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
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
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.
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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