What ever happened to Willie Boy.....

The true story of Willie Boy, as I heard from the Indians in my family

Willie boy's Grave Marker in White WaterWhen I was a kid my Uncle Leroy, part Paiute Indian, Part Mexican, part white, told us the story of Willie Boy.

Supposedly an uncle of his and how he led the Sheriff and his pose From Palm Canyon south of Palm Springs, up through White Water and up into the Ruby Mt area....Today you can see thousands of High Powered Wind Mills scattered through the same area.

Who was Willie Boy and is his legend true? Even a movie, "Tell them Willie boy is here" was made in 1969 with Robert Blake playing Willie Boy, and Robert Redford playing the Sheriff, and was based on a book, which I own, called 'A Desert Manhunt'

As to the legend being true, most assuredly.  Did the movie "Tell them Willie boy is here" get it right?  Aside from "Tombstone" being very close to being historically correct, this movie is very close to the actual facts, places, and characters involved in the manhunt.

Willie Boy was a Paiute Indian, uncle to my uncle Leroy Arnize, (Arnesto in Spanish) who in 1909 ran off with his lover after killing her father in self defense.  He found him bent over, beating his girlfriend, named Lola, and when he tried to interfere and stop him, Lola's father went after Willie Boy.  So he had to kill him.  The tribal elders tried to defend Willie but White Man's law took precedent over Indain Law and Sheriff Cooper was dispatched from Riverside to track him down and charge Willie Boy with murder.

Willie and Lola are hunted for several days and were almost caught in White Water when Willie's Horse spooked as a Train went by.  But White Water was dry and they were able to escape under the track trestle and make it into the Hills to the north of White Wate.  Willie Boy had a clear shot of the posse as they advanced up the river bed, so he started taking pot shots at them, trying to kill their horses, hoping to slow them down.  But Willie Boy ends up accidentally shooting one of the bounty hunters as he walks in front of his horse just as Willie shot.  The Sheriff had another Murder charge on his hands..

They manage to evade the bounty hunters for several days until it's obvious that the posse was catching up to them.  So Lola shoots herself in order to slow down the posse's advance, but Sheriff Cooper thinks that Willie Boy has killed her, but doesn't understand why.  The posse is growing restless and most of them take off on their own to hunt Willie down.  But Sheriff Cooper goes off alone to try and kill Willie Boy, before the main posse catches up to him.

As soon as Cooper catches up, he comes under fire from Willie Boy who is dug into a small cave at the top of Ruby Mountain.  Cooper is almost shot several times as he tries to climb up the hill.  In truth, the Sheriff finally manages to make his way up behind Willie and tries to talk him to surrendering.  But Willie Boy wont surrender.  Willie swings around to try to shoot the Sheriff, but Sheriff Cooper Beats him with his shot gun.  When the Sheriff checks Willie Boy's body the Sheriff  discovers that Willie was out of bullets.  The Sherrif pulled Willie Boy's gun out of his pants and discovers that it too is empty. To Cooper it is evident that Willie Boy Forced the Sheriff to kill him, in other words, perhaps the first "suicide by cop".

The Sheriff is actually crestfallen.  He carefully gathers Willie Boy's body, carries him down the slope of Ruby Mt to his horse and the waiting posse..  There are several Tribal leaders with the posse and the Sheriff gives them the body of Willie Boy, who then take Willie's body away and later burn it.

The Bounty hunters are not happy with Sheriff Cooper. They wanted Willie Boy's  body to collect their money they felt they had coming to them.  One of the posse members is reported to have said that the 'People have got see something so they will be sure this murder is dead'.  Sheriff Cooper is reported to have responded.  "Sorry, I dont have any souvenirs for them"

Willy Boy's grave monument is erected at the exact same location where he was shot, died and buried by the tribal leaders and has never been disturbed in any way.  So the next time you are out by White Water, remember, that Willie boy was really out there, causing all sorts of trouble and creating a undying legend.


Sir I strongly agree with everything you say. I have been on the wrong side of the law years ago what ever happened to me I deserved. If you do the crime be ready to do the time. I wish now so many times I could have went into law enforcement. Like I thought my children and grandchildren the man that wears the badge is here to help you even if it cost his life. I too have Choctaw blood in me and love exploring the old west.

