Some believe Butch Cassidy didn’t die in South America, but came back to the US with a new identity.

A black and white headshot of Robert LeRoy Parker, aka Butch Cassidy. He is wearing a suit and bowling hat.

Robert LeRoy Parker, “Butch Cassidy”

William Philips in cowboy gear, standing next to a horse.

Is William Phillips actually Butch Cassidy?


Four mexican police officers standing by a body under a sheet.

Was Butch’s body falsely identified?

The names Robert LeRoy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh don’t often ring a bell. That’s because they’re better known as the legendary outlaws from the late 1800s, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Paul Newman and Robert Redford starred in the celebrated film about their final days. The movie, like history, tells us that Butch and Sundance died in a shootout in South America. But some believe that Hollywood and history may be wrong. There is evidence that Butch Cassidy returned to the United States and died of natural causes.

Two years after Butch and Sundance were supposedly killed, a man named William Thadeus Phillips arrived in Spokane, Washington. He opened a successful machine shop and became a prominent businessman. According to writer James Dullenty, Phillips was a man without a past:

“The first definitive record of William Phillips was his marriage certificate dated May 14, 1908. There is no other previous record of William Phillips. About 1922, the first reports began circulating in the West that Butch Cassidy had returned. And people began to say that Butch Cassidy was William Phillips.”

A man in a white shirt writing a letter.

Phillips wrote the story of Butch Cassidy

Some see a resemblance between William Thadeus Phillips and George Butch Cassidy. But if Phillips was Cassidy, then how did the outlaw escape from Bolivia? According to some historians, the account of how Butch and Sundance died can be credited to one man, Percy Seibert.

Seibert had worked with the outlaws at a tin mine in Bolivia and became friends with them. He was the one who identified the two men killed in the shoot out as Butch and Sundance. But writer Larry Pointer thinks that Seibert may have deliberately lied:

“I believe that Percy told the story of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s death in Bolivia to pay back what he felt was a debt of loyalty and friendship, to allow these outlaws to begin a life under amnesty without a past.”

Larry Pointer is convinced that Butch Cassidy took on the identity of William Phillips. As Phillips, he returned to the Wyoming mountains, where Butch and his outlaw gang had once cavorted. James Dullenty says he’s heard first hand reports about Phillips:

“We know the man who went with Phillips to Wyoming in 1933. This man died recently, but we have interviewed him. He was there all summer with Phillips and he met all the old timers that Philips met, and in almost every case, these old timers accepted Phillips as Cassidy.”

A pistol with Cassidy's brand.

Cassidy’s brand was on Phillip’s gun

Author Dan Buck has researched the life and death of Butch Cassidy and is convinced that William Phillips was an imposter:

“Old timer stories are always the most interesting and the least reliable. The William Phillips story is chock full of old timer tales, people that claim they were good friends with Cassidy and knew Phillips was Cassidy. And usually it’s when asked by someone, when prompted by someone — ‘Well, you were a good friend of Butch Cassidy’s weren’t you?’ — and, of course. the answer is yes. Who wants to say no?”

In Wyoming, Phillips met a woman named Mary Boyd Rhodes. In 1934, Mary and her sixteen year old granddaughter, Ione, rode out to Phillips’ campsite:

“The man that my grandmother met that day was going by the name of William Phillips, and she knew him by the name of Leroy George Parker, who is known as Butch Cassidy. He recognized her immediately and she recognized him. I sensed that they had a relationship that I had never known much about. So my grandmother had finally told me that he was her childhood sweetheart.”

Three years later, Phillips mailed a ring to Mary. It was engraved: “George C. to Mary B.” Phillips died soon afterwards. Dan Buck believes that Phillips pretended to be Cassidy for the fun of it:

“He traveled out to the west, he met some people, he probably got some free beers, he certainly got a lot of adventures out of it. But some people have recently done some photo comparisons of the two and established that they have different heads and different faces. Cassidy basically had small features on a big head with a lantern jaw. And Phillips had more normal features with a more or less pointed chin, and his head was basically an inch or more lower than Butch Cassidy’s.”

