Real Name: William Henry Roberts
Case: Unknown Identity
Location: Hico, Texas
Details: In 1948, William Morrison was a St. Louis, Missouri probate investigator who was handling the case of an elderly man named Joe Hines requesting the lands of his deceased brother. Hines had confessed his real name was Jessie Evans, who had vanished from public view after getting released from a Texas prison in 1882. Hines told Morrison of his experiences in the Lincoln County Wars with 19th-century American frontier outlaw and gunman, Billy the Kid who was allegedly killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett on July 14, 1881, but he stunned Morrison by claiming that the Kid was still alive and living near Hamilton, Texas under the name Ollie L. "Brushy Bill" Roberts. Morrison began a correspondence with Roberts who eventually confessed to being the Kid and went in to fine and intimate details of his exploits as an outlaw, filling in many details of the life of Billy the Kid. Furthermore, Roberts wanted Morrison's help in acquiring the full pardon he was promised by Governor Lew Wallace in 1879 but refused. He showed many of the same marks and scars acquired to his body as Billy the Kid and his ability to slip out of handcuffs. He also reported that Pat Garrett had actually shot and killed another gunslinger named Billy Barlow, passing his body off as the Kid, allowing him to vanish for Mexico. Five people who knew Billy signed affidavits that they believed Roberts and the Kid were one and the same. In the meeting with current Governor of New Mexico, Thomas J. Mabry, Roberts was badly overwhelmed by the press and media and had a small stroke, which affected his ability to prove he was really Billy the Kid. Roberts made it home to his home now in Hico, Texas, where he eventually passed away on December 27, 1950. Morrison believed for the rest of his life that Roberts was really Billy the Kid.
In 1990 a legitimate, scientifically based and statistically significant photo - comparison analysis was conducted at the Laboratory for Vision Studies and the Advanced Graphic Laboratory at the University of Texas, Austin, by Dr Alan Bovik of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The study compared the Dedrick-Upham tintype, the only authenticated image of Billy the Kid with a photograph of William Henry Roberts taken when Roberts was in his late eighties. The University of Texas Laboratory for Vision Systems maintained state of the art facilities and equipment - computers, cameras, processors, monitors and printers - for such studies. The photographs were digitized and image improved then searched for similarities and differences by a computer recognition system which criminologists employ in their identification of suspects. Hundreds of studies conducted by the FBI, CIA, Interpol and Scotland Yard employing these techniques have yielded significant level of statistical validity. The results of the University of Texas photo-comparison study, with other evidence,were presented to Andre McNeil, chancery judge of Arkansas' Twelfth Judicial District, and noted Arkansas attorney Helen Rice Grinder. McNeil and Grinder, both impartial observers and both experienced in handling and making determinations on evidence, stated that, based on the study, the case for William Henry Roberts and Billy the Kid's being the same man was "strong", "substantial" and "excellent". The University of Texas photo-comparison study, the only valid one commissioned to date, adds another layer of evidence in support of the notion that Roberts and the Kid are the same person. In the words of the analysts, the study "irrefutably shows that Roberts and the Kid are a very close match" and that the similarity between the two is "amazing".
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the March 1, 1989 episode. Brushy Bill Roberts' claim that he was Billy the Kid was depicted in the 1998 movie Young Guns II.