Think Elvis. Only instead of "Jailhouse Rock” and a drug overdose, you have holdups and a shoot-out in Bolivia.
Just as with the King of Rock ’n’ Roll, death couldn’t stop Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
"You’re dealing with folklore; you’re dealing with fantasy; you’re dealing with aspirations,” said Dan Buck, a former congressional staffer living in Washington, D.C., who has written about the infamous outlaws.
The latest reincarnation of Butch and the Kid, or their legend anyway, is playing out in Utah and involves wide-ranging family lore, exhumations and a documentary film. Some people there claim a relative, William Henry Long, who died in Utah in 1936, decades after the outlaws were said to have been killed, was actually Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, aka the Sundance Kid.
It’s all for naught, said Clyde Snow, a forensic anthropologist from Norman. In the early 1990s as part of a "NOVA” documentary, Snow supervised exhumation of remains believed to be those of the outlaws from a cemetery in San Vicente, Bolivia. DNA analysis showed the remains to be from a German prospector. However, other research on old news accounts, government documents and Pinkerton Detective Agency records showed the outlaws died there in 1908, Snow said.
"All the circumstantial evidence and the documentary evidence conclusively points to the fact that they’re buried in San Vicente,” Snow said.
Still, stories persist that the duo lived on. One tale said Cassidy fought with Mexican revolutionary hero Poncho Villa and died in Spokane, Wash., in 1937. Among the more enduring alternative endings for Sundance is the William Henry Long scenario, which, Marilyn Grace promises, soon will be proven.
"We found the real Sundance Kid,” said Grace, a documentary filmmaker in St. George, Utah.
Grace said a DNA sample from an apparent relative of Longabaugh will be compared to DNA from Long’s remains, which had been exhumed for the purpose. Grace said she had not yet received results of the tests, which she said are being handled by Sorenson Forensics of Salt Lake City, but she will keep them secret until the documentary is released.
She said the "definitive” evidence so far consists of photographic comparisons by John McCullough, University of Utah anthropologist, who concluded there was a 99 percent chance the photos of Longabaugh and Long were of the same person.