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Descendants Blocked From Digging Up Plot

Sun., May 28, 1995

John Wilkes Booth, R.I.P.

A judge Friday refused to let Booth’s descendants dig up the family plot where Booth is supposedly buried to settle claims that he escaped Union soldiers and lived for 30 more years after he shot Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

The history books say Booth was tracked to a Virginia farm 12 days after the assassination and shot in the neck as he tried to escape a burning barn. Speculation persists, however, that Booth escaped the barn and lived under the alias David E. George.

“Unlike the escape-cover-up theory, the historical evidence which suggests that John Wilkes Booth was captured, killed, and positively identified is indeed convincing,” Circuit Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan said.

Kaplan also said he was reluctant to disturb the bodies of three infant siblings buried above Booth’s coffin in Greenmount Cemetery.

The judge also said that there may be severe water damage to the Booth burial plot and that there are no dental records available for comparison, thus “the identification may be inconclusive.”

Mark Zaid, a lawyer for the Booth descendants, said the ruling means the escape scenario will continue to thrive among conspiracy theorists.

“We’ve essentially condemned society to continually relive this theory,” he said.


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