Lest I forget the details of Billy the Kid's break-in at San Elizario, here within, is as I recall it according to Manuel, the city sheriff (a fellow who is hired to man the San Elizario Jail Museum and who participates in re-enactments)
Back in the early days when Billy roamed this area (late 1870s), the law would hang a man for murder, stealing a horse, or stealing cattle. The courthouse, a room within the jail house in San Elizario, was convenient; the outlaw could be tried one hour and be hung the same day that the trial took place. If a cattle rustler was caught on the open range, the rancher could take justice into his own hands and string up the offender. However, if that rustler was wanted by the sheriff, there would be no reward for the renegade hangman.
Billy the Kid had a girlfriend in Mesilla near Las Cruces. The girlfriend's father was quite influential in the area, and it was a member of this father's household who had been arrested and was being held in the San Elizario Jail. Billy's girlfriend implored him to save the man in jail. Billy and another friend traveled from Mesilla the 73 miles to arrive in San Elizario tired and hungry. They were fed and rested in a nearby farmhouse. About 3:00 am they began their break-in! How were they going to break INTO a jail? Billy hatched a plan that worked. He banged on the jail door and yelled, “I am a Texas Ranger and have a wanted man to put in your jail.” The Spanish guard opened the peep hole, but it was too dark to see much of anything other than the star Billy had in his possession. When the Spanish guard opened the door after repeated bangings by Billy, the guard was welcomed by a .44. The guard was locked in the cell after Billy's friend was released from it.
Here is where there are conflicting outcomes. According to one legend, Billy escaped to New Mexico with his friends. Because that influential father was so grateful to Billy for saving his family member, he gave Billy money and told him to disappear--which many think Billy did--never to appear again in the public eye. However, on the flip side, here is the other legendary outcome. Prior to this jail break Billy was a wanted man for his role in the Lincoln County Wars, him being one of the Regulators. Upon Billy's escape from pursuit with other Regulators, Pat Garrett vowed to hunt Billy down and kill him which according to record he did, and Billy is buried at Fort Sumner, NM. However, was that Billy? Recently a man living in the East claimed to be a relative of Billy the Kid and wanted an exhumation of bones to get a DNA sample. Upon exhumation there were no bones. ?????
Lou and Bonnie Janelle (LBJ) are career professionals who are currently pursuing life-long interests in photography and digital imaging techniques, respectively.