He had a number of alias's:
- Billy the Kid
- William H. Bonney
- Henry Antrim
He was a 19th-century American frontier outlaw and gunman who participated in the Lincoln County War . According to legend, he killed 21 men, but he is generally accepted to have killed between four and nine.
McCarty (or Bonney, the name he used at the height of his notoriety) was 5 feet 8 inches (173 cm) to 5 feet 9 inches (175 cm) tall with blue eyes, a smooth complexion, and prominent front teeth. He was said to be friendly and personable at times and many recalled that he was as "lithe as a cat". Contemporaries described him as a "neat" dresser who favored an "unadorned Mexican sombrero". These qualities, along with his cunning and celebrated skill with firearms, contributed to his paradoxical image, as both a notorious outlaw and beloved folk hero.
Relatively unknown during most of his lifetime, Bonney was catapulted into legend a few months before his death by New Mexico's governor, Lew Wallace, who placed a price on his head, and by stories printed in the Las Vegas Gazette ( Las Vegas, New Mexico) and the New York Sun Many other newspapers followed suit and published stories about Billy the Kid's exploits. After his death, several biographies were written that portrayed the Kid in varying lights.
Billy The Kid was shot and killed by Pat Garrett
He is played in the film 'Young Guns' by Emilio Estevez
As for the year 1859, the Kid’s childhood friends in Silver City claimed he was about twelve in 1873, while his friends George and Frank Coe, said he was about seventeen during the Lincoln County War in the early year of 1878, and Lily Casey, a Lincoln county resident, would say when she encountered the Kid in early November of 1877, he was barely sixteen. This indicates he may have been born in 1860-61, making his age of death nineteen or twenty. In The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid, the year 1859 may have been used to make the Kid twenty-one years old at the time of his death, so when Garrett killed the Kid, it would sound better to have him kill a man of twenty-one than possibly a youth still in his teens.
While the date remains a complete mystery, New York or Indiana have become the potential birth place. New York is the most convincing since his mother arrived there from Ireland and many who knew the Kid mentioned New York as his place of birth and following his death, newspapers around the country all stated he was born in New York, so obviously folks in that era knew something we don't.
Now what about his name? He is most famously known as William H. Bonney, but as a child, it was Henry McCarty. But was Henry, really his first name? When his mother, Catherine McCarty, remarried a man named William Antrim the family now had two Williams. So Catherine started calling her son by his middle name, Henry. Childhood friend from Silver City, Chauncey Truesdell, recalled, “Henry's first name was Billy, but they called him by his middle name to keep him from getting mixed up with his stepfather.”
The Kid had a brother named Joseph, and it’s been thought he was the older of the two, but records show he was the younger brother (for more on Joseph see the Antrim Family web page). It's also speculated and rumored that the two boys were "half" brothers. Fred Nolan, an authority on Billy the Kid and biographer of “The West of Billy the Kid,” came to a rather logical conclusion about the boys’ lineage. “At the time of the Kid’s death, not just one but several newspapers referred to Joe as his half-brother.” Then he adds, “We might have Mrs. McCarty, widow of Michael McCarty, who had been previously married to (shall we say) Mr. Bonney, who was Billy’s father. Bonney Sr. died (say, in New York, for want of better information), and his widow married a man named McCarty, with whom she went to Indiana or whom she met there; he was Joe’s father, but not Billy’s. McCarty died sometime before 1867 (let us say in Indianapolis, for want of better information), whereupon Mrs. McCarty, widow, starts to appear in Indiana directories. This theory (which of course is all it is) would accommodate Billy’s being the older brother and explain why later on, looking for a new alias, the Kid reverted to the most natural one of all.” (Page 5 in “The West of Billy the Kid”). From the time he was born till about 1870, the Kid left no trace of his life. All we know is that, in 1870, widow Catherine McCarty and her two sons arrived in Kansas, accompanied by her long time boyfriend, William Antrim. Mrs. McCarty opened a laundry service and bought and sold town lots to earn money. The widow was making a rather good living supporting herself and her sons, until a doctor diagnosed her with tuberculosis and told her to seek a warmer and drier climate.
Loading up her family and accompanied by William Antrim, she headed west to Colorado and then south to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where on March 1, 1873, in a Presbyterian church, Catherine married Antrim. After the wedding, the family headed south to Silver City in Grant County. The warmer climate there was hoped to benefit Mrs. Antrim’s health and the opportunities of mining would benefit her prospecting husband.
In early April the family arrived in the crowded city and were lucky to acquire a cabin in the quickly growing town. Mr. Antrim found work as a carpenter and a butcher, but spent most of his time prospecting and gambling. Mrs. Antrim took in boarders in their tiny cabin and sold homemade pies and sweet cakes to make ends meet. As for her boys, they ran with the other children in town, getting into harmless mischief until the school opened in January.
Most of the residents and children who knew the Kid as a youngster in Silver City remember him affectionately. Chauncey Truesdell remembers, “Henry was only a small boy, small for his age and kind of skinny.” Louis Abraham, another schoolmate and friend recalled, “He was just an ordinary boy, I don’t remember him doing anything bad, he was just a little mischievous." All denied the story of him killing a man who had insulted his mother and not to mention, there is no legal or newspaper record of such an incident happening.
As a youth, the Kid was slender, had small hands and rather girlish looking, so because of this stature he was a target for bullies and teasing, but what he lacked in size he made up in courage and a quick mind. He also had a wonderful sense of humor, always joking and laughing. He had a passion for music, singing and dancing. He was a well-behaved student in school and liked to read. He wasn’t a loud obnoxious brat like some of the other boys he ran with, but rather quiet and mild mannered. Not only his childhood friends, but also folks he would meet later in life, all agreed he was an easygoing, lighthearted fellow, loyal, courteous, and brave almost to the point of recklessness. Even his enemies admitted he had good qualities.
Up until this point, as Louis Abraham said, “he was just an ordinary boy,” but as fate would have it, the Kid’s life would turn upside down and never be the same again. Ever. Unfortunately, Mrs. Antrim’s health was deteriorating rapidly and she became bedridden. To make matters worse, her husband seemed to have deserted his family when they needed him the most and took to the hills for prospecting. On September 16, 1874, Catherine Antrim died. When her husband finally returned, he moved his stepsons to live with the Knight family. The boys continued their schooling, while their stepfather would come and go. In a matter of time, the boys were separated and bounced from one foster family to another. Bill Antrim relocated to Arizona and finally relieved himself from any parental responsibility to his stepsons and left the boys to fend for themselves. During this time the Kid took advantage of his freedom to do as he pleased without any parental supervision, but because he was on his own, he lacked money and so he began his career of crime. His first offense was stealing several pounds of butter from a rancher, which he turned around and sold to a merchant. The county sheriff, Harvey H. Whitehill found out and after a tongue-lashing, he let the Kid go with a warning.