I thank you sir for what you do in law enforcement

Hello, Rick,

It's nice to hear someone who is even minded when it comes to topics like this. It sounds like you have done well if you brought up children and they had children of their own. In the end we all make our own decisions and have to live by them. Not all people that break the law are bad people, we all make mistakes, man I've made a few! You sound like someone I would love to sit down with and talk with someday.


We were out visiting the grave site on 10/4/2009.
We had no trouble getting to the grave site. Get a topo map, the roads are clearly marked.
From Highway 247 in Landers, (There is a yellow sign on 247 for New dixie Mine Road) head west on New Dixie Mine Road about 6 miles to a road heading north
There is a metal post at the junction. Head north to the end of the road about 3 miles. The grave site is fenced off. A picnic table is nearby as well.
DO NOT drive past the wilderness boundary as others have. We saw a ranger on patrol. We walked in the last 2.5 miles. The day was cool but on hot days you better carry water. Not as level as others have noted. But an easy 90 minutes each way.

This has been an interesting series of comments and, while I find the differing versions interesting, it is truly a shame that there has not been more recognition of the tragedy caused by what seems to be a basic clash of cultures, which began with a parent's disapproval of his daughters suitor. Whether Willie Boy acted in self-defense, or killed the father out of spiteful willfulness, it remains clear that the prejudice and animosity directed toward the indian population was sufficient to create a lethal environment, which resulted in the tragic death of a young couple in love.... THAT is the context and reality that has been lost, but should remain the true focus of this unfortunate event in our recent history.

i live in banning and i was talking to our mailman and found out that his great grandfather was charles reche. (from the posse)

Hi I just ran across these comments on Willie Boy and I Just wanted to add information to these postings. first of all the information about Charlie Reche is correct who was part of the San Bernardino County Sheriff Posse and he was shot in the leg during the scuffle in Landers area. I recieved this information from a long time family friend and Charlie Reche's grandson Morgan Reche who used to be a resident of Yucca Valley and the Reche homestead @ Goat Mountain in Landers. Morgan now resides in Idaho where I also lived and worked with him before moving to Yucca Valley where my wife grew up 22yrs ago. Morgan was generally contacted anytime people were doing a story on Willie Boy and was in Landers at the dedication of the Willie Boy Monument.Morgan also has a oil painting of Charlie Reche hanging in his home which i always commented on how much Charlie resembled the late actor Jason Robards. hope this information helps

saw the grave site yesterday. It is pretty cool but is has a chain link fence around the headstone plaque. I took a picture. My question is did he die there or is this a relocated grave? I did not see anyone patrolling the roads or chasing my quad

Hi: We represent an archaological and historial research society.  Two of our researchers were looking for the Willy Boy gravesite on 4-15-2011.  They got as far as the odd fence and the boundary marker which prohibits offroading.  But, they did not know in which direction to walk the 2.5 to 3 miles to the site.  Would they hike north, south, east, west, straight ahead, veer off to the right or left of the fence?  We are aware that we can use our GPS device, but would like some firsthand information as to the terrain, landmarks along the way, etc.  According to Google Earth, it is in the direction of that cement cystern which is near the fence. We would appreciate some help, if possible.  We have been researching Willy Boy's story for a number of years.  Thanks


I don't know north from south there, but it is on down that winding road [which you can go on, regardless of signs], past the cistern, and on top of a ridge. But that is not a grave; it is a memorial of the shoot-out site. There was no grave, because there was no body! Willie Boy escaped and went on to Nevada. If you note the photographed body [whose face tellingly is never shown!], it was quite fat; WB was lithe, athletic kid who could run like the wind. The claim about the bod is that it is fat from death-bloat. Garbage: the belt would not have expanded with the flesh, yet that belt is of proper size for the "bloated" body. It was a pride-based hoax that they killed him; he ran like the wind to safety, dying of TB decades later.

If you pull all the narratives from the various family histories, this is a great story for future generations to study. No need to decide how accurate one story is over another since, as you say, memories fade and narratives change over time. The days of perfectly memorizing history are gone but we can still learn from the narratives.


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