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Joseph Henry Burgess, “The Cookie Bandit”

A memorial plaque for Sergeant Joseph Harris hangs in the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office at the Sandoval County Judicial Complex.

Deputy sues Sandoval County over Cookie Bandit incident

—Ty Belknap

Last July, two years after the tragic “Cookie Bandit” shootout, Former Deputy Theresa Moriarty filed a complaint in the 13th Judicial district Court against the Sandoval County Commission, former Sheriff John Paul Trujillo, former Undersheriff Tim Lucero, and Captain Edd Morrison. Judge McDonald recused himself from the case, and on August 18, a state Supreme Court order designated Judge Case from the 7th district in Socorro to preside. The case is still pending. Her lawsuit alleges Civil Rights Violations, Negligence, Assault, Battery, Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress, Breach of Contract, Loss of Consortium, Declaratory Relief, and Violations of New Mexico Common Law.

She charges that she and Sergeant Joe Harris, who was killed in the shootout, were unfairly placed in harm’s way without proper training or backup. Moriarty claims that she continues to suffer both physical and mental injuries since July 16, 2009, when she and Harris encountered the infamous Cookie Bandit burglar during an undercover stakeout at a cabin in the Jemez Mountains. Both Harris and the burglar—later identified as 62-year-old Joseph Henry Burgess—died from bullet wounds when things went very wrong during the apprehension and arrest.

Burgess was dubbed with the Sesame Street-sounding nickname “Cookie Bandit” during eight to twelve years of burglarizing and sometimes living in seasonal cabins in the La Cueva area north of Jemez Springs. Apparently some residents put cookies out to mollify the burglar—sort of like Santa Claus in reverse. Moriarty’s lawsuit contends that over the years, the Sheriff’s Office should have identified Burgess by fingerprint evidence. If they had, they would have learned that Burgess was identified as a probable serial killer by the TV show “America’s Most Wanted,” and they probably would have taken the situation more seriously.

According to the incident reports, when the school year ended in May, Captain Edd Morrison approched Sgt. Harris, a school resource officer, about a role in an undercover operation designed to finally apprehend the Cookie Bandit. Moriarty, also a school resource officer, alleges that Sheriff Trujillo pressured her into joining the operation, saying she “had it easy all year” and “needed to be a team player and help them out.” On the surface, it looked like a pretty good summer job. The deputies worked undercover at San Antonio hot springs—a favorite hangout of the Cookie Bandit. They were sometimes joined by their families with travel trailers at Fenton Lake campground. Some nights they stayed at cabins that had been burglarized.

On July 22, acting on gathered intelligence that the burglar might again strike, the deputies spent the night at a cabin on Horseshoe Loop. Moriarty had locked her police equipment along with her car keys in her car at Fenton Lake, so Harris lent her his backup handgun, which she placed on a nightstand while they tried to get some sleep. According to the incident report, Moriarty could not sleep because Harris was snoring too loud. Sometime after 4:00 a.m. she heard someone enter the cabin through a window. She said that the cabin was immediately “filled with evil.” This was no Cookie Bandit—he was more like the Boogeyman, and what ensued was straight out of a horror movie.

A fight broke out when the deputies attempted to arrest Burgess. Moriarty estimated that the fight lasted from fifteen to twenty minutes. Neither Burgess or Harris pulled guns, which each had on their belts. She managed to handcuff Burgess behind his back while Harris held him down, then they both collapsed to catch their breath. Burgess pulled a .357 caliber revolver from his belt and fired at least five times, the muzzle flash lighting up the dark room.

Harris, cried out, “I’m hit” and jumped on Burgess. Moriarty was unable to shoot Burgess with the unfamiliar .380 semi-automatic while Harris was wrestling with him in the dark. The report says that Moriarty was unable to pull the trigger of her borrowed gun, but got it into the hands of Harris who fired two shots into the back of Burgess’s head, killing him instantly.

Harris was wounded through the wrist and just above the pubic bone. His pelvis was fractured, bladder perforated, and femoral artery severed. He knew he was in trouble and begged Moriarty not to let him die, but, not being a surgeon, there was little she could do to prevent it. No other law enforcement was providing backup, and no ambulance was standing by.

