Old West outlaw William Bonney, aka “Billy the Kid,” was famously shot by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner, New Mexico on July 14, 1881. He was buried in the Old Fort Sumner Cemetery alongside Tom O’Folliard and Charlie Bowdre, two members of the Kid’s gang, who had both been killed by Garrett’s posse in 1880. The Kid’s individual grave marker, which wasn’t placed until 1940, has been stolen and recovered twice. It is presently in shackles inside an iron cage.
There are those who believe that the person buried in Fort Sumner isn’t the real Billy the Kid, but an impostor. Numerous claims have been made, but two possible other Billy the Kids are Ollie “Brushy Bill” Roberts (buried in Hamilton, Texas) and John Miller (buried in Prescott, Arizona, where he died in 1937).
John Miller’s remains were exhumed in 2005. DNA was gathered from two corpses buried next to each other — researchers were unsure at first which of the two was the body of John Miller. DNA samples from these exhumations were to be compared with bloodstains from a bench where the Kid’s body was laid after he was killed in Fort Sumner. But so far the results of any comparisons with Miller’s DNA have not been released to the public.
The same team had also wanted to exhume the bodies of the Fort Sumner Billy the Kid, and the Kid’s mother Catherine Antrim, who is buried in Silver City, New Mexico. But officials in Fort Sumner and Silver City have successfully blocked these exhumations. For more details on the search for Billy the Kid see: A New Billy the Kid? The mad search for the bones of an American outlaw icon has come to Arizona. Despite the impostor theories, many historians believe the real Billy the Kid died and was buried in Fort Sumner.
Photographs by Joe Beine, 17 October 2007, Fort Sumner, New Mexico