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After 130 years, will Billy the Kid finally get a governor's pardon?

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Governor Richardson has long acknowledged how that fascination with the Kid, and Wild West stories in general, can generate tourism dollars, much like Wyatt Earp in Arizona and Davy Crockett in Texas. Tourists already can arrive in New Mexico and visit his foster home in Silver City, where he liked to gamble in Ruidoso, and his final resting place at an old military cemetery in Fort Sumner, although whether or not his body is there remains a matter of debate.

In 2000, Richardson assembled a team of scholars, including Mr. Hutton, to investigate competing claims to Billy the Kid’s identity. An effort to dig up the remains of a woman thought to be his mother for DNA sampling created a public outcry and Richardson abandoned the effort to concentrate on his presidential campaign.

He is returning to this issue just a few days from leaving office. Historians say documents show Billy the Kid was promised a pardon by Lew Wallace, then the state governor, in exchange for testimony the Kid gave against the three men who killed a one-armed lawyer during the Lincoln County wars.

The petition to pardon the Kid, filed by Albuquerque attorney Randi McGinn, quotes an exchange of letters between the Kid and Mr. Wallace in which the governor tells him, “In return for your doing this, I will let you go scot [sic] free with a pardon in your pocket for all your misdeeds.”

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