Billy the Kid’s Tombstone Vandalized by Thieves, Relics Stolen

Billy the Kid’s tombstone has been vandalized, well over 100 years after the famous gunslinger met his maker.

Billy the Kid’s tombstone bore the name William Bonney, as well as his better known, colloquial name “Billy the Kid,” but the famous American frontier outlaw was actually born with the name William Henry McCarty, Jr. However, of all those names, American history will only really recognize Billy the Kid, who was a notoriously deadly shot before he even hit his twenties.

Legend has it that Billy the Kid was born in New York, but by his very late teens, had been making his way across the American frontier. And though he is said to have killed anywhere from between 15 to 26 men, he didn’t live very long to do it.

By the time he was 21, Billy the Kid had been condemned to hang for his crimes — but managed to elude death by eventually killing both of his guards and escaping. Just months later, however, he was killed in the night, somewhat ambiguously, and accounts of his death still vary widely.

So why is Billy the Kid’s tombstone still news more than 130 years after he roamed the frontier, basically an armed teenager? One surviving account of his character comes from Regulator Frank Coe, who spoke of Billy the Kid years later, saying:

“I never enjoyed better company. He was humorous and told me many amusing stories. He always found a touch of humor in everything, being naturally full of fun and jollity. Though he was serious in emergencies, his humor was often apparent even in such situations. Billy stood with us to the end, brave and reliable, one of the best soldiers we had.”

Billy the Kid

Coe continued:

“He never pushed in his advice or opinions, but he had a wonderful presence of mind. The tighter the place the more he showed his cool nerve and quick brain. He never seemed to care for money, except to buy cartridges with. Cartridges were scarce, and he always used about ten times as many as everyone else. He would practice shooting at anything he saw, from every conceivable angle, on and off his horse.”

No one knows who vandalized Billy the Kid’s tombstone, but Don Sweet runs the Billy the Kid museum in New Mexico and reports someone managed to tip the headstone over (a feat, as it weighs 2,000 pounds) and chip the concrete — the side bearing the famed gunslinger’s name is chipped off. Sweet, who says the “cemetery has never been bothered before,” says that the marker was not the only casualty — although it is more modern than the relics in the museum:

“It was bought in 1930, after MGM did a movie on Billy the Kid… The director and Johnny Mack Brown, the actor who played Billy, donated $150 for the headstone.”

Billy the Kid’s tombstone isn’t the only casualty of the recent criminal activity at the museum — Sweet also says that four antique guns were stolen by vandals sometime around June 16th as well.