There was no cell phone service, but at 4:40 a.m. Moriarty managed to contact dispatch with a two-way radio that was known before hand to be substandard. Then she ran outside screaming for help. Her lawsuit contends that it took about an hour for help to arrive. When the La Cueva Volunteer Fire Department did arrive, they found Harris bleeding heavily, confused, and combative. Moriarty was shaking and panicked. Harris was moved to the fire station, went into cardiac arrest, was temporarily resuscitated by paramedics, and transported to UNM Hospital by helicopter. He was pronounced dead at 6:45 a.m.

Moriarty was transported by Sheriff’s unit to UNM Hospital where she remained “upset and distraught” for some time. Harris was hailed as a hero. Moriarty retained her job with the Sheriff’s Office until last spring.

The revolver used by Burgess was registered to David Lloyd Eley, who was reported missing in the Jemez Mountains in 2006. Eley had sold his car and was attempting to live in the woods. His camp was found in 2007. A stepped up search after the shootout uncovered his skeletal remains on July 31, 2009.

On July 18, fingerprint evidence identified Burgess as an American draft-dodger with bizarre religious eccentricities who ended up in a hippy colony on Vancouver Island. In 1972, solid evidence linked him to the brutal murder of a young couple. He was suspected of an almost identical murder of another couple on a remote beach in California. There is no official record of his whereabouts during the years that followed. He lived on the fringe of society and portrayed himself as an old hippy survivalist to people he would meet in the mountains. Burgess spent a lot of time at San Antonio hot springs where he would bum food and supplies from bathers (myself included). He claimed to have lived in Placitas during the Tawapa commune years, and is said to have attended the Rainbow Gathering in the Jemez Mountains several years ago.

The Jemez Mountains is a much safer place, thanks to Joe Harris and Theresa Moriarty. Unless she arrives at a settlement with the Sheriff’s officers and Sandoval County, a jury trial will decide if Moriarty will be compensated.

Stevan Jay SchoenSTEVAN JAY SCHOEN was born on May 19, 1944 and passed away suddenly on September 9th 2011 at his home in Placitas, New Mexico. He is survived by his loving wife Cynthia, his two children, Andrew Adams Schoen, 21, Anna Kim Schoen, 17, his sister, Miralyn Kligerman of Boca Raton, Florida, her son Andrew Kligerman of Rye, New York, her daughter Cheryl Kligerman of New Rochelle, New York, his cousins Adrianne Singer of Greenwich, Connecticut and Dr. Susan Carlson of Sitka, Alaska, their families, and many friends and colleagues throughout New Mexico.

Stevan graduated from the Honors Program at the Wharton School of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania in 1966. He received his JD from Cornell University Law School in 1969. He graduated from Cambridge University with a Master of Philosophy in International Law in 1980. Stevan came to New Mexico as a Vista Volunteer in 1969. He made his home in Placitas, New Mexico, and became well-known as a probate and real estate lawyer throughout the state.

He served as Sandoval County Probate Judge from 1991 to 1998. During this time he was president of the Probate Judges Association for the state of New Mexico, taking a major role in the training of the state’s 33 county probate judges. Stevan began his New Mexico career with Legal Aid through the Volunteers in Service to America (Vista) program. He served as attorney for the New Mexico Department of Human Services from 1972 through 1977.

Throughout his 42 years in New Mexico he served on numerous boards of community organizations. Stevan’s greatest joy in life was raising his two wonderful children and the loving times he shared with Cynthia.

He took a lot of pleasure from his public service to local schools, the Placitas Volunteer Fire Brigade, and on committees serving the New Mexico State Supreme Court.

Funeral services will be held at the Louis Suburban Chapel in Fair Lawn, New Jersey on Tuesday, September 13, 2011. He will be buried next to his parents, Adolf and Anne Schoen, at the family plot at the Riverside Cemetery in Saddle Brook, New Jersey.

