CARLSBAD, NM (KRQE) - Despite the passage of more than a half-century, it’s a crime that still haunts this small, southeast New Mexico town.
Two girls in their early teens disappear from a popular hang-out spot, only to be found two days later dumped outside town, executed. The killer has never been found.
“They weren’t prostitutes,” said Anne Restine Self, the sister of one of the victims. “They weren’t drug dealers. They were little girls.”
And while the case has been re-opened over the years and remains under investigation by the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office, authorities are no closer to solving the murders today than they were 50 years ago.
Asked what it would take to bring the killer or killers to justice, Eddy County Sheriff Ernest Mendoza said, “Actually somebody to come forth and confess.”
The girls’ story begins on Aug. 11, 1961.
On that hot Friday evening, Patty Pritz, 14, and Mattie Restine, 13, followed the crowd to The Beach, a local amusement park where Carlsbad kids hung out.
Anne Self remembered the last time she saw her younger sister, Mattie.
“Well, we had a fight,” Self said. “She wanted to wear my shoes and since I wasn’t going to get to go, I told her, ‘No.’ And she went and asked my mom if she could wear my shoes and mom said, ‘Yeah.’ And I was mad.”
Janis Isaacs, a friend of Patty’s, told News 13 she was at The Beach that night and saw the two girls.
“They had on sailor outfits that were sort of matching,” she said. “And I think we were at one of the carousels or something and … I just waved and (Patty) waved back and smiled. That was the last time I ever saw her.”
Witnesses saw Patty and Mattie leave The Beach about 8:40 p.m. No one except their killer ever saw them alive again.
An eyewitness later told police he saw two girls strolling down the sidewalk on Mesquite Street in town when a man in his mid-20s driving a 1955 or ’56 light-colored Chevrolet sedan stopped in front of them. The witness said the man got out of the car and began talking with the girls. A brief scuffle followed, perhaps even a shriek. The man hustled the girls into his car and sped off.
“My mother was just frantic,” Self said. “I mean, she was just out of her head. She kept saying, ‘Something’s wrong. Someone’s hurting my baby. Something’s not right.’ ”
Two days later, rabbit hunters confirmed Mattie’s mother’s intuition. Shortly after 1 p.m., the hunters discovered the two girls’ bodies dumped in the scrub brush 13 miles outside of town in a rugged area known as the Rocky Arroyo. Both had been shot execution-style in the head at close range.
“The world is full of people that are absolute evil,” said Bonnie Sexton, a friend of Patty’s.
The crime scene was horrific. One of the girls had been raped, her clothing tossed into the mesquite. The other girl was still wearing her sailor outfit.
“It’s something you don’t forget when two children are assassinated like that for no reason at all,” said Ray Anaya, who drove the ambulance to the crime scene that day. “I’ll never forget.”
The evening the girls’ bodies were found, Mattie’s father, Pete Restine, told his children the news.
“And he said, ‘Mattie’s not coming home,’ ” Self said. “ ‘Something bad happened. She’s in heaven now.’ ”
The murders made headlines as officers fanned out across New Mexico in search of the killer. They interviewed some 150 people – friends, neighbors and known criminals – but precious few clues surfaced.
As time went by, the case grew colder. Eventually, the case files were boxed up and sent to storage until an enterprising Eddy County sheriff’s investigator revived the case 43 years later.
That detective had Mattie’s body exhumed and even called in a psychic, but the trail remained stone cold.
Today, the case is assigned to Eddy County sheriff’s investigator Richard Sillas, who told News 13 the case will continue to be investigated if new leads come to light.
“It’s not put on the back burner,” Sillas said. “The case will always be worked.”
Still, asked if any leads remain to be investigated, he said. “At this time, after 50 years, no.”
But Mattie’s sister cannot let it go. She’s compiled boxes of documentation and is convinced the murderer’s identity remains buried somewhere in her files or the official case file. And Self constantly presses the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office to work the case.
“There’s been several times I thought about killing myself because I couldn’t handle it,” Self said. “I feel like I need to find out what happened to her and why. Because she was a sweet little girl. Why did it happen?”
However, she knows that solving the case is a long-shot.
“I’ll probably go to my grave working on it,” Self said. “My mom, dad and my brother went to their graves not knowing, and I probably will too.”
Patty is buried in the Carlsbad city cemetery. Her mother died years ago and her stepfather, who still lives in Carlsbad, doesn’t talk publicly about her.
Mattie is buried in a small, rural cemetery in Bokoshe, Oklahoma. Her sister lives nearby and visits her grave often to remember and reflect.
“I guess the thing that hurts me so bad is the fact that I think about the night that she died and how scared she was, had to be,” Self said. “She had to know … And I couldn’t help her.”
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