Ex-con sues to dig on Old Main grounds

New Mexico prison

SANTA FE (KRQE) – Old Main was New Mexico’s most notorious prison, and now one of its former residents is making some startling allegations in court documents, allegations the state is strongly refuting.

Samuel P. Chavez
Samuel P. Chavez

Former inmate and convicted killer Samuel Chavez is alleging that the state conducted medical experiments on prisoners, tortured inmates and then sold their organs and blood. Chavez is represented by El Paso attorney Francisco Macias.

“The basic allegation is that they tortured Sam Chavez while he was in there, that they tried to poison him, that they kept him in solitary for way too many years, for no good reason at all, and that particular people in the administration tried to have him killed by telling other inmates he was giving information on them,” said Macias.

Macias hopes to be granted permission at the now-closed Santa Fe prison to find things Chavez said he buried as an inmate, where he served time for a 1988 Las Cruces murder.

“We believe that there’s evidence on the ground,” said Macias. “I need to go in there. I need to have Sam show me where he put things, and we need to dig them up,” he said. Macias believes the evidence from air-tight containers buried on the grounds will show mistreatment of prisoners occurred.

“There is going to be a trial, and it’s going to be in an open courtroom and people are going to find out the truth of what happened back then,” said Macias.

The New Mexico Corrections Department says Chavez’s claims are simply not true.

“The department’s position is that there is no indication that any of the allegations Mr. Chavez are making are true about hidden chambers in the Old Main, about any kind of black market organs or body parts,” said Alex Tomlin, public affairs director.

“We’re accountable for the inmates that come to us,” she said.  “Think about it, most of them need to pay restitution.  Most of them have other pending cases.  Most of them have needs to have been court-ordered to be addressed, such as mental health services, or maybe it’s anger management services and we’re having to report back to different agencies,” Tomlin said.  “So people don’t just come to us and disappear,” she added.

Old Main was the scene of the most violent prison riot in the country’s history in 1980 when 33 inmates were killed over two days.

It hasn’t housed inmates since 1998, but the facility is open for public tours which will resume in May..

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