It was a year after Catherine Antrim’s death and the Kid was now living at Mrs. Brown’s boarding house. To earn money, the thirteen or fourteen year old youngster washed dishes and waited on tables at the Star Hotel. He soon befriended a young man named George Schaefer, alias Sombrero Jack. He was a thief, drunk and gambler and would no doubt become a bad influence on the impressionable boy. At this time the Kid was looking poor and dressed in worn out clothes. Sombrero Jack had stolen a bundle of laundry from a Chinese launderer and since the Kid had no decent clothing, he gave the bundle to him, if he wanted to run the risk of getting caught with it. Mrs. Brown discovered the bundle hidden in a trunk in the Kid’s room and reported him to the sheriff. The Kid was arrested and locked in jail. The city newspaper, The Grant County Herald printed the story: “It’s believed that Henry was simply the tool of Sombrero Jack, who done the actual stealing whilst Henry done the hiding. Jack has since skinned out.” So, the Kid was left holding the bag, literally. Sheriff Whitehill was sympathetic towards the Kid and allowed him free run of the corridor for a limited time till his hearing before the courts. After only two days of confinement, the Kid escaped up the fireplace in the corridor and then fled to one of his foster families, the Truesdells. The Kid’s stepfather, Bill Antrim had gone to Clifton, Arizona for prospecting, so the Truesdells gave the boy some money and put him on a stage to Arizona. The boy had hoped to find refuge with his stepfather, but unfortunately when the Kid told him what had happened, Antrim responded with “If that’s the kind of boy you are, get out!”
The Kid was now alone and homeless in the Arizona desert. It was dangerous for an adult man to be alone in this hostile area, let alone a teenage boy. He wandered around and lived a hand-and-mouth existence. The Kid had trouble finding work because of his youthfulness and slender build, which made him unable to do a man’s job. He then met and went into partnership with a man named John Mackie, another thief who would influence the Kid. The duo began a career of stealing saddles and horses, particularly from the army in the Camp Grant area.
They were eventually caught and thrown into jail at Camp Grant, but the Kid escaped and fled. A few months later, he turned up again in the area. This naïve attitude of returning to the scene of a crime would be his downfall throughout his short life or because he was alone and vulnerable he was returning to familiar haunts and maybe looking for Mackie. Whatever the case, the Kid was back.
Probably after joining up with Mackie, the Kid had developed his famous nickname by which he would be forever known: “Kid.” It wasn’t only because he was one, but he certainly looked it. Because of that, a husky bully blacksmith at Camp Grant, named Frank “Windy” Cahill immediately took pleasure in picking on the Kid every time he saw him. Gus Gildea, who was working as a ranch hand, recalled the Kid having trouble with Cahill, “Shortly after the Kid came to Fort Grant, Windy started abusing him. He would throw Billy to the floor, ruffle his hair, slap his face and humiliate him before the men in the saloon.” Finally, the Kid had enough.
On August 18, 1877, the Kid had a run in with his tormentor at Atkins’s cantina. Cahill called the Kid a pimp and the Kid returned the insult by calling him a son of a bitch. Cahill then plowed into the Kid and wrestled him to the ground. Gildea recorded, “Windy threw the youth on the floor. He sat on him, pinned his arms down with his knees and started slapping his face. Billy worked his right arm free and managed to grasp his .45. Then there was a deafening roar. Windy slumped to the side as the Kid squirmed free.” After the Kid shot Cahill mortally in the stomach, he bolted out the door, mounted the nearest horse and skinned out. As it turned out the Kid rode off on a prized racehorse, but when he found another mount he sent the valuable animal back to its owner. Despite previous abuse and Cahill being much larger and getting the upper hand in the fight, the shooting was considered unjustifiable.
Now with a murder rap hanging over him, the young fugitive hightailed it back to New Mexico. He stopped shortly to visit his old friends the Knights and the Truesdell, but then he kept going. Once again, the Kid found himself alone and vulnerable. He headed to Dona Ana County near La Mesilla, where he joined one of the most notorious gang of rustlers and killers in the southwest, their leader was Jesse Evans and they called themselves “The Boys.”
Although Jesse Evans was captain of the gang, it was John Kinney, also known as King of the Rustlers, who coordinated the gang's rustling activities. The stolen cattle and horses were sold to those who didn’t ask questions, and no one was willing to risk their lives to stop the rustlers, including the law. But Colonel Albert Fountain, who at the time was editor of The Mesilla Valley Independent, was not only exploiting them in his paper, but also putting pressure on the law to do something. With the law finally cracking down on them, the gang eventually moved towards Lincoln County about 150 miles northeast of Dona Ana County. The Kid was now heading into the next chapter of his tragic story.young Kid Antrim heading for Lincoln County as a member of a rough gang led by Jesse Evans. Shortly after arriving, the gang became allies for the county’s dominating force, the L.G. Murphy & Dolan Co. and just in time too, because tensions were building between the Company and their new competition, John Tunstall. The Lincoln County War was not a range war, but it was built up of numerous feuds that had erupted involving other parties since the late 1860s. But the bitter feud between Englishman John Tunstall, against Irishman James Dolan was the most notorious and caused the most bloodshed.
Both Dolan and Tunstall had one objective, to form a monopoly in Lincoln County. But the Murphy & Dolan Co. had already established their enterprise, and they had the Santa Fe Ring, the county sheriff and now the “Boys” backing them up. In 1877 before the outbreak of the Dolan & Tunstall feud, Murphy became ill and went into a hospital in Santa Fe and would die of cancer a year later. This of course discredits the common belief that Murphy was the antagonist in the war against the Englishman, but in reality he was in a hospital bed dying. Instead it was Murphy's protégé, James Dolan, who took his place and became head of the faction. A native of Ireland, Dolan was a feisty young businessman and wouldn't tolerate anything getting in his way and most wouldn't dare to do so -but one man did. His name was John Tunstall, he was a young cocky newcomer who had a get-rich-quick scheme and believed he had the sophistication and brains to out wit these Westerners. He wrote home to his father about his plans:
“Everything in New Mexico that pays at all (you may say) is worked by a ‘ring’ there is the ‘indian ring’ ‘the army ring’ ‘the political ring’ ‘the legal ring’ ‘the Roman Catholic ring’ ‘the cattle ring’ ‘the horse thieves ring’ and half a dozen rings. It is necessary either to get into a ring or make one for yourself. I am at present at work making a ring.” He goes on to write, “I propose to confine my operations to Lincoln County, but I intend to handle it in such a way, as to get half of every dollar that is made in the county by anyone.”
Tunstall was not exactly a honest man struggling to start his own business in a corrupt town, but he too was as greedy as Dolan and wanted to form a monopoly; it was only the difference between who was going to out do the other. So with his father’s money and taking on attorney Alex McSween as a partner, Tunstall started his own ranch, opened a town store, and quickly became a thorn in Dolan’s side. Tunstall knew he was shaking a hornet's nest, because he built his store like a fort and hired gunmen as ranch employees, so he was expecting trouble, but he believed the law would protect him. Unfortunately for him, he didn't understand -until it was too late- that Dolan and the Santa Fe Ring were the law.
