First Advisor

Dr. Jessica Clark

Description

In the fall of 1979, Matt Bider, a Rock Springs police detective, recounted his version of a July murder in a courtroom full of reporters. According to his reports, he slid into the rear passenger seat of an unmarked police car parked outside of the Silver Dollar Saloon. Ed Cantrell, his boss, sat in the front passenger seat, next to the driver Detective Jim Callas. Undercover agent Michael Rosa slipped in next to Bider, still holding his drink from the bar, and Bider watched as Cantrell turned around and fixed his cold, blue-eyed stare on Rosa. The tension in the car was palpable. Bider saw that Rosa was wearing his cocky, challenging grin. Callas shifted in discomfort, and looked out the window, and Bider elected to do the same. Suddenly, a shot rang out inside the car, so loud in such close quarters. He turned to his left, ears ringing, and saw the hole in Rosa’s head the size of a .38 slug right between his eyes. He saw the .38 caliber pistol in Cantrell’s hand. In shock, Bider realized that something terrible had just happened. Cantrell had shot and killed Rosa. The murder of Rosa by Cantrell made both local and national headlines and once the trial was over, there were hundreds of news reports. Coverage by various media sources of the incident, men, and trial spans several years, documenting the shooting, trial, and Cantrell’s life after the verdict. The media documentation of the trial is the only source for trial information, as the transcripts have mysteriously disappeared. The reports of the events have shaped the story of both of the men and the identity of Rock Springs. Since 1978, the Ed Cantrell-Michael Rosa narrative has evolved from simple news reports to an established folktale to an incredible legacy and identity in Rock Springs, Wyoming.

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Oral Presentation, Sweet Memories: Research Group

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The Quickest Draw in the West: The Media Legacy of Ed Cantrell

In the fall of 1979, Matt Bider, a Rock Springs police detective, recounted his version of a July murder in a courtroom full of reporters. According to his reports, he slid into the rear passenger seat of an unmarked police car parked outside of the Silver Dollar Saloon. Ed Cantrell, his boss, sat in the front passenger seat, next to the driver Detective Jim Callas. Undercover agent Michael Rosa slipped in next to Bider, still holding his drink from the bar, and Bider watched as Cantrell turned around and fixed his cold, blue-eyed stare on Rosa. The tension in the car was palpable. Bider saw that Rosa was wearing his cocky, challenging grin. Callas shifted in discomfort, and looked out the window, and Bider elected to do the same. Suddenly, a shot rang out inside the car, so loud in such close quarters. He turned to his left, ears ringing, and saw the hole in Rosa’s head the size of a .38 slug right between his eyes. He saw the .38 caliber pistol in Cantrell’s hand. In shock, Bider realized that something terrible had just happened. Cantrell had shot and killed Rosa. The murder of Rosa by Cantrell made both local and national headlines and once the trial was over, there were hundreds of news reports. Coverage by various media sources of the incident, men, and trial spans several years, documenting the shooting, trial, and Cantrell’s life after the verdict. The media documentation of the trial is the only source for trial information, as the transcripts have mysteriously disappeared. The reports of the events have shaped the story of both of the men and the identity of Rock Springs. Since 1978, the Ed Cantrell-Michael Rosa narrative has evolved from simple news reports to an established folktale to an incredible legacy and identity in Rock Springs, Wyoming.