Image: Billy the Kid
AP
William Bonney, also known as Billy the Kid, is believed to be depicted in this undated ferrotype picture, circa 1880, provided by the Lincoln County, N.M. Heritage Trust Archive. The ferrotype, which displays a mirror image of a photographic subject, has been reversed to show the Kid as he appeared in life.
updated 10/23/2006 10:01:21 PM ET 2006-10-24T02:01:21

Prosecutors won’t seek charges against two men who exhumed the remains of a man who claimed to be the outlaw Billy the Kid.

Tom Sullivan, former sheriff of Lincoln County, N.M., and Steve Sederwall, former mayor of Capitan, N.M., dug up the bones of John Miller in May 2005. Miller was buried at the state-owned Pioneers’ Home Cemetery in Prescott nearly 70 years ago.

“It appears officials in charge of the facility gave permission, and the people who were attempting to recover samples of the remains believed they had permission to do so,” said Bill FitzGerald, a spokesman for the Maricopa County attorney’s office, which made the decision not to seek charges.

Sullivan and Sederwall obtained DNA from Miller’s remains. The samples were sent to a Dallas lab to compare Miller’s DNA to blood traces taken from a bench that is believed to be the one Kid’s body was placed on after he was shot to death in 1881.

Sederwall refused to disclose the results of that DNA test Monday, for fear of provoking attacks from historians. He said, “What I know is not what’s written in history. What I know about this case differs from history.”

Sullivan and Sederwall have been hunting for the Kid’s bones since 2003.

They began their quest in Fort Sumner, N.M., where history says the Kid was buried after then-Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett gunned him down in 1881.

But at least two men — Miller and Ollie “Brushy Bill” Roberts of Texas — claimed prior to their deaths that they were Billy the Kid. Their stories presuppose that Garrett killed the wrong man and lied about it.

After more than a year of fighting to get permission to unearth the Fort Sumner grave, Sullivan and Sederwall dropped their request and decided to begin the process of elimination in Arizona.

They later returned the bones, and Pioneers’ Home officials reinterred them in August.

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