KEARNEY, Mo. (AP) — Researchers trying to confirm if a member of the Jesse James gang was buried in a northwest Missouri cemetery can exhume his suspected remains for DNA testing, a judge has ruled.
Clay County Circuit Judge A. Rex Gabbert granted permission Thursday for researchers to dig up the remains, thought to be the 19th century outlaw Clell Miller, from the Muddy Fork Cemetery in Kearney.
The remains will be exhumed Oct. 8 and reburied by Jan. 8, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/OnEQ6t) .
During Thursday’s hearing, James Bailey, a retired Minnesota State University-Mankato law enforcement professor, presented research about his efforts to identify the remains. He has also studied the Sept. 7, 1876, bank robbery in Northfield, Minn., during which Miller was killed.
“It is great because technology is really allowing us to do this,” Bailey said after the hearing. “This could not have been done a few years ago, and a decade from now it might be too late to do it.”
Shortly after he was killed in the robbery, Miller was buried in Minnesota. His remains and those of a fellow James gang member were later exhumed and given to Henry Wheeler, a medical student who killed Miller during a shootout between the gang and town residents.
Wheeler claimed a skeleton he displayed in later years in his North Dakota office belonged to Miller. That skeleton was found two years ago by a researcher looking for the weapon used to kill Miller.
Months after the shooting, a body presumed to be Miller was claimed by family members and brought back to Missouri, where it was buried in the Muddy Fork Cemetery.
In April, Miller’s relatives and a group of forensic researchers asked for permission to exhume the body. Clay County Prosecutor Daniel L. White filed the court request in August.
Jackson County Medical Examiner Mary H. Dudley, who also works for Clay County, said forensic experts from Virginia will help with the exhumation and examination of remains. They will take samples for DNA tests from the femur and hair and a molar, she said.
However, the DNA may have been destroyed if the remains were preserved in a brine solution or formaldehyde, she said.
If the tests are run, it will likely take several months to get results.