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  • Writer's pictureDennis McCaslin

Chronicle of the Old West: Billy the Kid escapes death with help from a bathroom break

Early in 1880, Sheriff Pat Garrett deposited Billy the Kid in jail, and left town thinking this would be the last he would ever see of "the Kid". But as we shall see today, it wasn't so.

Pat Garrett was elected sheriff on the promise that he would bring in Billy the Kid… And within a couple of months after election, he made good on his promise. Feeling that chapter closed, Pat Garrett left to find other outlaws.

Billy the Kid was transferred to the town of Messilla for trial. Having a number of possible charges to place against him, they settled on the killing of Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady three years earlier. Billy the Kid was convicted of murdering Sheriff Brady. In pronouncing the sentence, Judge Bristol said, “You are sentenced to be hanged by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead.” Billy the Kid comely responded, “And you can go to…” three times. The hanging was set for May.

Billy the Kid was sent back to Lincoln, New Mexico. Lincoln didn’t have a formal jail so he was shackled, locked in a room on the second floor of the courthouse and placed under a twenty-four hour guard.

On April 28, 1881 Billy received a note with one word on it…“Privy”. Understanding the meaning, Billy said he had to go to the outhouse. Hidden in the outhouse was a pistol.

As Billy the Kid returned to his room, he pulled his pistol and shit his guard, James Bell.

He then broke into the gun cabinet in the office and got a shotgun.

From a second floor window he yelled down to Robert Olinger, a guard that had been ragging on him.

When Robert looked up, he was sent to eternity by a blast from his own shotgun.

An hour later, with shackles still hanging from one leg, Billy the Kid rode out of town, once again escaping death.

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