September 23, 1875: Billy the Kid is first arrested
On September 23, 1875, infamous outlaw Billy the Kid was arrested for the first time after stealing a basket of laundry. He was only 15 years old. In the following years, he would be arrested several more times for everything from horse theft to murder. Luckily for him, he had an uncanny knack for getting out of jail.
Who was Billy the Kid?
Like many people born in the 19th century, details of Billy’s life are spotty at best. So spotty, in fact, that no one can even say for sure what year he was born, though it was likely sometime between 1859 and 1861. His real name was William Henry McCarthy, and he was born to a total deadbeat dad. The older McCarthy moved the family around frequently to places like Indiana, Colorado, and New Mexico– places that were called “The Wild West” for a reason.
Eventually, Billy gave up his father’s name and christened himself William Bonney. And, whether it was the influence of his unsavory dad or the places where he grew up, Billy turned to crime as soon as his mother passed away in 1874.
The arrests of Billy the Kid
Despite his short life, Billy managed to get arrested a total of nine times (that we know of). Due to the record-keeping – or lack thereof – at the time, it’s fair to guess he was arrested much more. His first run-in with the law, of course, was that fateful day in 1875 when he was nabbed for stealing a bag of clothing from a Chinese laundry. Over the next six years, he was arrested for horse theft, murder, more horse theft, and murder again. (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?)
Each and every time he either managed to get himself released from jail or he escaped. He was the Houdini of Wild West outlaws.
Unfortunately, the last time Billy got arrested would be the death of him. Quite literally. In 1880, Billy and his gang were indicted for killing a sheriff. Billy was sentenced to hang but broke out of jail– murdering two deputies in the process. Rumor has it that he fled to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, where Sheriff Pat Garrett fatally shot and killed him. Like any true hero, Garrett wrote a book about the ordeal and went on to become a best-seller.