The legend of western outlaw “Billy the Kid” continues to thrive, with more theories on his life and death than Elvis sightings.
Can DNA from two human beings be separated from one source for testing after 125 years?
Private investigator Steve Sederwall thinks so.
Sederwall, a former Lincoln County New Mexico sheriff’s deputy, tracked down the workbench that held the young gunslinger’s lifeless body after he was shot by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett on July 14, 1881.
Some believe Garrett shot a young man named Billy Barlow, and that the real Billy the Kid got away. Those same believers also think it is Barlow who is buried in Billy the Kid’s grave in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
What has not been reported are the results of the DNA test from the blood found on the bench. Many Billy the Kid historians have been anxiously awaiting a comparison to John Miller.
Miller was among many who claimed to be Billy the Kid. He died in a pioneer old folks home in Arizona in 1936. Sederwall and his partner, former Lincoln County Sheriff Tom Sullivan, exhumed Miller’s body and obtained his DNA a couple of years ago.
What has not been publicized until now is that testing revealed the bench holds blood samples from two individuals, not one, Sederwall said. And from an investigator’s standpoint, one of those two people was laid on the bench with a heart still pumping because the amount of blood was profuse. In other words, one of the individuals was still alive when they were placed on the bench.
What does this mean? Well, if tests reveal a match to Miller, it means that at some point he was lying on the table bleeding extensively. And remember… he did claim to be the Kid.
Sederwall said examination of Miller’s body showed old injuries and protruding front teeth and a jaw line that matched the Kid’s.
Sederwall said the process of separating two samples is cutting edge technology.
“It’s like looking through two negatives of a photograph of two different people,” Sederwall said.
Sederwall said the DNA testing is being done pro-bono and could take a long time for final results to be complete.
“A hot case can take as long as eight or nine months to get results,” Sederwall said. So he’s not surprised at the long wait.
But Sederwall remains confident they will someday get answers and the two samples will be separated.
“After all,” he said, “The DNA of three human beings was confirmed on the spear of the Iceman.”
Are the investigators still interested in digging up Brushy Bill Roberts in Hamilton for DNA testing? No.
Find out why in Monday’s edition of the Empire-Tribune.
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