Billy Stiles 
Lawman/Outlaw (187? - 1908)

     In 1982,  I read a story about the infamous lawman/outlaw Billy Stiles. When I found he had been shot and killed in Nevada it sparked my interest. Research of outlaws, lawmen, and gun fighters is always hard because it is often difficult to sort the truth from the myth.
     William Larkin Stiles was born in the 1870's near Casa Grande, Arizona Territory. He was 12 years old when he and his father got into a fight. Billy shot and killed his father and, to escape punishment much worse than a spanking, stole a horse and hightailed it out of the area.
     Accounts are sketchy but he eventually established a fairly successful small ranching outfit. Billy worked hard and made an honest reputation for himself - so good that he landed a job as a Cochise County, Arizona deputy sheriff and law officer in Pearce.
     In 1900, people who knew him were shocked when he and fellow deputy, Burt Alvord, were arrested for train robbery. Talk about moonlighting. He and Burt were taken to the county jail in Tombstone. Billy made a deal with the prosecutor and confessed. Stiles was released and told to stick around town for the trial. He stuck around town alright - just long enough to help Alvord escape.
     Both headed for Mexico where they lived until two Arizona rangers crossed the border and ambushed them, wounding both. Burt was captured but Billy, with a slug in his arm, somehow made it to Nevada. 
     Research didn't, back in 1980, reveal where Billy settled in the Silver State but he was again able to get a job as a deputy sheriff.
     In December, 1908 Stiles attempted to make an arrest out on a ranch and things got out of hand. Always quick on the trigger, Billy shot the man to death. It was then that twin barrels of a shotgun poked out a window.  The dead man's 12 year old son pulled both triggers and blasted Billy Stiles to eternity.
     What an ironic story. I kept the research hoping someday to find proof of Billy's fate. In January, 2003 I pulled out the file and decided to check the Internet to see if additional information might be available to prove the truth of the story.
     Well, I wish I hadn't. The only truth about his death? He was shot on a ranch in Nevada.
     A story in December 7, 1908 issue of The Humboldt Sun stated that William Larkin (an alias of Billy) had been hired by the local sheriff on a one time basis to serve civil suit papers to a sheepman in the northern part of the county. According to the newspaper, Larkin had been employed as a detective for Wells Fargo and Company in Arizona and bore an excellent reputation and was a fearless and capable officer. Locally, he had been a stock detective. 
     This is what really happened to Billy. He rode out to the Riley Ranch on Kings River, 90 miles northwest of Winnemucca, to serve papers on a sheepman who lived near the ranch. After lunch at the ranch, Stiles walked toward the barn to get his horse and head over to the sheep camp. Charlie Barr, stepped from behind one of the outbuildings and fired three shots. As Billy was falling, mortally wounded, he was able to get off one shot. It missed.
     Barr, a vaquero at the ranch, knew Stiles was working on a case involving him and his late partner, Jim Taylor. Taylor had been killed by Humboldt County Sheriff S. Graham Lamb and Barr vowed he will kill everyone involved. That's the real story.

Howard Hickson
February 3, 2003

Sources: The Encyclopedia of American Crime by Carl Sifakis, 1982, Facts on File, Inc. William Larkin "Billy" Stiles is on the Memorial Rollcall of Nevada lawmen who died on duty. The list is on the website of the Nevada Conference of Police and Sheriffs (NCOPS).

©Copyright 2003 by Howard Hickson.

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