The 1967 killing of Bud Rice – Budville, New Mexico
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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.
One area that epitomized the grit and determination of the state’s inhabitants was Budville, a name that sounds as comforting as it was terrifying. Located in the Laguna Indian Reservation along New Mexico Highway 124, which can be accessed by taking exit 104 off Interstate 40, travelers can still see the vestiges of the unique community. Still standing today is the Budville Trading Post and Dixie Tavern and Cafe.
Opened in 1936, Dixie’s was a place for the weary traveler to nurse their arid throats and call it a night, a haven for Desperados looking to hide from the law as well as a business for people to purchase Indian rugs and other unique merchandises. Interestingly, Dixie’s was listed in the business directories of 1946/7 and 1950 in two different locations, New Laguna and Cubero.
In order to understand the significance of Budville, let us briefly look at the tough history that helped mold Budville into a true Wild West town along the Mother Road. In 1928, the United States was still feeling the roar of the decade. Americans were feeling confident that they helped win the “war to end all wars.” And now, four out of five citizens owned an automobile. People were beginning to explore the country in ways it never could before. Among these freedom loving spirits was a couple by the names of H.N. Bud and Flossie Rice.[edsanimate_end]
[edsanimate_start entry_animation_type= “spinner” entry_delay= “4” entry_duration= “2” entry_timing= “linear” exit_animation_type= “” exit_delay= “” exit_duration= “” exit_timing= “” animation_repeat= “1” keep= “yes” animate_on= “load” scroll_offset= “” custom_css_class= “”][edsanimate_end]The 1967 slaying of owner Bud Rice and a retired schoolteacher who helped him is a tragic tale. But, as the article ably describes, the murder remains unsolved largely because of overzealous cops who were too chummy with Rice to conduct a thorough investigation.
Complicating matters was Rice’s rather brusque and shady way of doing business — one could argue that he was an outright con man. So he had made more than a few enemies along the way.
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 cool 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.
Bus driver Cody Miles turned his Continental Trailways Scenicruiser off Interstate 40 onto Route 66 at the Laguna Pueblo Indian Reservation exit, six miles east of Budville, at 7:40 on the evening of Saturday, November 18, 1967. Seven minutes later the bus crossed the Reservation’s west boundary, which also served as Budville’s east limit. A sign at that point read SPEED LIMIT 50. Miles blew a blast on the air horn as he passed between the new yellow brick Mormon Church to his right and the rickety old whitewashed adobe Baptist Mission School to the left. He liked to let Flossie and Miss Brown know he was coming. It gave them half a minute to shoo passengers—usually Indians going to Grants—out of the store and into the chill of the autumn night. A pickup truck pulled onto the roadway from the trading post parking lot and headed east toward Albuquerque, fifty-five miles away. Cody Miles later remembered the truck as scrap-iron mounted on wheels. A ’46 or ’47 Ford, he guessed, dark blue or black except the right door and right front fender were light colored. It didn’t have a license plate that he could see, and a single tail light glowed dim gray, the red lens long since broken out and gone. Indian Cadillac, the bus driver said to himself. Old Indian Cadillac.
Rice’s two wreckers—the blue and white Peterbilt behemoth he used for towing semi trucks and the smaller red GMC he used for cars and pickups—occupied an otherwise empty trading post driveway. The bus didn’t stop in Budville that night. Dark inside and out, except for the two gas pump globes that provided meager yellow illumination, the store appeared closed for business and no one stood under the sign which read Bus Depot. Miles thought it odd. Rice usually stayed open until eight o’clock or later, even when traffic volume declined in the fall and winter months. It pleased Cody Miles to think some of the ill-mannered arrogance had been taken out of Bud Rice when the merchant lost his final court battle to keep Interstate Highway 40 from bypassing Budville. The new four-lane highway was com-plete and open to traffic from Albuquerque to Gallup except for ten miles of the old two-lane Route 66 from Laguna Pueblo to the Los Cerritos Trading Post; the stretch that passed through Budville. By use of frivolous lawsuits and politi-cal chicanery Bud Rice had stalled completion of the Interstate road for seven years, but in the early fall of 1967, construction crews began work on the final section of I-40 where it climbed the side of Flower Mesa a half mile south of Budville. Miles didn’t like Bud Rice. Few people did. Rice worked at being as dog-mean and nasty as the pit bull terriers he kept in the salvage yard behind his store, and he didn’t care whether Cody Miles liked him or not. He didn’t care whether anyone liked him or not, and he in turn, didn’t have regard for many people. Apart from police officers and sheriff’s deputies, Bud counted few men as friends.
The woman lay still as blood pooled around her body and soaked into her housedress. She lived another thirty seconds before life left her. The younger woman ran away and hid. The killer blew smoke from the pistol’s barrel as he’d seen bad guys do in western movies. He followed the second woman through a door at the rear of the Budville Trading Post, a door that led to the Rice living quarters.”
The culprit had not only killed Bud Rice, but Blanche Brown an 81-year old who was purchasing a pack of cigarettes.
It was a gruesome scene and the site soon was being called, “Bloodville.”
State authorities soon arrested a young sailor who had been seen hitchhiking 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.
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.