Willie Boy was a Chemehuevi (shum-wavy) Indian, a tribe that lived in the southern California deserts between the Arizona border and Palm Springs, California.
In September, 1909, Willie Boy confronted the father of the girl he loved in an orchard outside Banning, California. A dispute arose and Willie Boy killed the man, William Mike. Taking the young Carlota he ran away with her into the desert. Running east from Banning, the couple turned north up the Morongo Valley towards the high Mojave desert behind the Little San Bernanrdino Mountains.
They reached an area now known as The Pipes and it was here that Willie Boy left Carlota; possibly in an attempt to run to 29 Palms and get supplies. In his absence, a posse of lawmen and trackers came upon Carlota, lying dead in the rocks. They claim that they found her that way, but what probably happened is that one of the men spotted a figure moving amongst the rocks and fired. Only later did he learn of his mistake.
This first posse returned to Banning and a second posse was mounted to search for Willie Boy. Traveling northwest of The Pipes, this posse was approaching a place now called Ruby Mountain when rifle shots rang out. The 5 men of the posse all dashed for cover. It was Willie Boy. He had no intention of killing the men, he only wanted to kill their horses so that he and Carlota (who he thought was still in hiding waiting for him) could make good their escape.
Willie killed 3 of the horses, the other 2 running away into the desert. One of his shots struck and wounded Charlie Reche (pronounced "wretchy".) During the course of this gun battle, Willie was informed of Carlota's death.
As darkness feel, the posse members picked up Charlie and retreated; as they moved away from Ruby Mountain they heard one final shot.
Within two weeks a third posse rode out into the desert and approached Ruby Mountain. As the men searched the area they came upon the body of Willie boy; that last shot had been Willie taking his own life.
The posse may have tried to burn the body but there is not a lot of wood in that area. (I have been to the spot and it is mostly rock, sand, and an occassional Joshua tree.)
With the death of Carlota and Willie Boy, the events passed into local legend. Then, in 1960, a man named Harry Lawton wrote what today would be called a "historical novel", "Willie Boy; A Desert Manhunt." This account was then made into the 1969 Robert Redford film, "Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here", and so this sordid little tragedy became known on an international level.
Sadly, the historical accuracy of both the book and the film was lacking. Recently two authors, James Sandos and Larry Burgess, re-examined the world that Willie Boy inhabited and the events that made up his sad saga and a new story has emerged