New Mexico uses Billy the Kid's legacy to draw tourists

Tue Jul 19, 2011 10:48am EDT
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By Zelie Pollon

Santa Fe, New Mexico (Reuters) - Wild West gunslinger Billy the Kid was shot and killed in southern New Mexico 130 years ago, but state officials still can't seem to let him rest in peace.

Last year, then-Governor Bill Richardson made headlines by suggesting he might pardon the 19th-century outlaw, only to decide against it on his last day in office.

This year, Richardson's successor, Governor Susana Martinez, has launched a statewide "manhunt" for the Kid in a campaign to boost tourism to the Land of Enchantment.

The promotion offers a $10,000 grand prize reward to the search "posse" that first completes a prescribed series of challenges in a scavenger hunt-like contest to slap the Kid with a symbolic arrest warrant.

The prize is based on the $500 reward posted for his capture in 1881 by New Mexico Territorial Governor Lew Wallace, adjusted for inflation.

"Others may have considered pardoning Billy the Kid, but we're not letting him off the hook," Martinez said.

Born Henry McCarty but known in New Mexico as William Bonney, the outlaw was shot to death at point-blank range by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett on July 14, 1881. The Kid was believed to be 21 or 22 at the time of this death.

In weighing the pardon, Richardson said he was acting on a promise of amnesty Wallace was widely believed to have made in 1879 in return for the outlaw's grand jury testimony against three men accused of murder during the so-called Lincoln County War of 1878, a bloody conflict between cattle barons.   Continued...

<p>Henry McCarty, a.k.a. Billy the Kid, is pictured in this undated photograph obtained by Reuters on December 16, 2010. REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout</p>