The question of whether Brushy Bill Roberts could really be the outlaw known as Billy the Kid may be laid to rest once and for all.
But only after Roberts’ body is taken from its grave in Hamilton Cemetery.
The question might finally be answered thanks to modern day forensic science and an old wooden workbench.
New Mexico Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett was supposed to have laid the bleeding body of William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid, on a workbench belonging to Pete Maxwell after he shot and killed “The Kid” on July 14, 1881.
Now, Lincoln County Sheriff Deputy Steve Sederwall has asked Hamilton City Council members for permission to exhume the body of Roberts, aka Brushy Bill, who died of an apparent heart attack on the streets of Hico a couple of days after Christmas in 1950. Roberts claimed to be Billy the Kid and many historians have confirmed and disputed the fact and documentaries on the subject are abundant.
Sederwall said he tracked down the workbench still in the Maxwell family in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Even after 125 years, Sederwall said luminescence tests showed blood patterns consistent with a chest wound.
“The pattern went all the way across the table and underneath where it soaked through,” Sederwall said. “The test picked up blood on both sides of the table and showed to be human blood.”
The Council tabled the matter until the May 10 meeting and asked Sederwall to provide verification that the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department in New Mexico has authorized his investigation and to provide information regarding the lab that will be used to examine the remains, according to Hamilton City Manager, Bill Funderburk.
When Funderburk was asked how he felt about the exhumation, he said, “Personally I would like to know - I guess we’d all like to know.”
Sederwall is investigating the murders of sheriff’s deputies James W. Bell and Robert Ollinger who were killed during a courthouse shootout on April 28, 1881 by Billy the Kid.
Sederwall said over the years many people have claimed to be Billy the Kid but through his investigation, he has narrowed down the claims to three. A man named John Miller who died in a pioneer old folks home in Arizona in 1936, Roberts, or the fellow who is in the grave at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, laid to rest under the name of William Bonney along with two of his friends.
Roberts claimed the man killed, thought to be Billy the Kid, was someone named Billy Barlow. And that is who is in the grave at Fort Sumner.
Sederwall said Miller’s story was amazingly similar to Robert’s.
“If they are smart they (Hamilton officials) are going to say yeah, go ahead,” Sederwall said. “It’s a no-lose situation. We’re open with this and there’s enough evidence for us to come and look. We want the truth and we believe Hamilton wants the truth.”
Sederwall said if DNA is allowed to be obtained from Roberts then investigators will pursue exhuming the body of Catherine McCarty Antrim, an aunt of Robert’s that raised him. He has already obtained Miller’s DNA.
Sederwall said Fort Sumner officials have fought investigators in court to keep them from obtaining DNA from the Billy the Kid grave located there.
In a quote to MSNBC news on Nov. 18, 2003, Fort Sumner Mayor, Raymond Lopez, said, “This is an industry for us,” Lopez said. “It’s no different from Intel, or Sandia Labs or Kirkland Air Force Base. It’s that big for us. We don’t have much to live off of other than the legend, so we have to protect it.”
Sederwall said if the DNA from Roberts matches DNA from Antrim then the link will be formed for confirming Roberts as the real Billy the Kid.
Historians, Sederwall said, have already researched and confirmed that Antrim was Billy the Kid’s mother.
If her DNA matches the blood found on the workbench then Billy the Kid will be confirmed as the person who laid on the bench. Antrim’s DNA will also be compared to Miller’s and if it’s a match then Miller will be confirmed as Billy the Kid.