authorities.

On October 20, 1930, Agent Sutton's Government car was found in a deep, well hidden canyon 20-30 miles southeast of Raton.  Bloodstains were found on the carpet in the back seat area.  The investigation of Agent Sutton's disappearance and (assumed) murder intensified.  Numerous suspects were interviewed and leads were pursued across the western portion of the United States.  In December 1930, agents arrested Perry Caldwell in Pueblo, CO, for forging a Government pay check issued to Agent Sutton.  Caldwell was also found in possession of Agent Sutton's Masonic identification card and a search of Caldwell's hotel room uncovered a Masonic ring agents believe belonged to Agent Sutton.

The investigation also showed that Caldwell had paid off considerable debts shortly after Agent Sutton's disappearance, despite not having any gainful employment or legitimate source of funds.  Because agents lacked sufficient evidence to charge Caldwell with the murder of Agent Sutton, he was charged with forgery and uttering of a Government check.  The United States Secret Service identified the handwriting on the back of the check as Caldwell's, and a hotel clerk identified Caldwell as the person that cashed that check.  However, at trial the hotel clerk changed his original story and could (would) not identify Caldwell.  Investigators believed that he was threatened by the bootleggers.

Despite overwhelming circumstantial evidence against him, Caldwell was not convicted by the jury.  Despite a massive search and intensive investigation for over 10 years, Agent Sutton's body was never found.  Agent Sutton was a well-recognized and courageous agent, respected by law enforcement and feared by bootleggers operating in the New Mexico/Colorado area.  His disappearance and death is believed closely associated with the murder of Prohibition Agent Dale Kearney, who was killed one month earlier in Colorado.  The same gang is believed responsible for both agents' deaths.

Background

Agent Sutton joined the Prohibition Unit on August 19, 1923, with an annual salary of $1,800.  He carried badge #2400.  Previously, he was the Sheriff in Clayton, NM.

Personal

Agent Sutton was born in Platteville, IA.  He was survived by his wife, Margaret; their son, Ray George Sutton; and a married daughter, Nello May Means.  Agent Sutton last resided in Clayton, NM.

Associated Artifacts: 
Image of Searchers posing in front of Sutton’s partially visible sedan, still hidden by underbrush.
Image of newspaper article with the headline, Mrs. Sutton $500 as Reward
Image of the reward poster for information on Ray Sutton
Image of newspaper article with the headline, Fear Dry Agent Slain in Seeking Fellow's Killer
Image of a searcher posing in front of Sutton’s partially visible sedan, and of Sutton's vehicle.
Image of Ray Sutton’s partially visible sedan.
Image of Search Posse posing in front of Ray Sutton’s partially visible sedan.
Image of an indictment against James P. Caldwell
Image of newspaper article with the headline, Hunt for Body of Dry Agent
Image of Ray Sutton's notepad.
Image of the Albuquerque Journal newspaper article, dated December 5, 1933, with the headline, Skull Awaits Identification in Denver as That of Sutton
Image of a telegram regarding the finding of Ray Sutton's vehicle
Image of the New York Times newspaper article, dated April 7, 1936, with the headline, Dry Era Murder Clue Found After 6 Years
Image a newspaper article with the headline, Sutton' Skeleton is Believed Found at Eagle Nest Dam
Last Reviewed August 21, 2015