New Mexico murderer suffers similar fate after acquiring fortune

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A man who murdered a New Mexico dentist suffered a similar fate more than 50 years later. This was no career criminal, either. After serving his time, he became a successful doctor, worth millions.

Investigators wonder if that could be the motive in his murder. His story will be part of CBS’s 48 Hours, Saturday. KRQE News 13 spoke with the reporter who investigated the man’s story.

The year was 1961. Steven Schwartz, 19, was a student at the University of New Mexico who had racked up some gambling debt.

“There was a rumor that this dentist in Hobbs used to carry around up to $1,000 in cash,” said 48 Hours reporter Peter Van Sant.

That dentist was V.G. Cook. Van Sant investigated the story. He said this whole ordeal began with a single gun shot in southern New Mexico.

“Schwartz goes into his office and shoots him right between the eyes,” said Van Sant.

V.G. Cook was dead. Schwartz escaped, but was arrested a short time later, along with several others.

He was described as “cool as a cucumber” in the Hobbs News Sun.

Schwartz admitted to the crime and was convicted, but he didn’t stay behind bars for long.

“He serves about six years when he’s doing one of these scared straight kind of programs, talking to students about the dangers of crime…The governor at the time hears him and is so impressed with him that he commutes his sentence,” said Van Sant.

Schwartz goes off to Italy. He studies medicine there and returns to the United States, where he establishes himself as a kidney doctor in Florida.

“And amasses a fortune through his business and real estate of between 30 and 40 million dollars,” Van Sant explained.

For decades, Schwartz led a normal life.

“My dad was always a role model to me,” said Schwartz’s oldest son.

However, in 2014, he was murdered — shot, strangled and stabbed.

Not even his son knew of dark past.

“To break the news to him that his father who had been brutally murdered in 2014 was himself a murderer, was absolutely shocking,” said Van Sant.

Now, that secret may hold clues to Schwartz’s death.

Peter Van Sant tells KRQE News 13 that 48 hours didn’t even know about Schwartz’s past when they started working this story.

The episode airs Saturday at 8 p.m. on KRQE.

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