A Dec. 11 Coast to Coast item about the Western outlaw Billy the Kid said that he was gunned down in 1881 in Lincoln County, N.M. He was shot there but survived. Scholars disagree on how he later died. (Published 12/15/2005)

Deputies Challenge

Story of Billy the Kid

Scholars of the Wild West will tell you that notorious outlaw Billy the Kid shot two sheriff's deputies in 1881 in Lincoln County, N.M., before being gunned down himself on the courthouse steps. Present-day Lincoln County Deputies Steve Sederwall and Tom Sullivan will tell you that the story is a load of horse manure.

Sederwall and Sullivan were riding their horses one day about three years ago, Sederwall recounted, when they started discussing the fate of William Bonney, alias Billy the Kid. There were inconsistencies in the story. It didn't quite add up.

"I told Tom, I said, 'These guys were deputies just like us,' " Sederwall said. "You know, Voltaire said it best: 'To the living we owe respect and to the dead we owe the truth.' " The pair began investigating. They found the grave of a man named John Miller who died in 1930 claiming he was Billy the Kid. They found a blood-covered bench to which the Kid supposedly staggered full of bullet holes in a chicken coop in Albuquerque. They found a DNA lab willing to compare some samples at no charge.

Now, the deputies are awaiting the results of tests of DNA samples from Miller and the bench. Sederwall said no matter what the tests say, people will continue to argue about the fate of Billy the Kid.

"We may not prove where the Kid's at," he said. "But we may."

-- Sonya Geis

This ferrotype, circa 1880, is believed to depict Billy the Kid. Two New Mexico deputies hope that DNA tests will help lay the legend to rest.