The first and last woman to be hanged in New Mexico was 19-year-old Paula Angel. The crime which led her to the gallows was “as old as Eden.” On 23 March, 1861, Angel stabbed her lover, Miguel Martin, to death. Martin was a married man and a father of five who had been having an affair with Angel behind his wife’s back. Seemingly bored with the affair, Martin decided he would call it off. Within a day, Angel was apprehended for the murder and her trial was held just five days later. After being found guilty, she was sentenced to hang the following month. Her time in jail was short and torturous. It was reported that the sheriff taunted her daily by reminder her how many days she had left on earth.
As the execution date rolled around, Angel was told to sit on top of her coffin in the back of the wagon as they drove to the spot she would be killed - a tree on a cottonwood grove. There was no gallows. She was to be hanged from a tree. As the noose was tied around her neck and she was strung up to hang, it was noticed that the sheriff had forgot to tie her hands. The crowd stood in shock as Angel grabbed at her neck and tried to loosen the rope. As she was slowly being choked to death, the sheriff wrapped his arms around her waist to attempt to weight her down and facilitate her demise. The crowd booed and ordered she be cut down. The sight was unbearable.
The execution was momentarily halted so that the sheriff could tie Angel’s hands behind her back. Moments later, she was hanged once again. This time, it was successful and Angel finally perished.