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Historic treasure in vault?

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LAS CRUCES – It was another New Mexico man who made headlines in August – anonymously so – for bringing another supposed photo of Billy the Kid to light.

Joe Soebbing is his name, and he says he plans to sell the tintype photograph that he believes to be of William Henry McCarty Jr. and good friend Dan Dedrick. He keeps the picture inside a vault in a Mesilla Valley home packed with Old West paraphernalia, some of it the leftovers of a museum in Tombstone, Ariz., that he owned in the 1980s.

Soebbing bought the tintype, a small, luminous photograph on a thin sheet of iron – not tin as the name would suggest – in 1984 from its owners who had, in turn, purchased the photograph at a yard sale held by Sheriff Pat Garrett’s daughter Pauline in the late 1970s, he said.

“A tidbit (of information) here and a tidbit there does make for a more complete yes or no” on authenticity, he said.

Soebbing points to the young man’s clear eyes – Billy the Kid’s were said to be blue and piercing – as well as the sticking-out ears and long chin.

A forensic detective named Greg Bean, of the Bellevue, Wash., police department, made an unsolicited analysis of the young man’s physical characteristics after seeing the photograph. Bean wrote in his report that, after comparing Soebbing’s tintype to the known tintype of the Kid that sold for $2.3 million at auction in 2011, “it is extremely likely that the Unknown Subject is, in fact, Billy the Kid.”

Soebbing acquired the picture for a song, and although he declined to say at what price, it was for “way less” than $50,000, he said.

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