SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A retired Arizona State University professor is taking his pursuit of a death certificate for Billy the Kid to New Mexico's highest court.
Historian Robert J. Stahl filed a petition Friday with the New Mexico Supreme Court to order the state's medical examiner to create the document for the legendary outlaw, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported (http://bit.ly/1CIJ73M).
Stahl says he hopes the court will order the Office of the Medical Investigator to consider the evidence and determine whether William H. Bonney's death can be certified.
According to most accounts, the Kid was fatally shot by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner in 1881. But some claim Garrett shot someone else and the Kid took up ranching or escaped to Texas under an alias.
Stahl is a member of the nonprofit Billy the Kid Outlaw Gang, an organization formed to protect the "true" history of the Kid. He wants to silence rumors that Bonney escaped the sheriff's bullet.
An official death certificate would end the attention that has been given to impostors claiming they were the Kid, like Ollie "Brushy Brill" Roberts of Hico, Texas, said Stahl.
No one in Fort Sumner ever denied that the Kid was shot by Garrett, said Stahl, and six members of the jury appointed to investigate the case knew the Kid and saw his body.
The jury unanimously found Garrett's shooting of the Kid to be "justifiable homicide."
The retired professor also wants to correct the coroner's report on Bonney's death. Stahl has been researching frontier topics since 2003 with help from his wife and sister and believes the date on the report is wrong.
An English translation of the coroner's report says the Kid died minutes after being shot, around midnight on July 14, 1881. But Stahl believes the Kid actually died at about 12:30 a.m. on July 15, citing an account by George Miller, who was staying in Fort Sumner that night.
Miller wrote in the Las Vegas Optic on July 18 that the shots woke him and he immediately checked his watch.
Stahl's previous efforts to get the Office of the Medical Investigator to create a death certificate have failed. He submitted a written request that was denied earlier this year.
Stahl was told he'd need a court order for a death certificate to be issued.
The medical investigator did not return calls seeking comment on Stahl's latest efforts.
Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com