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The Truth About The Billy the Kid Investigation

Lincoln County, New Mexico Deputy Sheriff Steve Sederwall and Webmaster Lucas Speer
standing in front of Brushy Bill Roberts' grave in Hamilton, Texas.

Since this cold case investigation began in 2003 it has once again caused nationwide interest in the story of Billy the Kid. Nearly everyone has an opinion on this subject and Lincoln County Sheriff's Deputy Steve Sederwall feels that it is way past time for people to hear what this investigation is really about. Mr. Sederwall has asked me to use this website at as a portal to share his inside insight into this highly publicized case with the interested public and all interested parties.

The Truth

By Steve Sederwall

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” - Arthur Schopenhauer.

A man is allotted one life, faces only one death and should be afforded but one grave. Voltaire said, “To the living we owe respect but to the dead we owe the truth”. An inescapable and undeniable fact is that Fort Sumner, or Hico, or both are making money from a lie perpetrated on the dead. What could be more disrespectful?

Both Kings and Presidents have been exhumed. King Tut has been hauled about the world with tickets sold. Abraham Lincoln’s face saw the light of day on September 26, 1901. But when it comes to a bandit with the ability to generate the kind of money the Kid has generated from books, museums, films, and grave sites, suddenly “it’s just not right”. Allow me to tell you what is not right, a fraud using the dead as a pawn.

“I am the great and powerful OZ” the voice boomed. Then the unthinkable, Toto pulled back the curtain to reveal the truth. Even with the truth revealed the man yelled even louder “but don’t look behind the curtain!” It’s time to look behind the Kid curtain. The great Wizard shouted his plea for us not to look; the same plea is heard associated with Billy the Kid. Whatever story is believed, be it Ft. Sumner’s, Brushy Bill or John Miller in an unmarked grave, if money is being made then that belief is coupled with the fear that the discovery of the truth might not be their truth. I give you the following examples;

“What will happen if no DNA from that grave site matches DNA from the Silver City site? How do we explain that? Might it be better to leave well enough alone?” - Jay Miller, Inside the Capital, July 25, 2003.

“Who cares? Who cares if its Billy the Kid buried in Fort Sumner or if it’s Brushy Bill in Texas? We might regret this if the DNA shows it’s not Billy the Kid. We could shoot ourselves in the foot.” - Silver City Town Councilman Steve May, in Special Counsel meeting October 10, 2003.

“I think it could have a truly negative impact if that’s not Billy the Kid over there” (Fort Sumner) - Silver City Town Councilman Steve May, Silver City Sun-News, October 11, 2003.

“What if all this means Brushy Bill Roberts in Texas was Billy the Kid? Then Fort Sumner is dead. That’s their only claim to fame – that Billy the Kid is buried there.”- Silver City Town Councilman Steve May, Silver City Sun-News, October 11, 2003.

“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.” - Fort Sumner Mayor, Raymond Lopez, November 18, 2003, MSNBC News.

The investigation has the “potential to destroy the existing legend and mystery and folklore surrounding Billy the Kid, badly damage the state’s tourism industry, severely impact the economy of the state, and damage the reputation of the Governor’s Office.”- Letter to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed by the Silver City Town Counsel, June 21, 2004.

“Silver City and Fort Sumner face a loss of their part of the Billy the Kid legend if DNA analysis is unable to show a match between bones dug up in the two communities.” - Jay Miller, Inside the Capital, July 2, 2004.

Because we dared to “look behind the curtain” the messenger is shot at. “The three sheriffs trying to dig up Billy the Kid and his mother are a slippery bunch of varmints.” - Jay Miller, Inside the Capital, August 9, 2004

Consider this; DNA has been recovered from the Iceman’s spear, three different human DNA to be exact. That spear laid in the elements for over 5,000 years. Yet, some find it impossible that science could recover DNA from a workbench in a chicken coop.

We have been ridiculed for not telling what we know and for having a non-existent “book deal”. How should we tell you? Should we do it over dinner of toss out the raw data?