Dolan was already having financial problems with the Murphy & Dolan Company, which was on the verge of going bankrupt, and now with Tunstall’s competition and gaining support from the locals and from cattle baron John Chisum, it was creating a huge threat to his struggling enterprise. Dolan lashed out by getting McSween arrested on phony embezzlement charges and having Jesse Evans and his gang steal horses from Tunstall’s ranch. Tunstall struck back by exploiting Sheriff Brady for default in tax collecting in the editorial of the Independent.
Meanwhile, the Boys were getting a bit much even for the Kid, and at one point he separated himself from the gang and met some of the locals, such as the Jones family and two cousins, Frank and George Coe. The Kid’s relationship with Jesse Evans was getting rocky and some members of the gang didn’t like having a kid tagging along, particularly Bill Morton, who bullied and kicked the Kid out of camp one evening -as the story goes, the Kid was getting too friendly with Morton’s girl. The Kid then bounced back and forth from the Boys and the Jones family, until he was arrested and charged with the theft of Tunstall’s horses and thrown in the town jail, which was nothing more then a hole in the ground.
John Tunstall knew the Kid was a member of Evans’s gang and after meeting the boy in confinement, instead of pressing charges, he offered the Kid employment. It was either out of pity or plans to use him as a witness against the rustlers (or a little of both). The Kid knew he was no longer welcomed by the gang and had nowhere else to go, so he took Tunstall up on his offer. The Kid was released from jail and hired on. The 17-year-old teenager hoped this was a new beginning for him, so he was now going by a new name, William H. Bonney.
This vagabond youth, who had no where to fit in since his mother's death, now finally found his niche. He was welcomed aboard and immediately clicked with his new friends. George Coe would later remember, “He was the center of interest everywhere he went, and though heavily armed, he seemed as gentlemanly as college-bred youth. He quickly became acquainted with everyone, and because of his humorous and pleasing personality grew to be a community favorite.” George’s cousin Frank, would also remember, “He was about seventeen, 5ft 8in, weight 138lbs and stood straight as an Indian, fine looking lad as ever I met. He was a lady’s man and the Mexican girls were all crazy about him. He spoke their language well. He was a fine dancer, could go all their gaits and was one of them. He was a wonder, you would have been proud to know him.” Dolan was getting frustrated. He was doing everything he could to get rid of John Tunstall, from bad-mouthing him, threatening him (even pointing a gun in his face), rustling his livestock and had the sheriff levy his property for McSween’s debts, who was just released from jail on bond, but it still wasn’t driving the Englishman away. Tunstall knew his rights and it made him more determined to fight back, unfortunately, Tunstall’s stubbornness and holding out would cost him dearly, including all of those around him.
On February 18, 1878, Sheriff Brady sent Deputy Bill Mathews and a posse to Tunstall’s ranch to attach the cattle in the embezzlement case against McSween. Tunstall would allow them to take the cattle, but not his horses. So Tunstall, and a handful of his men herded the horses to Lincoln. Upon arriving at Tunstall’s ranch, Deputy Mathews then formed a sub-posse led by Bill Morton to go after Tunstall and the horses. Among the posse, was Jesse Evans, Tom Hill, Frank Baker, and George Hindmann. Ironically, half the men who rode with the posse were members of the Boys and were wanted outlaws.
In the afternoon, the Tunstall group rode towards a canyon. The Kid and John Middleton rode drag about 300 yards behind pushing the horses, while Tunstall, Brewer, and Rob Widenmann led the way. A flock of wild turkeys got the attention of Brewer and Widenmann. Pulling out their rifles, they loped after them, leaving Tunstall alone. Suddenly, the Kid saw the posse galloping towards. While the Kid spurred his horse forward to warn Brewer and Widenmann, Middleton rode towards Tunstall and yelled out, “For God’s sake, follow me!” as he and the others all headed for cover behind some rocks. “What John…what?” was Tunstall’s last words.
The posse of outlaws easily caught up with John Tunstall and shot him down in cold-blood. The following day Brewer and the Kid swore out affidavits to Justice of the Peace J. Wilson, who then issued warrants for the assassins. Constable Martinez deputized the Kid and Fred Waite to aid him in serving the warrants against the men, who were at Dolan’s store. When they walked in Sheriff Brady was present and refused to permit the arrest of his men. Instead he took the constable and his two deputies prisoner. The men confiscated their weapons, including a Winchester rifle Tunstall had given the Kid and cursed and abused them. After a couple of hours, only Martinez was free to go. The Kid and Fred Waite were released two days later and had missed out on Tunstall's funeral, so the story of the Kid swearing revenge over his employer’s grave at the funeral is just myth.
Wilson then deputized Brewer, who formed his own posse called the “Regulators.” One of the first members he recruited was the Kid, who prove himself to be a very dependable solider due to his loyalty and fighting capabilities. Frustrated by Sheriff Brady’s interference and Governor Axtell turning a blind eye to what was going on in the county, the Regulators were unable to do things the "law way" and had no choice but to fight fire with fire.
First, Bill Morton and Frank Baker were killed (possibly execution style) after surrendering to the Regulators, who rightfully believed that if the prisoners were turned over to the sheriff, they would be released. During the killing, they also shot William McCloskey, who was on friendly terms and sympathetic towards Morton and Baker and who may have been a spy. Then six Regulators, including the Kid, ambushed and killed Sheriff Brady and his deputy George Hindmann. The Kid would later confess to Mrs. McSween, that he was aiming at Deputy Bill Mathews, who narrowly escaped the shooting. The Kid felt Mathews was most responsible for Tunstall’s death by sending the sub-posse to go after them and that Mathews knew there was going to be a killing, which explains why most of the men in that sub-posse were murderous outlaws. But instead, Mathews got the last laugh when the Kid stepped out in the street to reclaim his rifle, which lay next to Brady's corpse, and leveling his rifle at the Kid, Matthews fired, but the bullet only clipped the Kid in the hip.
Soon afterwards another Dolan gunman fell victim, Buckshot Roberts, but not before he killed Dick Brewer and wounded two others; even the Kid was grazed in the arm by a bullet. Though Charlie Bowdre gave Roberts his fatal wound, the Kid would be blamed for it.
Now it was Dolan’s turn to draw blood with the help of Colonel Dudley and the Fort Stanton Army. The Kid and several Regulators, along with Alex McSween, were trapped and surrounded in McSween’s home in Lincoln by Dolan’s men and soldiers and after a five-day siege, the house was set on fire. Alex McSween fell in despair, and the other men started to panic. The Kid, up until that point, was a follower, but now he stepped forward and took leadership. The plan was that he and four others would make a break out the back door and run towards Tunstall’s store through a gate on the east side of the yard and drawing the line of fire to them. Meanwhile, McSween and the others would run to the rear wall, through a back gate and lose themselves in the dark by the river.
It was about 9 o’clock at night when they made their move. The Kid would recall that the flames from the fire “made it almost as light as day for a short distance around.” The Kid led his group towards Tunstall’s store as planned, but were met by gunfire coming from the store, so they made a quick dash for the river to meet the others. Meanwhile, McSween and his group ran for their lives towards the back gate and they too received a volley of bullets. It was pure pandemonium, guns blazing from all around and men falling dead or wounded. When the smoke cleared, the war was over.
