ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A popular southwestern New Mexico ghost town, struck by the tragic and mysterious shooting death of its longtime owner, is reopening to the public after being closed nearly a year.
Steins Railroad Ghost Town will formally reopen May 11, said Melissa Lamoree, granddaughter of the late Larry Link.
Lamoree, 29, said the family has been raising money and working to restore the old western town near the Arizona border to its original state. They want to keep it running because it reminds them of happier times, she said.
"My grandfather put so much work into this ghost town," Lamoree said. "Instead of focusing on how he died, we wanted to remember the happy moments that this place brought him and share that with everyone."
Larry Link bought Steins in 1988 with his wife, Linda, and gave private tours.
He was shot and killed last June at age 68, in what state police believe may have been a robbery gone wrong. Police said a semi-trailer used for storage on the property appeared to have been broken into, with items from inside strewn on the ground.
The killing at the ghost town, just north of the Mexico-New Mexico border, sparked fear among area ranchers since the town sits atop the state's Bootheel, where nearby residents have long worried about drug trafficking and its related violence. The U.S. Border Patrol has recently stepped up its presence in the isolated and rugged region, and Steins rests at the end of a known trafficking route.
But Link's daughter Pamela Link said there was no evidence her father's death had anything to do with drug traffickers or illegal immigration. She said some border ranchers were using her father's death for their own "political agenda" and to get more Border Patrol agents to police the area.
"This had nothing to do with protecting our borders," she said. "Evil took him from us. He wasn't involved with drug trafficking. He didn't harbor illegal immigrants. He wasn't a rancher. He didn't even know how to raise a cow."
No arrests have been made.
Businesses from nearby Lordsburg, N.M., like Saucedo's Super Market and Western Auto, helped the family get through the tragedy with support and donations, said Pamela Link, who lives on the Steins property with Lamoree and Link's widow.
Lamoree said the family is raising money for more restoration through swap meets at Steins scheduled for the first weekend of every month. She said vendors will be charged $15 a day to sell their goods, or $25 for two days. Steins also charges for tours and sells memorabilia.
"All the wood is from the 1880s, and my grandfather used to just replace damaged wood with wood from other buildings," Lamoree said.
Still, Lamoree said a number of building need roof and ground work.
Steins, once populated with 1,300 people, was largely abandoned by the mid-1940s after the railroad stopped delivering water. It is about 80 miles north of Mexico in New Mexico's Hidalgo County.
Steins is among many ghost towns, managed publically and privately, that dot the southern New Mexico landscape.
The town was once a bustling mining and railroad town, which survived on water freighted in by the Southern Pacific and had competing bordellos.
Before he bought the ghost town, Larry Link ran a rattlesnake farm and had worked as a butcher and in the grocery business in Arizona, family said.___