Did Butch Cassidy Die in Boliva in 1908 or Return to the U.S. in 1925?
Robert Leroy Parker, better known as Butch Cassidy, was a notorious outlaw in the Old West. Along with his partner Harry Longabaugh, alias the Sundance Kid, and his gang the Wild Bunch, Cassidy robbed numerous banks and trains in the late 1800's. With the law closing in on them, Cassidy, Sundance and Sundance's fiancee Etta Place boarded a ship in February 1901 and departed for Buenos Aires, Argentina. For several years, they attempted to run a ranch and live a peaceful life in South America. However, they eventually returned to robbing banks and trains in Argentina. In November 1908, a courier for a silver mine near San Vincente, Bolivia was robbed by two masked American bandits. After the robbery, the bandits were spotted in the town of San Vincente. The boarding house where the robbers were staying was surrounded by soldiers and other authorities who intended to arrest the duo. A gunfight ensued which ended when it became dark. Unlike what was portrayed in the 1969 movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, in the morning, they found both outlaws dead with a gun shot in the head. It is believed that to avoid being captured one outlaw shot his partner and then shot himself. The history books will tell you those two outlaws were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Cassidy's family will tell you a different story in regards to the outlaw's demise. Cassidy's sister, Lulu Parker Betenson, said that in 1925 her brother, Robert Leroy Parker, returned to Utah and visited with his family. Betenson was 41 when Cassidy returned home. She talks about Cassidy's visit in her book Butch Cassidy, My Brother published in 1975 when Betenson was 90-years-old. Betenson claims that after visiting family and friend Cassidy moved on to live in the Northwest and died in 1937. The alias he lived by and the location of his grave has remained a family secret.
So, is Lulu Parker Betenson telling the truth? I recently read Butch Cassidy, My Brother and found the book to be intriguing. Chapter 15 entitled Butch Comes Home is where Betenson recalls what she remembers about her brother's visit. I found her description of Cassidy's stay to be truthful with two exceptions. The first one has nothing to do with Statement Analysis. Betenson said she asked her brother about some of the stories she heard about him over the years. One had to do with a widow and her mortgage. She then quotes Cassidy as saying, "This is a good one and true. One day I went into a store where I often picked up supplies. It was run by a little widow lady. That day she looked real glum and I asked her what was the matter. She replied, 'The man who holds the mortgage on this store is coming to collect and I haven't got the money. He'll take my store.'" Cassidy goes on to say he gave the woman one-thousand dollars so she could pay her mortgage. After the banker picked up the money, Cassidy waited for him outside of town. When the banker passed by Cassidy jumped out of the bushes and robbed him of the one-thousand dollars. The widow got to keep her store and Cassidy got to keep his money.
The problem with this story is that it is a familiar tale in outlaw folklore. Jesse James who preceded Butch Cassidy was said to have done the same thing. In the James' version, it involved a widow and her house. If Betenson had only stated she heard such a story about her brother, that would be acceptable. I am sure she heard plenty of stories about Butch Cassidy. The problem is, according to Betenson, Cassidy himself recalled this story. It is possible it is true but it appears to be a recycled story. Why would Cassidy lie to his own family? Earlier in Chapter 15, Betenson writes there were times Cassidy would hear a fictitious story about himself. Liking the story, he would repeat it to others as if it were true. Maybe he was doing the same thing concerning the widow and her mortgage.
The second problem with Betenson's story has to do with how she referenced her brother. Butch Cassidy's real name was Robert Leroy Parker. In Chapter 15, Betenson usually refers to Cassidy as "Bob." "Bob didn't know the family had moved into town; so naturally he had gone straight to the ranch." "During the night, Bob told us about the friends he had made in South America, about his travels down there and elsewhere." "We asked Bob if he really pulled as many jobs as were attributed to him." However, on page 187 she writes, "I asked Butch who was his best friend." There are no synonyms in Statement Analysis. Every word means something different. This includes names. For example, a mother may refer to her child as "Danny" when everything is okay. Referring to him by his given name "Daniel" indicates he might be in trouble. Both names refer to the same child but have different meanings. Truthful people will usually use the same word or name unless there is a justification for changing the language. If there is no justification for the change, it is an indication of deception.
As I look at her story I cannot find a justifiable reason for calling him "Butch." It appears it has nothing to do with the pronoun "I" because on page 190 she wrote, "I asked Bob about the time he played Santa Claus to a family." Here she goes back to calling him "Bob." Betenson will again refer to her brother as "Butch" on page 193, "I think Butch was going under the name of Bob Parks at the time" and on page 195, "...so far as we know Butch was never married." Since Butch Cassidy was his outlaw name, it is possible that when she refers to him as "Butch" she is viewing him as an outlaw. When she refers to him as "Bob" she is viewing him as her brother.
There is one indicator that Betenson is telling the truth. Shortly after Butch Cassidy supposedly died in Bolivia, a man by the name William T. Phillips surfaced in Spokane, WA claiming to be Butch Cassidy. Phillips authored The Bandit Invincible a biography of Butch Cassidy. The manuscript contained detailed information about Cassidy's life. Phillips died in 1937 in the Northwest. This is the same date and location Betenson said her brother died. This led many people to believe that Phillips was Cassidy. It wasn't until 2012 that new evidence indicated that William T. Phillips was not Butch Cassidy. Instead William T. Phillips was William T. Wilcox. Wilcox had been in a Wyoming Territorial Prison with Butch Cassidy. Photos of Phillips and Wilcox showed similarities. It is believed that while in prisoner together Wilcox aka Phillips obtained the information from Cassidy that appeared in The Bandit Invincible. What is interesting is that thirty-two years earlier in her book Butch Cassidy, My Brother Betenson stated that Phillips was not her brother Butch Cassidy. So, how did Betenson know this? If Cassidy died in Bolivia, Betenson could not have known this for certain. No one knew for certain that Cassidy was dead. Was she guessing about Phillips or did she know because she saw her brother in 1925?
When it comes to analyzing the language found in Butch Cassidy, My Brother the only indication of deception is what appears to be an unjustified change in language from "Bob" to "Butch" to "Bob." The tricky part about this Statement Analysis technique is that there may be a justifiable reason for the change but we cannot see it. We are looking for an obvious reason. I tell people that if we cannot find a justification for the change in language we lean towards deception. I also tell people we are looking for several indications of deception before we come to that conclusion. In this case, we only have one indication of deception and it is only a leaner. Therefore, I conclude that Lula Parker Betenson was telling the truth. Butch Cassidy did not die in Bolivia but returned to the United States in 1925. As for the Sundance Kid and Etta Place, they disappeared into history.