Billy the Kid ... a complicated fellow


July 10, 2019

FORT SUMNER — It’s been 138 years, but the kid killer is still making news.

Fort Sumner City Councilor Gerald Cline and movie director Michael Anthony Giudicissi are planning a Facebook Live broadcast from Billy the Kid’s grave on Sunday night in the old Fort Sumner Cemetery.

The broadcast is scheduled for 11:30 p.m., the time Sheriff Pat Garrett killed the Kid at Pete Maxwell’s home south of today’s Fort Sumner, on July 14, 1881.

The broadcast is to help promote the latest film about eastern New Mexico’s most famous outlaw. It’s called “In Their Own Words, Billy the Kid & The Lincoln County War.”

The documentary-style movie is written and directed by Giudicissi, a sometimes Albuquerque resident and New Jersey transplant who learned about Billy the Kid watching “Young Guns.” He’s visited Fort Sumner about a dozen times since it first became his “vacation” destination in 1993.

According to a news release, Giudicissi and Cline will discuss the “controversy” surrounding the Kid’s death, “as well as what The Kid’s legend means to the village.”

What the Kid’s legend means to Fort Sumner today is mostly tourism. As for the controversy, Giudicissi said that’s the “next to zero” possibility that William Bonney didn’t die in Fort Sumner, but lived decades longer as an upstanding citizen in Texas.

“I ask people, ‘What’s more likely: Billy the Kid, a wanted outlaw, was hunted and shot down in Fort Sumner, a place where he went all the time? Or you have to fit all these puzzle pieces together and his age changes and he ends up looking nothing like he did?’”

In other words, Giudicissi believes Billy the Kid’s bones are somewhere under the earth on the land where he often visited because he had friends and a thing for Maxwell’s daughter.

The news release promoting the film reports the Kid’s legend is “a worldwide phenomena.”

Dubbed a docu-feature, it’s a series of 16 recreated interviews with Bonney and those who knew him, including Garrett and Maxwell.

What the movie-goer won’t see is Giudicissi asking questions of the actors, who have researched their parts and respond as they believe their character would.

Some of the characters might be liars, Giudicissi admitted.

“Some of them have things to protect; things about themselves or Billy or things that they did,” he said.

“Everybody wants to put a shine on themselves.”

As for the Kid himself ... well, he’s a complicated fellow.

“A lot of people would see him as a murdering punk. Others see him as a Robin Hood,” Giudicissi said. “I think he was somewhere in between.

“I think he had some good qualities. People liked him. He was probably a nice kid who turned bad and took on the easiest jobs he could find, which were stealing other people’s stuff and gambling.”

In many ways, Billy the Kid — 19 or 20 when he died — was no different than other Old West outlaws.

“I think he was probably an ordinary outlaw who made himself extraordinary when he shot himself out of the Lincoln County jail, against impossible odds,” Giudicissi said.

The Kid killed two lawmen in that escape about two months before Garrett hunted him down and shot him in the dark.

On Sunday night, we remember.

As if we could ever forget Billy the Kid.

David Stevens writes about regional history for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

[email protected]


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