Nevada man accused of stalking Fenn’s granddaughter

Francisco Chavez. Courtesy Santa Fe County jail

Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputies earlier this week extradited a Nevada man accused of stalking the adult granddaughter of Santa Fe author and artifacts collector Forrest Fenn and sending threatening messages to Fenn, saying his granddaughter is the long-sought treasure readers have been seeking.

Francisco “Paco” Chavez, 46, of Henderson, Nev., pleaded not guilty Friday in Santa Fe County Magistrate Court to one misdemeanor charge of stalking the woman, online court records show, after deputies transported him from a jail in Nevada on Thursday. He was released Friday night from the Santa Fe County jail on a $50,000 bond.

According to a May 12 Santa Fe Police Department report, Fenn’s daughter told police that several people have been arrested for stalking or assaulting Fenn, 85, who gained fame in 2010 after claiming in an autobiography that he hid a chest filled with gold, jewelry and other artifacts somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. But this time, she told Officer Erica Montoya, the target was her daughter.

The police report details months of correspondence between Fenn and a man who appears to be obsessed with the writer’s granddaughter. The man even came to Santa Fe several times this year in search of the woman, the report says, appearing at her mother’s house twice and apparently stopping by the granddaughter’s workplace. A package sent to Fenn contained photos of his granddaughter with disturbing messages written on them, according to the report, as well as a map of where the man believed she lived and a note saying he had solved Fenn’s riddle and determined that the treasure was his granddaughter.

Santa Fe police filed an affidavit June 3 to obtain a warrant for Chavez’s arrest, charging him with stalking in connection with the case. Police in Henderson, Nev., arrested him June 7 and told the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Santa Fe that local authorities could pick him up Thursday at the Henderson Detention Center.

In one email, on June 2, the affidavit says, the man asked Fenn if he could marry the granddaughter.

Countless treasure hunters have sought the chest that Fenn describes in his autobiography, The Thrill of the Chase, following clues in a poem that Fenn says will lead to the million-dollar trove. One searcher, Randy Bilyeu of Colorado, might have died after trying to navigate the frigid Rio Grande in a small, inflatable raft. He disappeared in January, but his body hasn’t been found. Other searchers have been rescued after losing their way in the wilderness. Still, Fenn hasn’t revealed the location of the treasure.

According to the affidavit for Chavez’s arrest, the man searching for Fenn’s granddaughter may have been close to finding her. In a May 14 email to Fenn, the document says, a man identified as “Paco” warns Fenn to let the woman’s immediate family know that she “might be found very very soon. Just in case they here [sic] it over the news … and not from you. I think that would be nice of you.”

And on May 23, the affidavit says, the granddaughter’s manager told her that a man driving a Silver Toyota Tundra had been asking for her. Police later determined that Chavez owns such a vehicle.

The police report says Fenn’s daughter told Officer Montoya that a man had come to her house in January and again in March. During the March episode, the woman said, the man told her through her home’s intercom system that he had found a bracelet he thought was part of Fenn’s treasure. She told the man to leave the bracelet in the mailbox, the report says.

Montoya also describes the two pictures in the package sent to Fenn. One, she says, had stickers of hearts, a treasure chest and a shoe on it. A message said, “One shoe can change your life Cinderella, Me!!”

The second picture, she says, showed the granddaughter with Fenn and had a sticker depicting a man in overalls holding a machete. There were two messages written on the photo, Montoya says: “Call your Momma,” and “Nobody wins them all kid!!”

Fenn’s daughter told police that her father hadn’t reported the incidents because he didn’t think it was a big deal, Montoya’s report says.

But the daughter and granddaughter both asked the officer if they should get a concealed carry license for a gun, she says in her report, because they feared for their safety.

“They were nervous,” Montoya writes, “and even informed me they try not to drive in the same route in fear of ‘Paco.’ ”

Contact Uriel Garcia at 505-986-3062 or ugarcia@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter @ujohnnyg.