FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Rich in history as well as rugged West Texas landscapes and big sky, the Cibolo Creek Ranch where Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away has long been a secluded retreat for celebrities from business leaders to rock stars and actors.
Scalia, 79, was found dead on Saturday morning when he did not appear for breakfast, the U.S. Marshals Service in Washington said. A Catholic priest, the Rev. Mike Alcuino, was hurriedly summoned from 30 miles away in Presidio to administer last rites over the body of Scalia, a staunch Catholic and defender of religious freedom on the high court, according to Diocese of El Paso spokeswoman Elizabeth O'Hara.
The resort sits in the middle of the Chihuahua Desert, 15 miles from Mexico, at the foot of the jagged Chinati Mountains and 150 miles southeast of El Paso. The nearest town is Shafter, Texas, population 11.
The storied night sky is full of stars. Over the wide expanse of desert grasslands roam buffalo, wild pigs, mountain lions, Barbary sheep, elk and white-tailed deer. Bird hunts at the base of a bluff on the property include pheasant and chukar shoots, white-tailed dove and blue quail. The hotel's weapons room provides an "array of rifles, pistols and shotguns, including fine-quality Spanish side-by-sides, and plenty of ammunition," according to the ranch website.
It was not immediately clear if Scalia traveled to the ranch alone or in a party, and whether he took part in the hunting excursions.
Front desk receptionist Elena Marquez declined to comment Saturday on whether Scalia had been a frequent visitor to the five-star resort, but said "people who come here do so because it's pretty far from any other place." Rooms start at $395 and range up to $800, she said.
Milton Faver, a trader who became one of the most prominent cattle barons of Presidio County, established the ranch in Apache and Comanche Indian country during the 1850s, and built a series of forts to retain the land as his.
Houston-born millionaire John Poindexter, a Vietnam veteran and self-published military historian, bought and restored the antebellum forts spread over 30,000 acres to become luxury accommodations. Since the 1990s, Poindexter has kept a private home on the ranch.
The resort is 32 miles from Marfa, an artist mecca of about 2,000 made famous as the setting for the movie "Giant."
Actors Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Rock Hudson took Marfa by storm during the summer of 1955 to make the Texas saga about cattle and oil.
"No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood" were also filmed there.
Other famous guests have included rock icon Mick Jagger and actors Julia Roberts and Tommy Lee Jones.
The resort offers its guests a private landing strip for airplanes.
A gray hearse was seen at the entrance on Saturday accompanied by an SUV. The two-car caravan pulled out onto U.S. highway 67, which runs between wide stretches of dry, ochre winter fields. A man sat guard near a brown stone wall at the entrance to the ranch, the West Texas mountains rising in the background.