Forensic Experts Say Grave Belongs to Jesse
NWAR Morning News Feb. 24, 1996
by LAURA KING
A century-old dispute may have been laid to rest
Friday in Nashville, Tenn., when forensic experts announced that the
body they unearthed in Missouri last year was the legendary Jesse James.
Phillip Steele, a Springdale resident who is also a
Western history enthusiast, attended the National Forensic Science
Academy's annual conference, where the announcement was made.
"Yes, it was Jesse," Steele reported from
Nashville. As the president of the James-Younger Gang, a group of
history buffs who specialize in outlaw fact and folklore. Steele
has followed the case closely. In fact, he attended the
exhumation of the body from Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kearney, Mo., last
July, and he even served as a pallbearer at the "funeral" when the body
was returned to the grave after DNA testing concluded in October.
Remains of the body -- only a few teeth and a few
bones were found aside from some man-made items -- were tested and
compared to the DNA of a bona fide James descendant, Robert Jackson of
Oklahoma City, Steele said. Jackson is the great-grandson of
Susan James Palmer, the sister of Jesse and Frank James.
Professor James Starrs of George Washington
University, who led the forensics team that exhumed the body, reported
that tests "corresponded perfectly" with Jackson's DNA profile, Steele
The results come as no surprise. Steele said
researchers simply proved what historians have always known: James was
killed when Bob Ford, a member of his gang who probably was out to
collect bounty, shot him dead on April 3, 1882.
The purpose of the test was not only to prove that
Jesse James was in the grave, but also to determine who is and is not a
descendant of the outlaw.
It was important to establish that the body is
actually James', Steele said in a previous interview, because at least
four aging men claimed to be the outlaw after the shooting.
People have claimed throughout the 20th century that
they're James descendants because their parents or grandparents told
them it was true.
Reportedly, all those would-be relatives have to do
to prove their stories is to take simple blood tests to see if they're