The Capture of Wyoming’s Most Infamous Fugitive
Alfred Packer is one of the most notorious figures of the 19th century. The "Colorado Cannibal" was infamous for killing and eating the bodies of five men in the winter of 1874.
According to many accounts, Packer had escaped from jail and was eventually captured on March 11, 1883, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, living under the alias of John Swartze.
In fact, Packer was actually apprehended in Fetterman City, Wyo., near Fort Fetterman and the present-day city of Douglas.
Although nearly nine years had passed since Packer first escaped from a Colorado jail, it is unknown exactly how much time he spent in Wyoming.
According to Wyoming Tails and Trails, Packer, aka John Swartze, was drinking at a saloon in Fetterman City when an old acquaintance recognized his laugh.
Jean "Frenchy" Cabazon and Packer were among the party of 21 men traveling across the Rockies in the fall of 1873. Along the way, they encountered the leader of the local Ute tribe, Chief Ouray.
Ouray urged the men to postpone their trip until Spring and make a camp for the winter near Montrose, Colorado. Fortunately for Cabazon, he was one of 15 men in the party who decided to stay.
In the spring of 1883, Cabazon was working in a mining camp near Fetterman City when he noticed Packer.
Cabazon contacted Converse County Sheriff Malcolm Cambell, who arrested the suspected fugitive. Packer was then transported and held in Cheyenne, where another former associate was summoned to confirm his identity.
On the train from Cheyenne to Denver, Packer allegedly gave a full confession and also told of his travels after escaping from jail. Packer claims he fled to Arizona, before moving to Montana, Oregon and eventually settling in Wyoming.
During that same confession, Packer also admitted to killing the five men in his party and later eating their corpses.
The following month, Packer was sentenced to hang after a trial in Lake City, Colo. In 1885, he was spared the noose when the Colorado Supreme Court overturned his conviction.
Packer was later retried and convicted on five counts of manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
After being granted parole in 1901, Packer settled in Denver and found work as a security guard for the Denver Post. In 1907, he died at the age of 65 and was buried in Littleton, Colorado.
Were it not for a chance encounter with an old acquantance in a Wyoming saloon, we may have never known the real story of the "Colorado Cannibal."