After the shooting, McSween and four other Regulators were dead. On the Dolan side, they lost one man named Robert Beckwith, whose death was pinned on the Kid, even though he was no where near him and was fleeing in another direction. Following the aftermath, the victors got drunk and looted Tunstall’s store, while the Kid and the survivors slipped away into the darkness.
The Kid had hoped for a better future by joining Tunstall’s side, but now it was blowing away with the ashes from McSween’s house. The only future he had now, was to be the whipping boy for this senseless war. Out of everyone who fought in the Lincoln County War, the Kid would be the only one punished. From here on out, he would be a wanted man.
The Kid and what was left of the Regulators wandered in the hills on foot, until they stole some horses and made their way to San Patricio, a small Mexican village fourteen miles south of Lincoln. After lying low for about two weeks to avoid capture from the new sheriff, George Peppin, the Regulators rode to the Mescalero Apache Reservation Agency near Blazer’s Mill. Aside from themselves, they also had three Mexicans with them, one of them was the former constable, Atanacio Martinez. While the Kid and the Regulators headed to a spring to water their horses, the Mexicans continued down the road towards the Agency. The Mexicans then encountered some Mescalero Indians, who figured they were there to steal their horses at the mill and started to shoot at them. Indian agent Fred Godfrey and his clerk Morris Bernstein heard the shooting, Bernstein, without delay, mounted a horse and galloped to where the shooting was coming from. Antanacio would later say that Bernstein had fired at him, and in self-defense he fired back, killing Bernstein.
Meanwhile at the spring, the Kid and the others dismounted to water their horses when suddenly the gunfire broke out. The Kid’s horse reared up and pulled away, leaving the Kid without a mount. George Coe pulled the Kid up behind him on his horse and the Regulators took off. Then taking advantage of the commotion, they rode around towards the corrals, and while the Kid was getting himself a new horse, the others opened the gate and made off with all the agency’s horses and mules. Though Antanacio would later turn himself in and admit to killing Bernstein in self-defense, the Kid, who never even fired a single shot, would once again be blamed for another killing he had nothing to do with.
The Regulators rode north to Fort Sumner, an old army fort turned into a Mexican village, which would become like a home to the Kid. The Regulators lived the life of riley by dancing at bailes, carousing and visiting with pretty senoritas. But as time passed, the Coe cousins and Fred Waite were tired of dodging the law and wanted to settle down, so they quit the Regulators. The Kid, on the other hand, wasn’t yet tired of his wild ways, so he and the remaining Regulators went back to Lincoln.
After taunting and intimidating his enemies in Lincoln, the Kid and his gang raided Fritz Ranch and made off with some horses. They then headed to the Texas Panhandle and sold the horse at Tascosa, Texas. The Tascosa residents didn’t seem to care about the gang’s presence, as long as they behaved themselves and didn’t cause any trouble. The Kid settled right in at Tascosa, and much as he did in Fort Sumner, he partied every night, courted the ladies, and competed in target shooting and horse racing. While the Kid was whooping it up in Tascosa, things in Lincoln weren’t faring any better. Residents were pleased to see Governor Axtell finally replaced by a new governor, a retired general named Lew Wallace, but all hell was still breaking loose. John Selman formed a ruthless gang called “The Rustlers” which consisted of the most dangerous badmen in the territory; most of them being former members of the Boys. The Rustlers went on a rampage of raiding and burning down ranches, killing anyone who got in their way, and even gang raping two women and shooting two young Mexican boys just for the hell of it. When someone brave enough to ask who they were, they yelled out “We are devils just come from Hell!” This gang had far surpassed anything Billy the Kid and his gang had ever done, yet history tends to forget about the “Rustlers” and brand the Kid as the sole terrorist of New Mexico.
The Regulators broke up in Tascosa, and the Rustlers left Lincoln County and would eventually split up as well. As for the Kid, he and his long time sidekick Tom O’Folliard returned to New Mexico and Lincoln County. It had been less then two months since the Kid was in Lincoln, and things had actually started to quiet down. The new governor had offered an amnesty proclamation in hopes to smolder out what was left of the Lincoln County War. Since everyone else was being forgiven and able to settle down, the Kid didn’t see why he couldn’t. By now the Kid was tired of running and wanted to square himself with the law and his enemies. The Kid knew he didn’t qualify for Governor Wallace’s pardon, so he decided to clear himself with his adversaries. So with good intentions he put out a peace offer to James Dolan and Jesse Evans.
On February 18, 1879 both sides of the Lincoln County War met for a parley. After a tense moment instigated by Jesse Evans, who wanted to kill the Kid on the spot, both sides calmed down and talked it out. While this was happening, Sheriff Kimbrell (who had replaced Peppin) hightailed it to Fort Stanton to get military assistance to arrest the Kid. In the meantime an agreement was finally made between the two sides: neither party will kill any member without first giving notice of withdrawing from the treaty, all persons who have acted as friends are included in the agreement and are not to be molested, no officer or soldier are to be killed for any act previous to the date of the agreement, neither party shall testify against the other, each party must aid the other in avoiding capture or help in their escape, and lastly, anyone who failed to carry out or break the agreement would be killed on sight. After a round of handshakes and swearing to the treaty, the two sides went to celebrate at every saloon in town.
The hour was late and the men were drunk as they staggered from one tavern to the next, residents stayed out of their way but watched from a distance, and it seemed everyone anticipated what was going to happen next. The men then came upon Mrs. McSween’s attorney, Huston Chapman. Mrs. McSween was going after the Dolan faction and Colonel Dudley for the death of her husband, which made not only her, but also Chapman a target. Dolan and his men stopped the attorney on the street and began to harass and threaten him. The Kid, who was probably the only sober one in the group, sensed a killing and witnesses would later report, he tried to walk away, but Jesse Evans blocked him and made him stay. Bill Campbell, a friend of both Evans and Dolan, pulled out his gun and pointed it at Chapmen. Dolan too, pulled out his gun and then fired it in the ground at Chapman. Campbell then reacted to the sound and pulled the trigger of his gun, shooting Chapman in the chest and killing him. The Dolan men then poured whiskey over his body and set fire to it and walked away rejoicing. The Kid and Tom O’Folliard had no choice but to follow the men to a restaurant. While eating oysters, Dolan suggested that one of them should go back to Chapman’s body and put a gun in his hand, so they could say that the shooting was in self-defense. The Kid was anxious to leave this group and eagerly volunteered. But once outside, the Kid did nothing of the sort, but instead he and O’Folliard immediately mounted their horses and skinned out.
