Just because Steve Sederwall and Tom Sullivan turned in their badges as Lincoln County New Mexico sheriff’s deputies - don’t think the hunt for the real Billy the Kid is over - because it’s not.
Sederwall, who is the former Capitan mayor and a retired federal officer, said he and Sullivan, former Lincoln County sheriff, have been investigating the escape of William Bonney and the murder of deputies, James Bell and Robert Olinger, killed by the Kid (William H. Bonney) during a courthouse shootout on April 28, 1881.
The investigation has been ongoing for four years and has led to more questions than answers.
Answers that the investigators say they will continue to track down.
During the last few years, the investigation has generated so much publicity that the sheriff’s office in Lincoln County has been dealing with a deluge of open records requests and what Sederwall refers to as “harassment.”
“The sheriff was getting a lot of mail and it was taking up too much of his time on this foolishness so we gave the badge,” Sederwall said. “It was just shutting down the office, causing all kinds of problems.”
Sederwall said he and his partner’s initial investigation was approved through the sheriff’s office and had a numbered case file, but was privately funded.
Then in 2006, in an effort to lessen the burden on the sheriff’s office, the official case was closed, but even that didn’t stop the problem, Sederwall said.
“Anyone that touched this case was filed on,” Sederwall said. “Now, we don’t have to be nice guys - we don’t have to play the game.”
Sederwall said their attempts to find out if the Kid survived the night of the shooting has been met with opposition.
“One man has but one life and one grave,” Sederwall said. “You can’t get around that. Both (Fort) Sumner and Hamilton have fought us. One or both are committing fraud by collecting and promoting tourism dollars. It’s a city sanctioned fraud.”
Sederwall said Chambers of Commerce, museums, and authors of books have all tried to stop the investigation. And he believes it’s because it will effect money in pockets should the truth come out.
At the same time, he believes Billy the Kid should not be judged by today’s standards because he lived in a different time under different circumstances. But, he does believe the truth of what happened to him should be known and he deserves a truly final resting place.
And there is really only one thing left that still bugs him about Brushy Bill Roberts who claimed he was Billy the Kid.
“From an investigator’s standpoint, his stuff just doesn’t pull together. But, he made a statement that he shot Bell while he was on his stomach,” Sederwall said. “And that is exactly what the forensics show.”
Was it a lucky guess on Brushy’s part?
We’ll let you be the judge of that.
ANGELIA JOINER is a staff writer for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 965-3124,ext. 238