Billy the Kid, the legendary Wild West outlaw, was shot dead by another western legend, Sheriff Pat Garrett — but his death in 1881 was never made official because no death certificate for “The Kid” was ever issued. Now, a professional historian at Arizona State University is aiming to square that deal.
Robert J. Stahl, a professor emeritus at ASU and longtime Billy the Kid enthusiast, has filed a 29-page petition with the district court in Fort Sumner, New Mexico — the municipality where Billy the Kid, who was wanted for the murder of a sheriff and deputy in Lincoln County, New Mexico, met his fate at the business end of Garret’s six-shooter.
In the petition, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper, Stahl gives a detailed account of the hard evidence supporting the fact that Garrett killed Billy the Kid, who also went by the name William Bonney, in exactly the way the historical legend says he did.
Billy the Kid was the original Elvis — in the 134 years since he died, his fans refuse to accept that he is, in fact, dead.
As recently as 2003, adherents to Billy the Kid conspiracy theories attempted to have Bonney’s body — whatever is left of it — exhumed to test his DNA against the DNA in his mother’s remains. Nothing came of it, but through the years, several individuals have claimed either that they know the real Billy the Kid, living under an assumed identity somewhere, or that they are the Kid himself.
The most famous was Ollie “Brushy Bill” Roberts, who in 1950 declared that he was, in fact, Billy the Kid — who would have been about 90-years-old at that time, had he actually lived. Roberts went as far as to request a pardon for “his” crimes from then-New Mexico Governor Thomas Mabry.
“By us issuing a death certificate, especially with overwhelming evidence that he did in fact die, it would mean all of these people who are impostors couldn’t have been Billy the Kid, because he died at about 12:30 a.m. on July 15, 1881,” Stahl said in an interview with ABC News. “There is overwhelming evidence. Too many people saw the body with the bullet.”
Billy the Kid, one of the most iconic figures of the Old West, was actually not a westerner at all, but a New Yorker. Born William Henry McCarty, he migrated west with his mother after the death of his father when the future outlaw was a teenager.
He arrived in Lincoln County in 1877, and though it would be just four years until Billy the Kid was dead, in a real if not official sense, it took him only that long to create a legend that, unlike himself, lives until this day.
[Image: Wikimedia Commons]