Conchita's term: Link's ex draws three years

The ex-wife who bilked legendary railroad photographer O. Winston Link out of hundreds of thousands of dollars and– according to some sources, his freedom– was sentenced in late April to up to three years in a New York jail. Two months ago, Conchita Link Hayes pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal possession of stolen property. Edward Hayes, her new husband, also implicated in the scheme, drew a one-year term.

The case has long fascinated art lovers and rail buffs. O. Winston Link was a commercial photographer whose weekend hobby became an international sensation, as he captured the final days of America's last all-steam railroad, the Norfolk & Western.

Ironically, the final days of Link, who died in 2001, were dimmed by the ordeal of suing his ex wife after she allegedly stole a trove of photographs now worth millions. Some of Link's friends say she actually locked the elderly, arthritic artist in the basement of his own home.

While the allegations that she held Link in virtual imprisonment were never court-tested, evidence emerged at an earlier trial that Hayes had tried to steer galleries and collectors away from the artist in an attempt to control his finances.

In a related note, a trustee of Link's estate disputes the number of recovered prints listed in Hook articles and other press accounts. Salem Tamer, a retired art director living on Long Island, says the booty recovered from a Pennsylvania storage locker rented to Conchita Link Hayes includes just 37 of the 16-by-20-inch photographic prints and 77 20-by-24-inch prints. A count numbering into the hundreds had been provided by Dutchess County assistant district attorney Ed Whitesell, who did not return recent phone calls.

Tamer also disputes the notion that the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke will benefit from the recovery. Tamer, executor of Link's will, says the Museum is entitled to buy 275 prints for $408,000 as part of a $612,000 total contract to purchase material from the O. Winston Link Trust.

The January 10 opening of Roanoke's O. Winston Link Museum made front page news in the
Hook .