Outraged by the cold-bloodied killing of the attorney, Governor Wallace went to Lincoln to oversee the arrest of the killers. While talking with residents about the incident, he learned the Kid was a front row witness to the murder, so Wallace put out a warrant for his arrest. The Kid learned that Wallace wanted him, so he figured this may be an opportunity to right his wrong and square himself with the law. If he could get on the side of the governor, who needed him as a witness to convict Chapman’s killers, he could make a deal for amnesty and finally settle down. But by testifying he would be breaking the treaty with his enemies, which was punishable by death. This would be the biggest gamble of his life, but the reward would be well worth it. On March 13, 1879 the Kid wrote to the governor and offered to testify against Chapman’s murderers in exchange to have his indictments annulled. The governor wrote back inviting the Kid to meet with him. In his letter to the Kid, he wrote, “I have authority to exempt you from prosecution if you will testify to what you say you know,” and he closed with: “If you could trust Jesse Evans, you can trust me.”
On March 17th, the Kid met the governor in Lincoln. During the meeting, Governor Lew Wallace made the promise the Kid had hoped for. The governor stated clearly, that if the Kid testified in court, that “in return for you’re doing this, I will let you go scot-free with a pardon in your pocket for all your misdeeds.” The agreement was made. The Kid would submit to a fake arrest, testify against Chapman’s killers, James Dolan and Colonel Dudley, for a full pardon. A couple days later, the Kid and Tom O’Folliard surrendered to Sheriff Kimbrell as planned and were confined at Patron’s store. The governor interviewed the Kid by asking him about the Rustlers’ hideouts and about the rustling activities in the territory. The Kid held nothing back and told everything that Governor Wallace wanted to know.
The following month the Kid began his court appearances, but due to the fact that Judge Bristol and prosecutor William Rynerson were Dolan men, the defendants were either pardoned under the governor’s proclamation or acquitted. Surprisingly O'Folliard was even given amnesty, but the Kid wasn't so lucky. The Kid's enemies were dead set on not letting him get away. The biggest threat to the Kid was prosecutor attorney William Rynerson, who not only wouldn't go along with the governor's bargain with the Kid, but got a change of venue to Dona Ana County for the Kid's trial. So instead of being tried in Lincoln where the Kid would be acquitted, he would be put on trial in a very bias courtroom where he didn't stand a chance. But that wasn’t the Kid’s only problem, the governor wasn’t making good his promise of a pardon, probably due to the lack of cooperation from Rynerson, so left the Kid to his fate, while he went back to Santa Fe to finish his book Ben Hur. After all, to Wallace, the Kid was just an outlaw -so who cares? The Kid had been used and taken advantage of. He risked his life to carry out his end of the deal, told the governor and the courts everything they wanted to know, and helped Mrs. McSween by testify against Colonel Dudley for the death of her husband. Now his enemies were more furious with him than before and would do anything to see him dead. Although he was of help to others, no one came to his aid -the Kid felt betrayed and knew he was left to fend for himself. The guards at Patron’s store in Lincoln understood the Kid's predicament and didn't stop him when he and O'Folliard simply walked out and left. The Kid had hoped for a new start, but like always, it backed fired on him and now he was right back where he started...a wanted man. The Kid returned to his old outlaw ways, as he had no choice, he couldn’t settle down and live an honest life since his enemies and the law were after him. While in Fort Sumner, the Kid was reunited with his old friends and former Regulators, Charlie Bowdre and Doc Scurlock. To get some much needed money, the Kid started rustling cattle from John Chisum’s herds. As the Kid saw it, he believed Chisum owed him fighting wages during the late Lincoln County War, but Chisum denied this, so the Kid just stole from his herds for the unpaid wages.
On January 10, 1880, the Kid was involved in his second “single handed” killing, and like Windy Cahill, he was another loudmouth bully that got on the Kid’s nerves, his name was Joe Grant. While the Kid was at a saloon in Fort Sumner, having drinks with Jim Chisum (John’s brother) and a couple of his cowboys, the Kid encountered a drunk who was trying to start trouble with him. Grant vowed that he would kill someone that night and the Kid had an idea who it would be. As the evening went on, Joe Grant was getting more obnoxious, then he noticed one of Chisum’s cowboys had a nice ivory hand revolver, so he took it and replaced it with his own. The cowboy knew better to contest it, but the Kid saw this as a chance to cover himself against the rowdy drunk. The Kid knew the cowboy had fired that gun earlier at a target, so he lifted Grant’s stolen gun out of the holster and pretended to admire it, as he was doing this he spun the cylinder so the hammer would hit the empty used shell, instead of a live one. Later when the Kid turned to walk out the door, Grant drew his gun and fired, but the gun only went “click.” Upon hearing the click, the Kid wheeled about, drew his gun and fired “BANG BANG BANG,” and Joe Grant was dead. The killing was dismissed as just another saloon fracas and the Kid was never charged.
By now the Kid was eighteen or nineteen (?) and had spent the last five years of his life wandering and running from the law. After he rode out of Lincoln, he was causing quite a stir stealing livestock and dabbling in counterfeiting. Though there were other outlaws and rustlers in the area causing just as much trouble or more, the Kid was singled out, thanks in part to his powerful enemies who wanted him dead. One of the ways the Kid was "singled out" was through the press, which exaggerated his outlawry and built up his notoriety by making him out to be much worse than he really was. The Kid was tired of this stressful lifestyle, so he decided to make one last ditch effort at clearing himself. The Kid wrote to attorney Ira Leonard (who tried to help him months earlier in Lincoln to get his pardon), asking if he could help him once again to “straighten things out.” Leonard sent him a note that there was still a chance and for him to meet him in White Oaks in Lincoln County.
About this time, when the Kid was contacting Leonard, a tall lanky man by the name of Pat Garrett won the election for sheriff of Lincoln County. Garrett and Billy the Kid knew each other from Fort Sumner, where Garrett had worked as a cowhand for Pete Maxwell and then a bartender in one of the fort's saloons. Garrett did know the Kid and his friends reasonable well, and Garrett was also familiar with the outlaw ways; a matter of fact, since he knew the Kid’s hideouts and activities may suggest, that he could've rustled a time or two with the Kid. Since Garrett was running for sheriff and knew his first job was to capture or kill Billy the Kid, and also when the Kid learned that Garrett was running, he wasn't too happy about it and favored his opponent Sheriff Kimbrell (one would think that if Garrett was really the Kid's friend, he would've been glad to see him become sheriff, because then the Kid could get immunity from the law), so due to their attitudes towards one another may go to show that whatever friendly relationship existed between them was gone. It was now every man for himself.
The Kid arrived in White Oaks to meet with Leonard, but the attorney was not there, probably because the Kid was about six weeks late. The Kid learned he was in Lincoln, so he and his friends stocked up on supplies at a store (which they may not have paid for) and rode out. A posse from White Oaks, led by James Carlyle, went after the gang and snuck up on them at a camp. Gunfire broke out and the outlaws scattered and mounted their horse to make a break. The Kid’s horse was shot out from under him and he ran off on foot. Even though they were caught completely by surprise, the Kid and his gang miraculously got away.
