So…Who’s Telling The Truth about Jesse James’ DNA Results?
By Betty Dorsett Duke
There are conflicting reports as to who’s telling the truth about Jesse James’ DNA results. One way to decide who’s telling the truth is to determine who has the most to gain by agreeing with Professor James E. Starrs’ 1995 findings even though they have been found to be flawed.
Stephen Caruso, deputy county counselor for Clay County at the time of the 1995 exhumation and DNA testing of the reported grave of Jesse James, told the Kearney Courier (Clay County, Missouri) the whole thing was “phony.” “They tried to do DNA testing on remains that weren’t Jesse James,” Caruso said. He claims that someone lost Jesse’s hair that was to be tested, but then it suddenly turned up. He also claims someone submitted their own hair in place of the lost hair.
Yet when the James Farm & Museum is asked about the DNA results they claim they were conclusive. What gives? Who are we to believe?
Here’s some facts about the exhumation and DNA results that may help the reader decide who’s telling the truth:
Stephen Caruso represented the James Farm & Museum during the exhumation and DNA testing;
The validity of the two men Professor Starrs chose as mitochondrial (mtDNA) reference sources is highly questionable. He (Starrs) admittedly lied about not being able to exhume Jesse James’ mother to use her mtDNA sequence to compare against the mtDNA sequence of remains that allegedly originated from the exhumed grave. (Starrs, A Voice For The Dead, 2005);
The origin of the teeth and hair reported to have been retrieved from the grave bearing Jesse James’ name which was used for DNA testing is highly questionable due to no chain of custody (http://www.jessejamesintexas.com/dna.htm);
Gene Gentrup wrote, “Starrs credited a tooth retrieved from the James Farm & Museum as being key to his probe. I worked as associate editor for The Kearney Courier during the exhumation of Jesse James and subsequent DNA tests. I wrote the article in the newspaper’s ‘Special Collectors’ edition in which Professor James E. Starrs said a tooth collected from the James Farm Museum provided the necessary mitochondrial DNA needed to prove that ‘with a reasonable degree of certainty’ the remains buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kearney are indeed Jesse James. I never heard that any of the teeth found among the remains exhumed from Mt. Olivet carried sufficient DNA for the purposes of Professor Starrs’ investigation. Likewise, Starrs expressed his disappointment that no teeth were found in the “Tupperware bowl” unearthed from Jesse’s original grave at the family farm. I did write in a later story that Starrs credited the tooth from the James Farm Museum as being key to his probe. I never thought to ask about the contradiction. So what about the tooth that Starrs used for mtDNA testing? From where did it come? I hope this is helpful. I am now editor of The Southern Platte Press newspaper in Parkville, Mo.”
After five years had passed from the announcement of the DNA results and still no published final report, Dr. Anne C. Stone, Dr. Mark Stoneking and Professor James E. Starrs, finally relented to pressure from inquiring minds and published it. However, instead of providing legitimate scientific answers they issued a very unscientific challenge asserting that DNA testing did not prove the exhumed remains were those of Jesse James, but they think they did so it’s up to all doubters to prove them wrong:
“Do the mtDNA results prove that the exhumed remains are those of Jesse James? The answer to this question must be no, as there is always the possibility (however remote) that the remains are from a different maternal relative of RJ [Robert Jackson] and MN [Mark Nikkel], or from an unrelated person with the same mtDNA sequence. However, it should be emphasized that the mtDNA results are in complete agreement with the other scientific investigations of the exhumed remains: there is no scientific basis whatsoever for doubting that the exhumed remains are those of Jesse James. The burden of proof now shifts to those who, for whatever reason, choose to still doubt the identification. The mtDNA results reported herein provide a standard which other claimants to the legacy of Jesse James must satisfy.” (Dr. Anne C. Stone, Dr. Mark Stoneking, and Professor James E. Starrs, Mitochondrial DNA [mtDNA] analysis of the presumptive remains of Jesse James.)
So, dear reader, who do you think is telling the truth?