Museum owner Jim Gordon said his curator was channel surfing at a Gallup hotel in February when he began watching an episode of the Discovery Channel's "American Guns." The program is filmed at a gun shop in Wheat Ridge, Colo.
Gordon tells the Albuquerque Journal that curator Jeff Hengesbaugh was astonished to see 65-year-old Wylie Gene Newton trying to have the museum's missing 1849 .44-caliber Colt Dragoon appraised.
He contacted New Mexico law enforcement, who followed up with police in Colorado. They set up a sting and offered to meet Newton and buy the $40,000 gun. Newton was arrested on a larceny charge.
Newton was arrested, returned to New Mexico and booked into the Santa Fe County jail on a larceny charge on Aug. 5. He had his arraignment in state District Court on Friday and will have a bond hearing at on Monday. It isn't clear if he has a lawyer. He is listed as living in both Erie, Colo., but an Eldorado address also is listed in court papers.
Court records show Newton had visited the invitation-only museum twice in March 2011, and after the second visit Hengesbaugh found the Colt missing. He suspected Newton and called him, but he denied taking the revolver. He then notified police, but when detectives talked to Newton, he denied having the gun and the trail went cold.
Until February. That's when Hengesbaugh happened to catch the show and spied the rare Colt.
The Dragoon is being held in evidence, Gordon said, and he hopes it will be well cared for until he can get it returned. Gordon still hasn't seen the TV show that led to his gun being recovered, but he has spoken to Newton recently.
Gordon said in an interview with the Journal in Friday that Newton called him about a month ago and started talking about the weather. Gordon said he tried to remain patient until Newton got to the point, and Newton eventually said he didn't steal Gordon's weapon.
Gordon said Newton asked him if he thought he was stupid enough to appear on national television trying to appraise a stolen firearm.
"'I absolutely do,'" Gordon said he told Newton in response. "'I think you're totally, completely that stupid.'"
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