Not for long though, four days later, the posse caught up with the Kid and his gang hiding out at a ranch owned by Jim Greathouse. The house was surrounded, so the Kid invited the posse's leader, Deputy Carlyle, to come in to talk things over. To guarantee his safety, Greathouse offered himself as a hostage to the posse and Carlyle went in the house. The Kid learned Carlyle had no warrants for their arrest and refused to surrender, he then told Carlyle he’ll have to stay and lead them out when they make a break at nightfall. The posse outside was getting anxious and notes were exchanged back and forth with Greathouse's partner, Fred Kuch, acting as the messenger. The lawmen then demanded that if Carlyle wasn’t released in five minutes, Greathouse would be killed.
What happened next is up for debate. Kuch and the ranch cook, Joe Steck were told by the posse to make for cover because the posse was going to rush the house. No sooner did the two men make a run for it, a single shot was fired followed by a window shattering and shadowy figure making a run for it, then there was a burst of gunfire. The sprinting man then fell dead -it was James Carlyle. The posse would later report that an accidental shot was fired from their side and then they saw Carlyle leap out the window and try to run from the house. The Kid then threw himself halfway out the window, took deliberate aim and shot the deputy in cold blood. Another claim made several weeks later, after the Kid’s capture, was by James Bell, who was a member of Carlyle’s posse that night, he said that Billy the Kid gang member, Dave Rudabaugh, confessed that both he and Billy Wilson (another gang member) fired one shot each and the Kid twice at Carlyle. But remember where this statement came from, did Rudabaugh really say that or was Bell trying to cover his butt? In a letter to the governor concerning the Carlyle incident, the Kid wrote that when Carlyle heard the gunshot outside, he thought Greathouse was killed and then dove out the window and was killed by his own posse. Since Kuch and Steck did say, “about 60-75 shots were fired at us, bullets flying from all directions,” that tells us that the posse was doing some trigger-happy shooting. After Carlyle was killed, the confused posse left and with the coast clear, the Kid and his gang rode out themselves. So why would the posse, who had the place completely surrounded and were getting ready to rush the house, suddenly ride off and leave Deputy Carlyle’s killers free to escape? It could only be for one reason, because they made a boo-boo and panicked. Nevertheless, the Kid is blamed for the shooting, and even to this day most believe that the Kid killed James Carlyle. In Jon Tuska’s book Billy the Kid: Life and Legend, he mentions, “Neither Wilson nor the Kid were ever indicted by the Lincoln County grand jury for this crime. The members of the White Oaks posse chose silence rather then risk exposure.” Because of the lack of evidence, it’s not fair to hold Billy the Kid accountable for this killing and he very well may have told the truth when he said: “(Carlyle) was killed by his own party, they thinking it was me trying to make my escape.”
After the incident at Greathouse’s ranch, the Kid and his gang headed back towards Fort Sumner. The Kid had enough and decided there was no chance to clear things up once and for all, but it was best just to leave the territory. The gang would go to Fort Sumner, get money and supplies and kiss New Mexico goodbye.
The new Lincoln County Sheriff, Pat Garrett, had plans of his own, he was heading for Fort Sumner too. Garrett was bent on capturing the Kid, not only for the money, but the fame of bringing in New Mexico’s most notorious outlaw. Time had run out for Billy the Kid.
It was December 18, 1880, for a short time Billy the Kid led Pat Garrett on a cat and mouse game, but finally the sheriff would catch up with the Kid. Garrett was at Fort Sumner looking for the Kid, but the Kid wasn’t there; he was hiding out at a nearby ranch owned by Tom Wilcox and Manuel Brazil. The Kid then received a note from a Fort Sumner resident saying that Garrett and his posse had left and were heading south to Roswell. The Kid and his gang mounted up and made the cold ride through the snow to Fort Sumner. What the Kid didn’t know was that he was riding into a trap, Garrett himself sent the phony note and was waiting in the shadows of the old Military hospital for the Kid to make his appearance.
As the Kid and his gang, which consisted of four members (Dave Rudabaugh, Tom O’Folliard, Billy Wilson and Tom Pickett,) rode towards the hospital, Garrett whispered, “That’s them” to his men and they opened fire. The lawmen thought the rider leading the way was the Kid and aimed for him, but it was O’Folliard; shot in the chest, he keeled over in his saddle, and didn’t follow when the Kid and the others rode hell bound for leather into the fog. It wasn’t much use to pursue the Kid in the dark and snowy weather, so the lawmen carried O’Folliard inside a room in the old hospital and laid him down on the floor, while the men played a game of poker. Tom O’Folliard, Billy the Kid’s best friend with whom he shared many adventures with, died.
The Kid and his friends rode back to Wilcox/Brazil’s ranch and got their wits back, ate a hot meal and then departed. The cat and mouse game resumed for another three days until one night Garrett tracked the Kid to a stone house in Stinking Springs. The lawmen waited quietly till dawn, until they heard movement and voices coming from inside the house. Garrett then instructed his men that when the Kid appeared, they were to open fire and kill him. Suddenly, a figure came out of the house. Garrett recognized the wide brim hat the Kid always wore and told his men to shoot. Once again, like that night at Fort Sumner, the men shot the wrong man. This time it was Charlie Bowdre. The wounded man wheeled back into the house, then after a few minutes later, Wilson yelled out that Bowdre was dying and wanted to come out. When Bowdre staggered from the house, he walked towards the men and collapsed dead in the snow.
The outlaws refused to surrender and even attempted to escape. Garrett noticed one of the horses was being reeled in through the door. The Kid’s plan was for them to get mounted on their horses, burst through the door and take their chances. The sheriff knew what he was up to and shot the horse dead, which then blocked the doorway. Now the men were really trapped. After their attempted escape, there was a standoff, but by the afternoon the hungry outlaws couldn’t resist the smell of food the lawmen were cooking over a roaring fire. The starving and cold outlaws then gave themselves up.
After a hearty meal, the lawmen and their prisoners packed up and headed back to Wilcox/Brazil’s ranch, where they spent the night. The next morning they headed out to Fort Sumner, where Garrett delivered the body of Charlie Bowdre to his wife, who went into hysteria and attacked the men. The prisoners were then taken to the blacksmith to be shackled. During this brief stay in Fort Sumner, the Kid supposedly gave his most prized possessions to posse members Jim East and Frank Stewart, with whom he became friendly with after his capture: to East he gave his Winchester rifle and to Stewart his beloved mare, said to be the fastest in the territory. Later that evening, saloon owner Beaver Smith had such a fit, saying the Kid owed him the rifle, that East reluctantly gave the it to him. Another more likelier version to the story concerning the Kid’s possessions, is that Garrett confiscated them and gave them to East and Stewart as payment for helping him with the pursuit. This would then explain later why the Kid try to file suit to get his mare back. The next morning, the prisoners were loaded onto a wagon and headed out for Las Vegas. On December 26th, the posse arrived and were greeted by curious onlookers who wanted to catch a glimpse of the famous outlaw called “Billy the Kid.” At the jail, the Kid and the other prisoners were treated to new clothes and the Kid was said to be in good spirits, playing to the crowd and chatting with a reporter.
