July 18, 1995 in Nation/World

Team Digs Up James To Find Out The Truth Exhumation, Dna Tests Should Show If Outlaw Faked His Death

Amy Lignitz Associated Press
 

A vendor sold T-shirts that read “We Dig Jesse” as scientists digging up Jesse James’ grave Monday uncovered a shinbone.

The exhumation is aimed at settling whether the remains in Mount Olivet Cemetery belong to the notorious outlaw who was shot in the head in 1882.

Based on a newspaper account of his death, the exhumation team had expected to uncover a metal casket but found a wooden one instead.

“What we have found is some bone in the midst of a wooden casket,” said project leader James E. Starrs, a professor at George Washington University.

Some people claim James faked his death and went on to father more children.

Among those claiming to be descended from James are a member of the digging team and Starrs’ daughter-in-law.

“I can’t understand myself why people want to be related to such a scoundrel,” Starrs said.

The team hoped to recover enough hard bone or teeth to identify as that of James, said Michael Finnegan, professor of anthropology at Kansas State University.

Researchers Monday found a left tibia bone, which Finnegan described as spongy and in very bad shape.

Starrs said that by using mitochondrial DNA, which is passed through the maternal line, he can determine whether the pile of bones belongs to James.

The casket and remains will be returned to the grave after they are X-rayed and cleaned, scanned with a metal detector and catalogued.

The DNA question should be answered by mid-September, said Starrs, a forensic science and law professor.


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