Billy's Smoke and Mirrors
SANTA FE - On New YearÂs eve last year, Sheriff Tom Sullivan and Steve Sederwall calling himself a Deputy Sheriff, filed the Billy the Kid Case murder investigation Probable Cause Statement in the Lincoln County SheriffÂs Department. It is the parent document used to try to dig up Billy and his mother to solve a supposed murder by Pat Garrett of an unknown cowboy, not Billy.
And IÂm trying to solve what those sheriffs are doing with their law enforcement time and budget, so I decided to look at it myself.
A probable cause statement gives legal reasons for arrest. Well, Garrett, the suspect, has been dead for 96 years. So if we leave out that a case doesnÂt exist, we are left with 13 questionable pages that have pieces of history, more footnotes than Perdue has chickens, and an affidavit. It left me with questions, so I went to the man recognized as the worldÂs pre-eminent Billy the Kid historian, Frederick Nolan of Chalfont St. Giles, England.
NolanÂs response was straightforward. The statement made no sense. He called it Âa shameful and semi-literate criminal investigation that indeed is criminal but not an investigation,Â and Âa charade foisted on the American people.Â
It begins by saying that ÂinvestigatorsÂ of the Lincoln County War learned that Ânothing was as it seemed.Â Sounds intriguing, except that Nolan would like to know the qualifications of these anonymous ÂinvestigatorsÂ, since no credible expert in the highly researched field ever said that. Next it claims Ânewly discovered evidence.Â Sounds good again, but thereÂs none to be found.
What follows should be a Âprobable cause,Â meaning evidence that Garrett killed another kid. But Nolan finds only a grab bag of facts which range from the murder of John Tunstall in 1878 to the shooting of Deputy Bell in 1881, which are Âtotally irrelevant to the question of whether Garrett shot Billy the Kid.Â Rather pathetically, there isnÂt even an attempt to answer the most obvious question of GarrettÂs motive. He certainly had one to shoot the real Kid. He was sheriff and deputy U.S. marshal and Billy was arguably the most notorious outlaw/murderer in the country.
Nolan notes that the ÂinvestigatorsÂ present only one fact: ÂOn March 23, Gov. Wallace met with William Bonney (Kid) in Lincoln.Â But Nolan discloses that it was March 17th. That leaves Âconsiderable doubt about their ability to handle facts.Â To say nothing of the fact that WallaceÂs meeting (in 1879) is irrelevant to the case at hand.
Nolan noted that the sheriffs Âmake much of the involvement of David S. Turk of the U.S. MarshalÂs Service.Â A search by Nolan produced only two books by Turk, both by an obscure press and neither having to do with Billy the Kid. Nolan calls TurkÂs involvement Âwindow dressing.Â
And the footnoted quotes either donÂt prove what they claim or are misleadingly out of context. Paco Anaya is quoted from his book to prove the body was not BillyÂs. Only problem is that he knew Billy well and the name of his book is I Buried Billy. And the Affidavit that ends the document is by a man who swore that in 1940 when he was nine, GarrettÂs widow told him Garrett didnÂt shoot the Kid. Unfortunately she died in 1936. Nolan also was incensed by a quote from historian Robert UtleyÂs book which just says that GarrettÂs book on the Kid had errors. Not only is that irrelevant to the case, but citing Utley out of context is nothing more than shameless name dropping, he says.
Nolan feels that saying Garrett did not shoot the Kid is so bizarre that it belongs in Âthe birthplace of the flying saucer legend.Â He contends, ÂThe entire document is either a hoax or a tissue of inventions and half-truths which cast serious doubt upon the motives and integrity of the Lincoln County SheriffÂs Department.Â He concludes, ÂThis is not history. ItÂs just smoke and mirrors.Â