One reporter wrote that the Kid “...has a bold yet pleasant cast of countenance. When interviewed between the bars at jail this morning, he was in a talkative mood, but said that anything he might say would not be believed by the people. He laughed heartily when informed that the papers of the Territory had built him up a reputation second only to that of Victorio. Kid claims never to have had a large number of men with him, and that the few who were with him when captured were employed on a ranch. This is his statement and is given for what it is worth.” Dave Rudabaugh backed the Kid's comments by saying that the papers had exaggerated the Kid's depredations in the country and that it wasn't as bad as reported.
After being interviewed by reporters and gawked at by spectators, Billy the Kid and his companions were put in a jail, described by one of the reporters as “a little hole in the wall,” for the night.
The next morning, the prisoners were hustled to the train depot, where they encountered a mob that was after Rudabaugh (he had killed a Las Vegas jailer several months earlier). But luckily no violence erupted and the train left without incident. At their destination in Santa Fe, the prisoners were taken to the city jail and locked up, and Garrett, who was through with his obligations, left for Lincoln County.
rom the moment he was captured, the Kid’s mind was working on saving his neck. He would try to do it through attorneys, the governor and escaping, but first on his agenda was try escaping. The Kid and his cohorts tried to dig their way through the dirt floor of their cell, but the guards found the hole and separated them. Unfortunately, the Kid got the worst of it; he was chained like a circus elephant and locked in a dark tiny solitary cell.
Next, he tried an attorney, Ira Leonard, who visited the Kid in jail but lost interest in helping him at that time and didn’t come back till weeks later. The Kid then tried Rudabaugh’s attorney, Edgar Caylpless, but the attorney wouldn’t represent him for free, so the Kid offered him his horse that Stewart now owned, which meant the attorney would have to file a suit for ownership of the mare. Caylpless too, lost interest in the Kid’s case.
The Kid then took pencil and paper, and wrote letters to Governor Wallace reminding him of his promise. The Kid did in fact stick to his end of the bargain, not to mention putting his life at peril, but the governor didn’t come through on his. Now it was too late. The governor would never pardon Billy the Kid, who had become too famous. The Kid was running out of options and couldn’t depend on anyone else but himself, and focused on one thing -escape.
On March 28, 1881, the Kid was removed from the Santa Fe jail, and taken by train to Mesilla, where he was to be tried for the killing of Sheriff Brady and Buckshot Roberts. When the Kid and the lawmen arrived at Rincon, just hours away from Mesilla (by coach), a mob confronted them. The lawmen didn't know if it was a rescue attempt or a lynch mob, so they told the Kid if the mob rushed them that he would be shot first (so much for being innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, here the lawmen were ready to make their own verdict). Most likely, by the description of the mood of the crowd, it was to lynch him. The next morning the Kid was loaded into a coach and made the trip to Mesilla, and arrived in one piece.
The first trial began on March 30th, with the bias Judge Bristol presiding and attorney Ira Leonard appointed to defend the Kid. The first case was the killing of Buckshot Roberts, which Leonard was able to get thrown out, stating that the murder took place not on federal land, but private and therefore, the government had no jurisdiction. The prosecution didn’t make too much of a fuss, they knew the Kid would be found guilty for the murder of Brady.
The following day, the Kid was tried for the death of the Lincoln County Sheriff, William Brady. Even though the Kid was one of six involved in the shooting of the sheriff, he was the only one to be indicted, and placed on trial. The Kid didn’t stand a chance in this courtroom. The judge dismissed attorney Leonard, because he was doing too good of a job defending the Kid, and replaced him with two unprepared attorneys, who had no sympathy for their client: John D. Bail and Albert Fountain (who was a supporter of the Santa Fe Ring and hated rustlers). To make matters worse for the Kid, there were prejudice witnesses testifying against him, including Bill Mathews, one of those responsible for Tunstall’s death. Yet, the Kid had no witnesses summoned to testify in his behalf. Then the judge put the final nail in his coffin, by telling the jury:
“If he was present, encouraging, inciting, aiding in, abetting, advising, or commanding this killing of Brady, he is as much guilty as though he fired the fatal shot. As to you what would or would not be a reasonable doubt of guilt, I charge you that belief in the guilt of this defendant to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt does require you to so believe absolutely and to a mathematical certainly. That is to justify a verdict of guilty it is not necessary for you to be certain that this defendant is guilty as you are that 2+2= 4. Merely, a vague conjecture or a bare possibility that the defendant may be innocent is not sufficient to cause a reasonable doubt of his guilt.”
In plain English, “if you do not find the defendant guilty, you’re all a bunch of idiots!” and that’s exactly what they did. On April 13th, the Kid was brought before the judge and was asked if he had anything to say. The Kid said no. The judge then sentenced the Kid to death on May 13, 1881 between the hours of 9 am and 3 pm. He would be taken to Lincoln for execution and hanged “by the neck until his body be dead.” But the Kid wasn’t about to give up just yet; his new attorney, Albert Fountain, was willing to appeal the case if the Kid could bear his expenses. When the Kid returned to his cell, he wrote a letter to Rudabaugh’s attorney, Edgar Caypless, concerning the suit for his horse. If he could regain possession, he would sell her and have money for attorney fees. Unfortunately, Caypless didn’t follow through. The Kid’s only hope now was his cunning abilities and lots of luck.
The day after being sentenced the Kid was loaded into a coach for the five-day journey to Lincoln, and again was told if there were a rescue attempt or a lynch mob, his guards would kill him first. There were seven heavily armed men in the escort, including Bill Mathews, John “King of the Rustlers” Kinney, and the burly Bob Olinger. All three fought on the Dolan side and were prejudiced against the Kid -Olinger in particular. The Kid and Olinger had a mutual hatred because Olinger shot John Jones, a friend of the Kid’s, in cold-blood. Afterwards, Olinger learned the Kid wanted to kill him in revenge. Their resentment for each other sparked the bitter animosity. During the long trip to Lincoln, Olinger took advantage of the Kid’s helpless situation by taunting and provoking him to escape. The Kid kept his sense of humor and ignored him. It was a tense trip. If the Kid so much as made a wrong move, his guards would have shot him, but sources say he remained in good spirits.
Finally on April 21st, the Kid arrived in Lincoln. There was no suitable jail, so the Kid was confined in a backroom adjoined to Garrett’s office in the old two-story Murphy store, which was now a courthouse. He was to remain handcuffed and shackled at all times and was either chained to the floor or a line was drawn across the room, which he was forbidden to cross or he would be shot. To eliminate any chance of escape, Garrett had two of his deputies remain with the Kid in the room as a 24-hour gurad; the two guards were Olinger and James Bell.
Any other prisoner would have given up hope and come to grips with his fate, but not the Kid! His mind was still at work on escaping, but time was running out. The Kid had to act fast on the first opportunity, but he had to wait patiently for the right moment. If he made the slightest wrong move or even looked as if he was thinking of escape, Olinger would split him in two with his shotgun, which he teased the Kid with everyday.
