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City Detectives group, June 8, 1913

[Detail] City Detectives group, June 8, 1913

Become a Historical Detective: Answer

True or False? Was Billy the Kid really killed by Pat Garrett at Fort Sumner, New Mexico?

What evidence can you find to prove your answer? Are there any conflicting accounts of his death? Are there any conflicting accounts of his life?

There are many accounts of Billy the Kid's life and death in American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. What do you believe?

Cruz Richards Alvarez:
"Mr. Alvarez, " I said, " I always thought Billy the Kid was shot."
"He was, but that occurred after he escaped from the Lincoln jail."
"Escaped?"
"Yes, killing both of his guards. Prior to his incarceration, April 1, 1878, he killed sheriff William Brady and George Hineman. On July 15, 1881; Pat Garrett, the sheriff of Lincoln County and two deputies, discovered Billy the Kid at the home of Pete Maxwell; near Fort Sumner. The outlaw walked into Maxwell's bedroom and was shot by Garrett.

Dr. J.R. Carver:
"Of course, you are familiar with the Saga of Billy the Kid as told by the romantic and heroic writers, in whose writings there seems to be evidence that Billy the Kid was not killed by [Par?] Garrett, but that he lived to be an old man down near Marfia, Texas, and died only a few years ago.
"There are three reasons why so many people think that he was not killed, one is that his sister came out to see him and then did not go to his grave, but went direclly east. That his horse was never seen again, is another reason. Third, is that Pete Maxwell and Pat Garrett were his friends, and that a Mexican was buried instead of Billy the Kid , and that he Billy the Kid went down in Texas on the Rio Grande."

Francis Trujillo:
"In the meantime Pat Garrett was negotiating with Pedro Macky for the deliverance of Billy. When all details were arranged for, Pat left for Bosque Grande secretly. At the ranch house, Pedro hid Pat in a room close beside the one Billy was occupying.
"Becoming hungry during the night Billy got up and started to prepare a lunch. First he built a fire, then he took his hunting knife and was starting to cut off a hunk of meat from a large piece that hung from one of the VIGAS when he heard voices in the adjoining room. Stepping to the door he partially opened it and thrusting his head in asked Pedro who was with him. Pedro replied that it was only his wife and asked him to come in.
"Seeing no harm in this Billy decided to accept the invitation only to be shot in the pit of the stomach as he stood in the door. Staggering back to his own room it was not definitely known that the shot had been fatal until a cleaning woman stumbled over the dead body upon entering the room, the following morning.

Jose Garcia y Trujillo
"I don't want to dispute against you Senora, but in my mind which is the picture of my soul, I know it is not true. Maybe Pat Garrett, he give Billy The Keed money to go to South America and write that story for the looks. Maybe he kill somebody else in Billy's place. Everybody like Billy The Keed - su vista penetraba el corazon de toda la gentel - his face went to everybody's heart."

Search on Billy the Kid for more accounts of Billy the Kid, "... a tough customer, ruthless with his enemies, but generous to his friends, the native rancheros. His good looks, charming personality, and fine dancing won him the admiration of the younger set, who considered him a gay caballero. But he was a desperado, a gunman and a killer, who was sentenced to be hung, April 15, 1881." - Cruz Richards Alvarez

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