LAS VEGAS - New information has surfaced in one of the best-known crimes in Nevada history -- the stickup of a bank in Winnemucca back in 1900.
For decades, lawmen and writers believed the bandits had been none other than Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
More recently, historians determined the robbery must have been committed by someone other than Butch and Sundance, but who?
At a recent reunion of outlaw clans, the I-Team's George Knapp heard a startling new version of the tale.
Long before the 1969 hit movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were legends of the Old West, celebrities of sorts.
This is Winnemucca at the beginning of the 20th century, images preserved in old postcards. For 100 years, the town enthusiastically embraced the story that it was Butch, Sundance, and other members of the wild bunch who staged the daring robbery of the First National Bank, making off with a fortune in gold coins.
The tale has been retold many times in Western magazines and history books. For years, Winnemucca celebrated Butch Cassidy Days as a tourist attraction. but is the legend true?
According to Kim Brackett, the co-author of "The Chronicles of Tap," "He didn't have anything to do with that robbery."
Brackett and her husband, Chet, are ranchers from Idaho who co-authored a book that implicates a member of their own family as the true ringleader of the Winnemucca heist.
"What did surprise me was that my great-grandfather was involved in it," Chet Brackett said.
His great-granddad Ira Brackett was a master horseman whose talents proved invaluable to the heist. The ringleader, though, was a tough Texas cowboy named Tap Duncan, who in his later years, became a respected owner of the largest cattle ranch in the country, the Diamond Bar, just outside of Kingman. That ranch recently hosted a family reunion, the descendants of several Old West outlaws.
Western historians believe that Tap Duncan knew the so-called wild bunch all too well. So well that some of them, including the notorious Kid Curry, used Duncan's name as an alias.
"When Kid Curry was shot dead by a posse, he was ID'd as Tap Duncan. He was carrying iID," said Bob Boze Bell, True West magazine.
At the reunion, the Brackett's gingerly told their relatives the story and why they think Tap Duncan robbed the Winnemucca bank. The book is based on a hidden stash of handwritten notes found in a house they were remodeling, written decades earlier by Chet's uncle.
The papers described in detail how the gang spent days casing Winnemucca, The route they used to elude the posse, and most surprisingly, that it has been an inside job.
The head cashier at the bank was a politically ambitious man named George Nixon. The Bracketts say Nixon recruited the bandits to rob his own bank.
"So, he says, 'This is George Nixon, the banker, I've got a lot of things going for me, but I've got troubles at the bank. if something's not done, the bank's gonna go belly up. he says, if the bank's robbed, everything is covered and I can continue my political career,'" Brackett said.
Nixon insisted that no one should be hurt in the robbery and no one was. Nixon went on to be elected a U.S. senator from Nevada.
Ringleader Tap Duncan returned to Arizona and subsequently acquired a much larger ranch. At the family reunion, the tale generated a little bit of blowback.
"A little bit. but I mean, not seriously. It happened a hundred years ago," Brackett said.
Many members of the Duncan family live in Nevada. One was a top lawman in Nye County years ago.
As for Butch and Sundance, though they probably didn't rob the bank in Winnemucca, there are other stories about their exploits here, years after they supposedly died in South America.
The I-Team is working on that story right now.
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