About a week after the Kid's arrival, Garrett had left Lincoln to collect taxes, leaving his two guards in charge. On April 28th, at noon, with only two lawmen in the whole town, the Kid saw his golden opportunity. He knew it was Olinger’s turn to take the other prisoners, who were also confined at the courthouse, across the street for lunch at the Wortley Hotel (the Kid ate his meals in his room), which meant only Bell would be at the courthouse to guard him. The Kid knew, out of his two guards, it would be best to make his move on Bell who was easy-going and not on a power trip as Olinger was. As soon as Olinger was long gone with the other prisoners and eating his meal, the Kid then made his move. The only time the Kid was allowed to leave the room was for visits to the privy (outhouse), so he asked Bell to take him outside.
What happened next is a subject for debate; one version, which seems the more popular, is that the Kid retrieved a gun that was hidden in the privy by a friend. As he entered the courthouse and climbed the stairs and reached the top, he turned around with the gun drawn and told Bell to surrender. Bell panicked and spun around to run down the stairs leaving the Kid with no choice but to shoot him.
The next version, which I find the most logical, comes from the Kid himself. After his escape, the Kid told his friend, John Meadows, whom he visited right after he left town a free man, that he slipped his small hand out of one of the cuffs, whacked Bell over the head and jerked Bell’s revolver out of the holster and told him to throw up his hands. But instead, Bell turned and ran down the stairs and the Kid shot him. This then explains the two gashes found on Bell’s head, the scuffling sound which was heard from the groundskeeper, Gottfried Gauss, who was standing outside by the door and caught the dying Bell as he rushed into his arms, and lastly, it explains why Bell just ran instead of pulling out his own gun and shooting as he fled. After all, Bell was a veteran lawman, and couldn’t have been that timid (or stupid).
At the restaurant, Olinger heard the shots fired and darted outside. As he rounded the gate into the yard of the courthouse, he heard a familiar voice, “Hello Bob.” he looked up and saw the Kid at the window with his own shotgun pointing right at him. At that moment the startled groundskeeper came running from behind the building, saw Olinger and yelled out, “The Kid killed Bell!” Olinger then replied, “Yes, and he’s killed me too.” The Kid then let Olinger have it with both barrels and his tormentor and killer of his friend John Jones, fell dead.
Next, the Kid had Gauss toss him up a small pick that was lying on the ground and told him to saddle a horse. The townspeople made no move to interfere as the Kid took his sweet time in leaving. After using the pick to free only one leg from the shackles, the Kid went out on the balcony and saw that a small crowd had gathered and was watching from from across the street; a witness’s statement of what the Kid said would verify how he killed Bell:
“He stood on the upper porch in front of the building and talked with the people who were in Wortley’s, but he would not let anyone come towards him. He told the people that he did not want to kill Bell, but as he ran, he had to. He said he grabbed Bell’s revolver and told him to hold up his hands and surrender and that Bell decided to run and he had to kill him. He declared he was ‘standing pat’ against the world and while he did not wish to kill anybody, if anybody interfered with his attempt to escape, he would kill him.”
After arming himself with revolvers and a rifle, he went down the stairs and out the back door. As he passed the body of Bell, Gauss heard him say, “I’m sorry I had to kill you, but couldn’t help it.” As the Kid went around the building to the gate, with Gauss probably following behind leading a saddled horse, the Kid came to the blood-soaked body of Olinger. Showing no remorse as he had shown for Bell, he kicked the corpse and said “You’re not going to round me up again!” The Kid mounted the horse with some difficulty on account of his leg irons that were dangling from one leg and rode off. The townsmen made no move to stop him, though they could have easily mobbed or shot him to death, but instead they stood back and allowed him to escape. It wasn't because they were “paralyzed with fear” as Garrett claimed, but more likely, it was out of sympathy and understanding of Billy the Kid's predicament.
Instead of making a run for the border, the Kid hung around in the county, dropping by on friends and telling them about his daring escape from jail as if he had just come back from vacation. His friends advised him to leave the territory, but the Kid was confident he wouldn’t get caught and he told them he would first go to Fort Sumner to get some money.
For the next two months the Kid hid out at different locations in San Miguel County, but mostly in Fort Sumner. There was a number of Billy the Kid sightings, but how many of them were legitimate is up for debate. One thing was for certain, the Kid had returned to his old haunts and was making no immediate plans of leaving New Mexico.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Garrett was doing a low profile search for the Kid. Unlike before, he wouldn’t form a large posse, nor would he even try to catch him alive. His plan was to sneak up on the Kid and kill him. By early July, Garrett received word that the Kid was in or near Fort Sumner and he may have gotten this tip from Pete Maxwell, the older brother of Paulita Maxwell, one the Kid’s girlfriends. Maxwell didn’t like the Kid around his sister, who was going to marry a prominent and wealthy figure in New Mexico. So with information on the Kid’s whereabouts, Garrett took John Poe and Kip McKinney with him; men he could trust to keep their mouths shut and not question his actions, and he headed to Fort Sumner quietly.
It was July 14, 1881. The Kid was warned that the law was looking for him in the area, so he hid out at a sheepherder’s camp. But by the afternoon or evening, he decided to ride into Fort Sumner. Garrett had searched the area and even sent Poe in town to look around; becoming frustrated, Garrett was thinking about leaving (or he knew the Kid was at the Fort and was just waiting for the right moment). The Kid, in the meantime, was hiding in town unaware that Garrett was in the vicinity; he visited with his friends and sweethearts, going from one house to the other, but where exactly and with who he planned to stay with for the night is questionable.
It was getting late and the residents were bedding down for the night, Garrett slipped out of the shadows and went to Pete Maxwell’s house to ask him about the Kid. While Poe and McKinney waited outside, Garrett entered Maxwell’s room and woke the sleeping man. At that moment, the Kid, who was staying at a friend’s house, was getting hungry. His host or hostess told him that Maxwell had butchered a yearling and for him to help himself to it, and then bring the meat back and they would cook it for him. The Kid grabbed a butcher knife and stepped outside and walked across the plaza to Maxwell's house. As he approached the porch, he almost stepped over the two men who were sitting down outside Maxwell’s room. The men rose and told the intruder not to be startled. The Kid didn’t recognize the men and backed into Maxwell’s dark bedroom. Once inside he walked over to the bed and in a low voice he said “Pete…Who are those fellows outside?” Garrett was sitting at the foot of the bed and Maxwell lay still and whispered, “That’s him.” The Kid walked closer to the bed and again asked “Pete?” then he saw the silhouette of a figure sitting in front of him. The Kid moved back slowly, and said “Quien es?” Garrett recalled in The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid, “He must have recognized me, for he went backwards in a cat-like movement, and I jerked my gun and fired.” Garrett fired twice, the Kid fell to the floor, and then both Garrett and Maxwell bolted out the door. The Kid was shot through the heart and gasped for a minute or two and died. The men outside huddled outside the door and heard the Kid’s death rattle. Certain the Kid was dead, Maxwell got a candle and the men entered the room. They found the Kid lying on his back in the middle of the room with a gun in one hand and a knife in the other.
The Kid’s body was prepared for burial, and at noon he was laid to rest next to his two friends: Tom O’Folliard and Charlie Bowdre.