Real Name: Robert Leroy Parker
Case: Historical Events
Location: San Vincente, Bolivia
Details: Robert Parker was born in Beaver, Utah in 1866 at the same time Jesse James was leading his first bank raid. He took the name Butch Cassidy out of respect for a friend named Mike Cassidy, but he became one of the last truly notable outlaws to come out of the Old West. Abhoring the use of guns as a homicidal weapon, Butch was the grandson of a Mormon preacher, and in late 1901, he began a partnership with Harold "Sundance Kid" Longbaugh, robbing banks and trains, staying ahead of the Pinkerton detectives following him. While their exact fate is in doubt, history claims that they fled to Bolivia and died in a shoot-out with the police in the Bolivian village of San Vicente in 1908. However, reliable reports indicate that Butch returned to the Unted States and lived to a ripe old age. There are accounts of a figure who greatly resembled Butch visiting his sister up to eight years after he allegedly fell from a bullet.
Author Larry Pointer believes that Butch Cassidy came to the United States in 1908 under the name "William T. Phillips" and that he moved to Spokane, Washington in 1910. Pointer found that there were no records for Phillips prior to 1908. He also found witnesses who became acquainted with Phillips in Wyoming in 1933. These witnesses claimed that Butch Cassidy's old friends accepted Phillips as Cassidy. One witness, Ione Manning, said that she met Phillips in 1934. Ione's grandmother, Mary Boyd Rhodes, had been Butch Cassidy's childhood sweetheart. When Mary met Phillips, she was certain that he was Cassidy.
In 1937, William T. Phillips died, shortly after sending Mary a ring with their names engraved in it. Since Phillips's death, Pointer has continued to find evidence that Phillips and Cassidy were one in the same. He has found a manuscript written by Phillips which details the adventures of Butch Cassidy. Pointer believes that certain stories in the manuscript would have only been known to Cassidy himself. Also, a unique gun owned by Phillips was identical to a gun owned by Cassidy. Finally, a handwriting expert felt certain that Phillips and Cassidy had the same handwriting.
However, despite the evidence, there is no way to know for certain if Butch Cassidy was killed in Bolivia in 1908, or if he survived and came to the United States.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the February 13, 1991 episode.
Results: Unresolved. In November 1991, a team of forensic historians found the tiny graveyard near San Vicente where the outlaws were said to have been laid to rest and exumed the two skeletons. One of them was uncannily similar to the Sundance Kid in age and stature, but the other showed traits of a man of European descent. They turned to DNA comparison, finding Longbaugh's brother buried in Pennsylvania as well as a living maternal relative of Longbaugh three generations from him. The DNA failed to match on both accounts.
In 2011, the belief that William T. Phillips and Butch Cassidy were the same person was finally put to rest. Larry Pointer was able to find new information that led him to believe that Phillips was actually William T. Wilcox, a man who had met Cassidy in prison in 1895. Witnesses from that time claimed to have seen Wilcox and Cassidy together, disproving the belief that they were the same person. Pointer, however, still believes that Butch Cassidy survived the shootout and came to the United States.