Case #2003-274, Photo by Steve Sederwall

The above photo is raw. An entire report was written on this one piece of evidence. A chapter of a book could be written about it. More than likely it will be cussed and discussed for the next century. This is only one piece of evidence but added to historical documents, and other evidence, leads us to another part of the Kid story we didn’t have before. It’s a piece of evidence that Kid lovers or Kid haters, can study, accept or reject say, “that adds up” or throw out and go on with life. As investigators this piece of evidence gives us a clearer look into the past, into a historical event we all want to know about. So how do we give you a look at this evidence? How do we pass this information on to you? You do not want us to write a book, you want us to go away, but still you question, prod and demand to know what we have found.

For nearly eighty years up until the 60’s the Kid was known to be left-handed. Movies were made about it, and authors wrote the facts about it. Then someone snaps that the image was reversed. This fact changed. This story now, as always, is put together by a piece here and piece there. A piece from a librarian, a snippet from someone that witnessed the event, a phrase from a family member, a document recovered by a historian, pulled from a dirty basement after a three year search and a piece of hard evidence from a cop like that of above. All of it can be laced together and this information can fill in gaps, explain actions, put a light on their dimly traveled trails and allow the dead to tell their story. Neither historians, writers, museum owners, nor the investigators own this story. It belongs to they that wrote it with their blood. Blood that can now can be used to allow them to tell that story.

The Kid killed two law enforcement descendants of mine and Tom Sullivan. We believe we owe them the unvarnished truth, no matter where that truth takes us. No matter what legend it destroys, no matter if a book must be rewritten, history retold or a museum is forced to change its story, the dead as well as the living are due the truth.

What we have learned from this case is this; The Kid was nether total sinner or saint. Right or wrong there were reasons for his actions and there were consequences that stemmed from those actions. We don’t believe him to be an off center psycho with a gun. He was educated; from his testimony in the Dudley trial he seemed well spoken. He was not void of feeling and can not and should not be held to judgment using standards of today.

This investigation has looked at a number of things involving this story. The Tunstall, Brady, Morton and Baker murders have been looked at through the eyes of cops and evidence has been gathered. From the CSI of the Morton/ Baker murder site we can put together what happened in their last seconds, down to the fact that we believe Morton was killed with a 45/60 Winchester. How do we come to that? We did the CSI. We have evidence; we have the 45/60 spent round.

This case is not about digging up bodies. It’s about finding the truth and adding what we find to what has been found. We bring to the table investigators, firearms, forensics, DNA, and crime scene experts with one goal, to find what is left of the truth.

If we are going to make money on the dead in the form of casinos named after them to draw the crowd, highways, roadways museums, films and books bearing their name do we not at the very least owe them the truth? If DNA was to prove where the Kid rests it will put the story into focus, and there should only be one grave. If you believe Brushy Bill’s story you should demand the truth and New Mexico owes him an apology for laughing and turning him away in 1950. If Ft. Sumner holds the remains of the Kid then respect for the dead would demand Hamilton take down the headstone that says Brushy Bill is the Kid. If John Miller is proven to be the Kid then he needs a headstone.

If someplace beside the grave in Ft. Sumner holds the remains of the Kid then this is the greatest story of Western History and should be celebrated by all and if that be the case the Kid pulled off something our imaginations can not get wrapped around.

No matter where the Kid rests, he deserves the truth. We need not fear the truth, the Kid damn sure wouldn’t. If he is in Sumner then Brushy had a story that lasted over half a century. If the Kid is Brushy or Miller it becomes the greatest story of the west and if you don’t like that, you have no west in you.

We do not pretend to have the final word in this story. Someone will always come along with more information, more facts, and better science to produce new evidence. New technology is being developed and new methods will appear. When I started my career if someone was to talk about DNA it would have been something of science fiction, now it is reality. I can tell you that new evidence will appear and new findings will be shown us all.

I can say that because, during this investigation Tom Sullivan, Gary Graves and I decided to leave something, a piece of evidence, for future investigators. It wasn’t anything that would change the story one way or the other but of someone’s presence, on that spot, some 125 years before. It was something that held nothing more then a huge “wow” factor. I wish at times I would have made a different decision but we knew new technology will be developed and our methods of recovery would not preserve the evidence and in the end it would have been destroyed. We were there, could have seen it, wanted desperately to see it, but would have destroyed it, so we left it. I hope I’m alive when the new investigators of history arrive on the scene. I will be able to point to the spot and point, “It’s right there boys. Show it to me and the rest of us that love this story.”

A good story has a beginning, middle and end. But a GREAT story has a beginning, middle and never ends. So goes the story of Billy the Kid.