Coroner's Jury Report
(Aug 5, 1951, Special to El Paso Times)
Roswell, N.M.--Billy the Kid is dead.
The famed Outlaw met death at the business end of Pat Garrett's flaming pistol in July of 1881.
So says Col. Maurice G. Fulton, of Roswell, N.M., former custodian of the Lincoln County Museum and at present researcher for the Old Lincoln County Memorial Commission.
A 91-year-old man, claiming to be The Kid and represented by William V. Morrison of St. Louis, appeared last year before Gov. Thomas J. Mabry of New Mexico and appealed for a pardon, claiming he wanted to die a free man. The governor declined to act on the plea and the claimant O.L. (Brushy Bill) Roberts died last December in Hico, Texas.
"According to Colonel Fulton, "William Bonney, alias Kid, alias William Antrim" could not possibly be alive. He offers, as part of his proof, the coroner's report on the killer's death and a reward believed paid to Sheriff Pat Garrett for effecting that death.
Colonel Fulton recently said:
"Morrison's contention that the coroner's report was not "recorded" is taking the modern practice rather than the older one. We are lucky to have a report in this instance, for coroner's jury reports are hard to find, even when they happen to have been made. When you had to go 100 miles to get a justice of the peace, you did not bother with a coroner's inquest."
TOOK PROPER STEPS
But Garrett, foreseeing the consequences, took proper steps, according to the colonel.
"Garrett, I may say, was careful in these matters. There was an inquest over the bodies of Bell and Ollinger (J.W. Bell and Robert Ollinger, deputies slain by The Kid in his escape from the Lincoln jail) but the report has not been discovered. Nobody raises a question about these killings, but fully as many persons, if not more, saw the body of the Kid."
Colonel Fulton goes on to say:
"Pat Garrett, with the aid of his lawyer, Charles W. Green, made a very full presentation of his claim and submitted the coroner's verdict in support of it. Garrett said that this report in its original form "is in the hands of the prosecuting attorney of the First Judicial District."
The colonel has in his possession a photostatic copy of such a document. He pointed out that the photostat must have been made from the original, as handwriting used for each signature is different.
Colonel Fulton discovered this document, lost some 50 years, while searching the file dealing with the reward for the killing of Billy the Kid. James F. Hinkle of Roswell, then state land commissioner, had the photostat made for Fulton and one for himself, which he later gave to the Roswell Museum.
Fulton in recalling his finding of the document, wrote: "The old document does not seem to have been published in its entirety, although it has remained for over 50 years among the records of the office of the secretary of the Territory of New Mexico, ever since its arrival as part of the proofs submitted by Pat Garrett to establish his right to the reward offered by Gov. Lew Wallace.
"If it were a copied document," Colonel Fulton "the signatures would all be in the same handwriting and labled 'signed.'"
Regarding the reward, Colonel Fulton says that the attorney general of the Territory of New Mexico "reviewed the matter" and recommended to the acting governor, W.G. Ritch, that the offer might as well be legalized and the money paid to Garrett.
REWARD MONEY VOTED
According to W.A. Keleher, Albuquerque attorney and historian, the reward money was voted.
"In 1882," he says, "the coroner's jury and the state legislature approved a $500 reward to Sheriff Pat Garrett for killing The Kid." And he insisted this reward would not have been paid if there had been the slightest evidence the killer was still alive.
And according to the Rio Grande Republican, published in Las Cruces, $2,300 was collected for Garrett. An Item in the July 23, 1881, issue says: "Las Vegas gave Pat Garrett $1300 for his center shot at Billy the Kid, and Santa Fe gave about $600. Every town in the Territory should do something to swell the purse. Judge Newcomb telegraphed $50 from Silver City. It is expected that $250 can be gathered in Las Cruces and Mesilla.
Is all this evidence a fraud? Is the outlaw, whose name and deeds have become legend, still alive? The evidence is against this possibility.
Perhaps, after nearly 70 years, it will be difficult--if not impossible--to prove legally either way. If more care had been excercised in keeping official records and documents in those days, there would be a greater quantity of legal material available for research.
But frontiersmen, who were hard pressed to eke a bare living from the raw country, seldom troubled to ride 100 miles or more to summon a coroner, or see the county clerk, or attend to other little details.
Is Billy alive? The coroner's verdict is there--and it says "no".
Original Coroner's Jury Report As It Was Written In Spanish
Territory of New Mexico
County of San Miguel
To the District Attorney of the First Judicial District of the Territory of New Mexico.
On this 15th day of July, A.D. 1881, I, the undersigned, Justice of the Peace of the above named precinct, received information that a murder had taken place a Fort Sumner, in said precinct, and immediately upon receiving said information I proceeded to the said place and named Milnor Rudulph, Jose Silva, Antonio Savedra, Pedro Antonio Lucero, Lorenzo Jaramillo and Sabal Gutierres a jury to investigate the case and the above jury convened at the home of Luz B. Maxwell and proceeded to a room in said in said house where they found the body of William Bonney alias "Kid" with a shot on the left breast and having examined the body they examined the evidence of Pedro Maxwell, which evidence is as follows:
"I being in my bed in my room, at about midnight on the 14th day of July, Pat F. Garrett came into my room and sat at the end of my bed to converse with me. A short while after Garrett had sat down William Bonney came in and got close to my bed with a gun in his hand and asked me "Who is it? Who Is It?" and then Pat F. Garrett fired two shots at the said William Bonney and the said William Bonney fell near my fire place and I went out of the room and when I came in again in about three or four minutes after the shots the said William Bonney was dead."
The jury has found the following verdict: We of the jury unanimously find that William Bonney has been killed by a shot on the left breast near the region of the heart, the same having been fired with a gun in the hand of Pat F. Garrett and our verdict is that the deed of said Garrett was justifiable homicide and we are unanimous in the opinion that the gratitude of all the community is due to the said Garrett for his deed and is worthy of being rewarded.
Pedro Anto. Lucero
Jose X Silba
Sabal X Gutierrez
Lorenzo X Jaramillo
All said information I place to your knowledge.
Justice of the Peace.