Stevan was a member of Congregation B’Nai Israel in Albuquerque, where his son, Andrew, was Bar Mitzvahed. His Jewish faith sustained and inspired him throughout his life. Stevan was deeply loved by his family and friends. He will be missed by many. His gentleness and generosity will be remembered by all who knew him. A memorial service will be held at a later date at Congregation B’Nai Israel. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Congregation B’Nai Israel in Albuquerque 4401 Indian School Rd NE, 87110. A memorial service will be held Sunday, October 9th, 2:00 p.m., at Congregation B’Nai Israel.

Stevan and Cynthia Schoen

Stevan and Cynthia Schoen

Stevan, Our Friend

Dear Stevan: I hope you don’t mind if I talk with you a little bit. I’m awfully afraid that I didn’t tell you how important you were to me and to La Puerta. I know that you knew I was grateful for all your advice so freely given, but you need to know what a joy it was for us to have you in residence. We loved your galloping about, and I say galloping because of your wondrous long legs that took you here and there in a hurry and the life stories, which were often Placitas stories, you often told as you were passing through. I loved the stops in my office to say hi; the taking turns at the copying machine; the vying for soda at the frig. Stevan you have no idea how important you have been to the Qualifying Broker of La Puerta. Can you imagine how wonderful it was to have a real estate/probate lawyer in our midst? I could wait 24 or 48 hours or more for a response to a simple question from the real estate hot line lawyer or just whip around the corner and say “Stevan, what is your opinion about this?” I can tell you that I did that more often that I should have, but you were so gracious. I think that somehow or other, despite the interruption, you got a kick out of it. I hope so. You would say “Well I think you have a good handle on it—you are doing fine, or try such and such.”

In my own life you know how frustrated I was with the lawyers in Connecticut who were delaying things endlessly in regard to my Mom’s estate, and you gave them a call for me. They talked with you, of course, when they had no trouble putting me off. I wish I could have told you that Mom’s house has finally sold and closed, and Stevan, you helped it happen. You calmed me down; explained things to me. I am very grateful that I have no more enormous bills from that quarter. You elaborated on the probate process and the reasons why, this time, the negotiations would go well. Do you know that you were an exceptionally good lawyer, but more than that, you have been an exceptional human being? You may be laughing when you get wind of this funny little writing. You may be thinking, “Oh Lucy, we have had our issues.” Yes, we had a few differences of opinion, but we worked them out, didn’t we? We ended up with a lot of respect for one another. And, of course, we both loved your wonderful wife, Cynthia, who was/is such a friend and helpmate to us both. A treasure for sure. Stevan, you have been such a help to the folks of Placitas— to homeowners associations, to Placitas Artists series, to other organizations. You were helping residents long before I ever set foot here and were a wealth of information, history, to we later arrivals.

We were both New Englanders, sort of. Both on the New York, New Haven and Hartford railroad line, an easy ride to Manhattan and all its wonders. Both went to college in the east. I’m not a huge number of years older than you, but I was a mom and a sort of hippie while you were doing marvelous academic things and ended up a VISTA volunteer in New Mexico. I was a pioneer woman for 20 years in New Hampshire—you found and explored New Mexico. While I was trying to figure out how to live in a farm house in NH with no running water, you were putting back together a precious little adobe in Rainbow Valley, and building other houses as well. And then I ended up here in Placitas in an adobe that you had everything to do with. You were one of the first people Dick and I met upon arrival.

Would that we all had more time together. Such fun hiking the Piedra Lisa Trail—you Cynthia, and lucky me. And we were about to do it again. Cynthia and I will do it and you can cheer us on. Would that I knew your children a little better, but perhaps I still have a chance. I know you will be watching over us all—I have a very good feeling about that. Buen viaje Stevan; in fact, buen viaje to us all.


Lucy Noyes, Associate Broker
CRS (Certified Residential Specialist)
CRB (Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager)
e-PRO® (Internet Professionalism Certified)
Green (sustainable property designation) •
La Puerta Real Estate Services, LLC
505-867-3388 office • 5005-280-8352 mobile



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