McCarty had a slim build, sandy blond hair and wore a signature sugar-loaf sombrero hat with a wide decorative band. He could be charming and polite one moment, then outraged and violent the next, a quixotic nature he used to great effect during his heists and robberies.
William was sent to a foster home, a farm in New Mexico when he was 14 and shortly after his mother died of tuberculosis. The farmer, Michael Antrim remembers William as a cruel little boy who used his first pocket knife to kill the neighbours kitten. Later, during a spell in jail for the theft of cloth, he escaped and returned to New York. It was here that he stabbed to death an acquaintance, Thomas Moore, a 20 year old Irish immigrant and on the run from authorities, McCarty hot-footed it to Arizona before joining up with a gang of gunfighters called 'The Boys' to fight in the Lincoln County Wars before switching sides to the opposition to fight with John Tunstall under the name of the 'Regulators'.
Barely escaping with his life, McCarty became an outlaw and a fugitive. He stole horses and cattle until his arrest in 1880 for the killing of Sheriff Brady during the Lincoln County War. After being sentenced to death, he killed his guards and escaped in 1881. He was hunted down and shot dead by Sheriff Patrick Garrett on July 14, 1881 in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
Twenty-one notches in his gun, one for every year of his short and violent life, William McCarty "Billy The Kid" is buried in the old Fort Sumner cemetery next to his compadres and fellow 'Regulators' Charlie Bowdre and Tom O'Folliard.