FORT SUMNER, N.M. -- A city official says stronger measures will be taken to make sure the twice stolen tombstone of legendary outlaw Billy the Kid won't disappear for a third time.
The 100-pound stone, nearly as elusive as Billy the Kid was in life, was recovered in California, more than 800 miles from where it was stolen 10 days ago, authorities said Tuesday.
Officer Marshall Warren said the tombstone was found at the home of a truck driver at Huntington Beach, Calif.
'I got an anonymous call Friday from someone who had seen the tombstone at a residence in Huntington Beach,' Warren said. 'We were able to give their police enough information that they recovered the tombstone.'
Warren declined to identify the trucker, who police said was on the road, perhaps between California and New Mexico. He said the suspect would be arrested and extradited if he fails to surrender to authorities in New Mexico first.
Just as William H. 'Billy the Kid' Bonney eluded authorities between killings and escaped from jail at least two separate times, his gravestone has disappeared twice, eluding recovery for 26 years the first time.
However, the tombstone was found in Texas and returned to Fort Sumner in 1976 in time for the annual Billy the Kid Days Celebration. It was fixed inside a steel band frame that was welded to braces attached to angle irons inserted in the ground.
City Councilman Don Franks, who helped anchor the stone during brief ceremonies marking its return in 1976, said he and others thought the heavy tombstone was sufficiently secured, but it was removed last week in less than an hour with the use of crowbars.
'We're really going to have to stick it in the ground this time,' Franks said. 'I've suggested that we just close it in with angle irons; that way, they'd have to have a cutting torch to get it.'
Franks said no definite plans had been made to mark the return of the tombstone after the latest theft, but he said the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the killing of Billy the Kid by Sheriff Pat Garrett already was scheduled for June 8-14.
The tombstone is marked with the number 21, Bonney's age at the time of his death and also the number of men he once claimed to have killed.
It also reads: 'Billy the Kid: Born Nov. 23, 1860; killed July 14, 1881. The boy bandit king. He died as he lived.'