But several other clues suggest that Butch and Phillips were one and the same. Phillips wrote a manuscript called “The Bandit Invincible: The Story of Butch Cassidy.” According to James Dullenty, it contained specific details about Butch’s adventures:

“There’s material in that manuscript that no one else knew and that had never been published, that either the man who wrote it had to have intimate knowledge of Cassidy, or he was Cassidy.”

Phillips owned this six-shot Colt revolver. Carved into the pistol grip was a unique brand.
Larry Pointer says it’s significant:

“That brand was the reverse E box E. That was Butch Cassidy’s brand in the 1890s.”

There seems to be at least some evidence that Butch Cassidy may have survived the shootout. But it was almost certainly the end of the road for the Sundance Kid.

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season three with Robert Stack and in season four with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.


  1. Daniel Buck

    OOPS, should have written: “In the three decades since this program was originally broadcast the notion that William T. Phillips was Butch Cassidy has been thoroughly debunked.”


  2. Daniel Buck

    In the three decades since this program was originally debunked the notion that William T. Phillips was Butch Cassidy has been thoroughly debunked.

    For example, researchers discovered that in early 1908, when Cassidy was living in Bolivia, Phillips was getting married in Michigan. More significantly, a couple of years ago, a Wyoming researcher determined that Phillips, going as William Wilcox, was in prison in Wyoming at the same time as Cassidy. In other words, Cassidy and Phillips/Wilcox were two different people. Even Larry Pointer, for years the chief proponent of the idea that Phillips was Cassidy, now agrees that he was not.


  3. Jim Wade

    It’s been over one hundred years since Butch and Sundance supposedly died in Bolivia. There is no proof that they did or didn’t. All we can do after reading the evidence is form our own conclusion. I personally believe they died in Bolivia. The guys that made the claims to being Butch were probably scam artist.


  4. Ken Chrismon

    Maybe Percy Seibert and Butch and Sundance being such close buddies hatched the whole robbery as a way to have Butch and Sundance “die” by getting two unsuspecting gringos to rob the mining shipment and providing a location to hide and then notify the police with the hideout information and they are killed and Percy says, “Yep, that’s them”, when it wasn’t really. The gold and money is retrieved and Butch and Sundance go home after they “died” in Bolivia..


  5. Shannan Guzman

    I live in Laramie Wyoming where butch served prison time


  6. Dan Faircloth

    The real unsolved mystery is what ever happened to Etta Place.


  7. Dutch Miller

    If you guys really want to understand Butch & Sundance, take a look at “The New Evidence” by Brian Mida Bleecker. His cabinet card photo, from 1889, shows Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh in their early twenties, before fame, fortune, and broken noses. Daniel Buck and Michael Bell have sabotaged this Kindle e-book with one-star ratings, but they refuse to talk about the startling new image, clearly the next big thing in Wild West research. It is time to start seriously rethinking the Telluride robbery, history buffs!



    some historians need to exam the hand written letters from 1909-1936? they seem to hold some truth & his family refuses to truthfully comment on it? anr rate dead man cannot wite letters from the dead?


  9. CM

    Funny how only the Cassidy family knows that Butch was the Sundance kid. I was told at a family reunion. They also conveniently left out how, when, and where he died.


  10. Russell Willis

    Re: Butch Cassidy. I am from a little town in Southern Utah and grew up hearing about Butch. My father was born in 1929 and always related the story about getting to meet Butch. To people in southern Utah he was a hero. In about 1940-41 when my father was approximately 12 years old they were in the little school house when they were told Butch was in town. School was dismissed and all were able to run to the general store and meet and shake hands with him. So my father met Butch. It was later said that he had died on his ranch in Southern California using an assumed name.


  11. Mr D Trott

    Check out Percy Fawcets travels in Bolivia.


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