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.


I did see alot of cool indian rock carvings on the west side of Old Women Springs road near Bodick. Once I saw a guy tracing them so he could study them.

I lived in high desert for long time, livied in landers in the 70"s as a teen, and went to morongo res. all the time too, the people in the 1900"s just kepted pushing natives around would"nt leave well alone, willie boy was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

One on-going curiosity is this: the site has always been labeled "Ruby Mountain," from the very beginning of the stories to the latest books and plays, and yet the real Ruby Mountain is 5-7 miles away from the mountain on which the marker is situated. How is that? No one has ever written "Ruby Mountain area," but always Ruby Mountain. Amd there are several valleys between Ruby Mountaqin and the monument; the monument is not even in what could reasonable be labeled the Ruby Mountain area." The question is this - is the monument really on the site of the actual shoot-out [I note there is no rock fortress/wall or whatever that he supposedly erected to protect humself in the shootout], or are they diverting attention from the real site, actually somewhere on the real Ruby Mountain, out of cultural sensitivity, respect, or some other value?

My great grandfather was a deputy in Riverside, CA during these times. He published an auto biography called "The closing of the west". There is a section about the Willie Boy manhunt. It was a well known fact that Willie Boy was also homosexual and was having a relationship with his girlfriends father. He killed him in a drunken rage after the man was going to expose the relationship. Then the running came.

Hi - I have never heard of these stories before. Do you have a copy of your grandfather's book on Willie Boy? I am hungry for information. I would love to read it. I will buy it, if it is for sale. Thanks for contacting me
Best regards,
Ron House

Hello and thank you for your comments.
I would love to read your great grandfather's book.
What was his name? Grace

This page needs editing: 'there' needs to be replaced with 'their' a few times.

To the first guy...{ghostmarker} giving a movie plot does not make it true or insider info.

To second guy...[davey] willie boy is gay????theirs one i had not heard...ever.<but>...?

Please keep your facts,facts. My grandfather was honest and a good cop!

Being a friend of Charlie Reche's grandson it is interesting to read what is written here, most of it not based on first hand account's. Erickrz has the story pretty much correct, there was little doubt in the posse's mind that Billie Boy killed the girl because she was slowing him down, and the posse was about to stop the chase (according to the Reche's) until that incident. Billie Boy was described as a Paiute runner, who mostly made his living picking fruit on the Banning Bench. Billie Boy is dead and that was verified by Charley Reche and others. Like most stories of the old west you can't much believe what is written by those johnnie come lately's.

I have never heard of Willie Boy


Add new comment