Photo shows Billy the Kid, his killer Gar­rett

Tin­type dis­cov­ered at North Carolina flea mar­ket; foren­sic video ex­pert says it’s most likely fa­mous pair

Santa Fe New Mexican - - LOCAL & REGION - By Terry Tang

Ex­perts now be­lieve a photo pur­chased at a flea mar­ket for $10 shows Billy the Kid stand­ing with the law­man who ul­ti­mately killed him, mak­ing the snap­shot po­ten­tially worth mil­lions.

Frank Abrams, a North Carolina at­tor­ney, first spot­ted the tin­type photo in Asheville, N.C., in 2011. The self­de­scribed his­tory buff said the group pic­ture of five men was part of a set and sat on his wall for sev­eral years.

“Now, it’s in a safe de­posit box,” Abrams told The Associated Press in a phone in­ter­view Tues­day. “I don’t travel with it.”

Af­ter see­ing a TV pro­gram in 2015 about the dis­cov­ery of a photo of the out­law play­ing cro­quet, Abrams was in­spired to re­search him fur­ther. That’s when he thought he rec­og­nized Pat Gar­rett, Billy the Kid’s for­mer friend and the sher­iff who gunned him down.

Abrams ap­proached Robert Stahl, a re­tired pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at Ari­zona State Univer­sity who is no stranger to

the his­tory of Billy the Kid. In 2015, Stahl filed a pe­ti­tion in New Mex­ico Supreme Court in pur­suit of a death cer­tifi­cate for the Kid, also known as Wil­liam Bon­ney, from the state’s med­i­cal ex­am­iner.

Stahl said he thought it was a “high prob­a­bil­ity” that it was Gar­rett in the photo, but he wasn’t sure if an­other man was Billy the Kid.

“I told him ‘The big­gest thing you could do right now is get the pic­ture out and let peo­ple look at it and give you feedback,’ ” Stahl said. “To me, it’s one of the most in­trigu­ing and his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant of those tin­types of the Old West.”

Abrams told Al­bu­querque’s KRQE-TV that he spent the next sev­eral months con­sult­ing var­i­ous foren­sic ex­perts. Sev­eral said the tin­type was likely taken be­tween 1879 and 1880, which co­in­cides with the Aug. 2, 1880, date some­one had writ­ten on the photo, Abrams said. A Los An­ge­les foren­sic video ex­pert said fa­cial recog­ni­tion soft­ware in­di­cates that it is most likely Gar­rett and Billy the Kid in the pic­ture, ac­cord­ing to a signed dec­la­ra­tion. A hand­writ­ing ex­pert in Texas com­pared a sig­na­ture from Gar­rett on the photo with 10 doc­u­ments with his known hand­writ­ing. He de­clared them match­ing in a no­ta­rized let­ter in Septem­ber.

The Kid and Gar­rett were close friends un­til Gar­rett be­came Lincoln County sher­iff. Gar­rett ended up fa­tally shoot­ing the out­law in Fort Sum­ner in July 1881.

The photo of the Kid dis­cov­ered in 2015 has since been es­ti­mated to be worth $5 mil­lion. Ex­perts be­lieve a pic­ture that shows the New Mex­ico out­law with Gar­rett would be worth much more. How­ever, Abrams isn’t in­ter­ested in find­ing out any­time soon.

“One day it may end up at an auc­tion house some­where. We’ll see what hap­pens,” Abrams said. “Right now, that is not the first thing on my mind. I’ve al­ways been some­body who’s in­ter­ested in his­tory and back­ground.”


This photo pro­vided by Frank Abrams shows what his­to­ri­ans be­lieve is a photo of the out­law Billy the Kid, sec­ond from left, and Pat Gar­rett, far right, taken around 1880. Abrams says ex­perts in foren­sics and fa­cial recog­ni­tion have ver­i­fied the pic­ture af­ter sev­eral months of ex­am­i­na­tion.


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