SANTA FE-An unsolved murder haunts a ghost town in the Bootheel of New Mexico.
Mean politics should have nothing to do with this case of crime without punishment, but they have infected it.
The story began in the early morning hours of June 7, 2011, when somebody shot kindly businessman Larry Link five times. A son found Link's body some 200 yards outside his home. A small-caliber handgun, foreign to Link's household, was nearby.
Soon after, with Link's family already in shock, the Internet exploded with rumors masquerading as news. Websites with a political agenda erroneously announced that "an illegal alien" had killed 68-year-old Link.
Hucksters made these brazen claims even though New Mexico State Police never named a suspect. In truth, they did not have one and they never suggested otherwise.
Southwest geography was the only basis for the false stories. Link's home and his shuttered tourist attraction, Steins Railroad Ghost Town, were three minutes from the Arizona state line and a bit more than an hour from the Mexican border.
Now, after 22 months of futility, there may be a crack in the case.
Sgt. Emmanuel Gutierrez told me last week that state police had new leads in Link's murder. He would not disclose anything more.
Lifers in the newspaper business push for every detail of every crime story, but Gutierrez's skimpy update was easy to appreciate. Police would not offer any fuel for Internet bloggers to twist for their own purposes.
Link's daughter, Pamela, said the political overtones that some have attached to the killing remain troublesome.
"I've heard a lot of that. I don't want my father's death to be put on anybody's radar for political gain," she said in an interview.
This applies to those who argue for gun control.
"My father died because of an evil person," Pamela Link said. "I don't want him to be used as one of those statistics about gun deaths."
As for the claim that a faceless immigrant killed him, she is more than skeptical of it.
"In my experience, they are the least threatening thing out here," she said of Mexicans who cross into Hidalgo County. "Everyone I've ever seen wanted one of three things a drink of water, a sandwich or a ride to a big city."
The elements of the crime could suggest that Larry Link surprised a burglar or an interloper.
Cursed with insomnia, he began the last morning of his life in his La-Z-Boy chair. Linda, his wife of 50 years saw him about 2:30 a.m., restless but in fine spirits. She blew him a kiss, and he returned the gesture.
Link ventured outside sometime during the next four hours.
He might have gone for a walk in hopes of tiring himself so he could fall sleep. Another possibility was that he noticed somebody in his family's enormous parking lot, where trucks carrying citrus fruit would pull in for a specialized service. Link and his family crew ran a good business built on highway cargo, fumigating the produce to cleanse it of parasites.
Pamela Link said the business had declined since her father's death. His skill and leadership are missed.
The Links made a stab at reopening Steins (Hidalgo residents pronounce it Steens). The old ghost town was a reminder of happier times, when the family was whole.
Today, what remains strong are the unanswered questions, especially if there was a motive for Link's murder.
"We sit here everyday and ask what was the gain of this," Pamela Link said.
If Larry Link encountered a thief on the property, his style would have been to defuse any possibility of violence.
"He was a fun-loving man. He would have given anyone anything," Pamela Link said.
She is quick to identify the one constant in her life.
"It hurts just as bad as the day it happened," she said.
Perhaps the new leads, cryptic for the moment, will solidify. Catching the killer would ease the Links' pain.
"I don't want whoever did this doing it to another family," Pamela Link said. "I don't want anybody to have to deal with what we deal with everyday."