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Producer, scientist say body unearthed in Duchesne is the Sundance Kid

By John Hollenhorst | Posted - Mar. 24, 2009 at 10:00 p.m.



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DUCHESNE -- One of Utah's favorite mysteries is getting revved up again: Did the Sundance Kid really die along with Butch Cassidy in South America, or did he live to ripe old age in Utah?

KSL 5 News has learned fascinating new details about an investigation that involves a body dug up recently in Duchesne.

The Oscar-winning movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" more or less followed the official version of Utah's most famous outlaws: Butch and Sundance high-tailed it to South America.

Image from the documentary showing William Long's body being uncovered.
Image from the documentary showing William Long's body being uncovered.

Things didn't go well there. In a shootout with the Bolivian Army in 1908, both outlaws died in a blaze of gunfire, if not necessarily glory.

"Everybody's like, 'They died in Bolivia! They died in Bolivia!' [But] they didn't die in Bolivia," said documentary producer Marilyn Grace.

Dr. John McCullough, who has long experience as a forensic anthropologist, told us, "Two gringos definitely died, but we just don't know which ones."

Three months ago, they dug up a grave in the Duchesne City Cemetery. They're hoping to prove that William Henry Long was, in fact, the Sundance Kid.

Long died an old man in 1936, a Utah rancher with a shady reputation and a mysterious past. "Everybody knew he was an outlaw. They didn't know which one," Grace said.

Her documentary will argue that Long married a widow with six kids in 1894 and led a secret double life during Butch and Sundance's outlaw years. "It's a great cover, to be married with six children instead of an outlaw on the loose," she said.

At a glance, photos of Sundance and Long don't look strikingly alike, but when transparencies are matched up, the images seem to fuse into the face of one very wanted man. "It's a perfect match, almost a perfect match," McCullough said.

Side-by-side images of William Long and the Sundance Kid.
Side-by-side images of William Long and the Sundance Kid.

"Both have broken noses. Both have a notch in the ear. Both have a notch on the chin," Grace pointed out.

McCullough took it a step further, measuring all their features. He calculated a mathematical match .99. "Which is astounding," he said. "I had never expected to get even that close."

There's another interesting photo comparison: Sundance's known sisters and two women Long claimed were his sisters. "We did a comparison of the sisters as well, and it's just too close. It's just too close," McCullough said.

On top of that, they found a mystery: William Henry Long's skull has a bullet hole. His death in 1936 was ruled a suicide because a rifle was found near his body, but McCullough found no powder burns and an unexpected angle of entry. "It would be difficult to do that with a rifle by oneself," he said.

The acid test is DNA evidence. They haven't got it yet, but they're trying to compare samples from Long's bones with DNA from a descendant of Sundance's mother. We'll keep you posted, and we're keeping our skepticism firmly in place until then.

E-mail: jhollenhorst@ksl.com

John Hollenhorst

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