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Shootout over Billy the Kid

Two towns battle over which one is home to the remains of the notorious outlaw

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When it comes to Billy the Kid - arguably the most famous outlaw in the Old West - there is only one history that matters in these parts: He lived, died, and was buried in Fort Sumner.

In this eastern New Mexico village, Billy the Kid is considered a gunslinging Robin Hood, a balladeer, a ladies' man, and a member of the family. He's also the town's only tourist attraction. You can sleep in the Billy the Kid Hotel, buy your own Billy the Kid keychain, and saturate yourself in his history at the Billy the Kid Museum, where his rifle is on display.

It's true that the Kid (variously known as William Bonney, William Antrim, and Kid Antrim) lived here - and he is also supposed to have died here. The town's big draw is that he is buried in the old Fort Sumner cemetery.

But not everyone is so sure that's really his final resting place. Gary Graves, sheriff of DeBaca County, where Fort Sumner is located, and Tom Sullivan, sheriff of Lincoln County, where the Kid supposedly died, think there's plenty of room for doubt. So they want to open the grave to determine if Billy's remains are truly interred there.

At stake are the town's honor and plenty of tourist dollars.

The accepted history says that around midnight on July 14, 1881, Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett ambushed and fatally shot Billy the Kid in the boardinghouse of Billy's friend, Pete Maxwell. The Kid was on the lam after murdering two guards during an escape from the Lincoln County jail.

Dozens of witnesses said they recognized the body lying on the boardinghouse floor as Billy's. A coroner's inquest was convened, and the next morning, the most feared hombre in the territory was buried in the Fort Sumner cemetery, a short walk from the boardinghouse.


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