Felipe Espinosa

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Felipe Espinosa
Felipe Nerio Espinosa

Colorado, U.S.
Cause of deathKilled by Tom Tobin

Felipe Nerio Espinosa (c. 1836-1863) was a notorious Mexican-American murderer who killed an estimated thirty-two people in the Colorado Territory during the summer of 1863. He is widely considered to be one of America's first serial killers.

Early life[edit]

Espinosa was probably born in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico Territory (at that time, Santa Fe de Nuevo México) although some sources cite his place of birth as Veracruz, Mexico. His parents were Pedro Ignacio Espinosa, who was born in Abiquiu, New Mexico, and Gertrudis Chavez. The Mexican census of 1845 from El Rito, New Mexico lists several members of the Espinosa family, while the 1860 US Census lists a Felipe Nerio Espinosa living in Conejos, San Fernando Valley, Taos, New Mexico with his wife and two children, a girl of five and a son of two.


During his reign of terror, Espinosa sent a letter to Territorial Governor John Evans stating his intention to murder 600 "Gringos", including the governor himself, if he and the other members of his gang were not granted property and some 5000 acres in Conejos County where they once were.

Aided by his brother Vivian, Espinosa began his murder spree in the thinly populated area of what is now Fremont County, Colorado. "The brothers' first victim was found in May 1863, his corpse mutilated and the heart hacked out of his chest. During that summer, twenty-five more people were attacked and killed in similar fashion."[1] Espinosa's letter to Governor Evans demanded full pardons for himself and his followers, along with 5,000 acres (20 km2) of land in Conejos County and appointments in the Colorado Volunteers. The letter also threatened that more Anglos, including the Governor himself, would be killed if the demands were not met.

Lawmen, including Conejos County Sheriff Emmett Harding and Colorado Volunteer Commander S. B. Tappan, were dispatched to find Espinosa, but they met with little success. A posse out of Park County, Colorado finally managed to track the brothers southwest of Canon City, Colorado. Vivian was shot and killed in the ensuing gunfight but Felipe escaped. After hiding out for the remainder of the summer, Felipe recruited a fourteen-year-old nephew named Jose and resumed the rampage. Soon after, legendary tracker Tom Tobin was enlisted to join in the search. In a matter of days, Tobin found the outlaws' camp and in a brief gunfight shot and then beheaded the two Espinosas. [2]

In popular culture[edit]

The Felipe Espinosa story is the foundation for Adam James Jones's book, The Vendetta of Felipe Espinosa (2014).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Bloody Espinosas – Terrorizing Colorado – Legends of America". Legendsofamerica.com. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  2. ^ Kutz, J.: "Mysteries & Miracles of Colorado", Rhombus, 1993

External links[edit]