GRANBURY, Texas Oops. They dug up the wrong man.
Searchers delving for the bones of J. Frank Dalton, who claimed until his death in 1951 to be Jesse James, mistakenly exhumed the remains of Henry Holland (1907-73) in Granbury Cemetery.
"The tombstone was placed incorrectly," said Bud Hardcastle, a Purcell, Okla., car dealer who financed the attempt to prove the Dalton-James connection through DNA testing.
He referred to a granite stone that has drawn tourists to the cemetery since it was placed there by Dalton-James supporters in 1984. It proclaims: Jesse Woodson James, Sept. 5, 1847-Aug. 15, 1951. Supposedly killed in 1882.
"Yes, I'm embarrassed," Hardcastle said of the near-miss dig done a month ago by a search team from Southwest Texas State University. The steel vault containing the coffin was unearthed last month in a circus atmosphere as reporters, James and Dalton family members and curious spectators watched. The coffin was not opened there but was taken to an undisclosed site so that DNA samples could be harvested.
Hardcastle said searchers knew they had made a mistake soon after they looked into the coffin. The remains inside had only one arm. Dalton had both of his arms. Hardcastle and SWT forensic anthropologist David Glassman blamed the mix-up on erroneous placement of the tombstone. They said a series of earlier temporary markers at the grave had been removed by souvenir hunters by the time the permanent stone was placed.
"Each time a wooden or metal marker was taken, it was replaced a few inches farther from the actual grave," Hardcastle said.
But he vowed to continue the search, instructing his lawyer, Steve Reed, to seek a court order to open a second grave.
"I want to know the truth as soon as possible," said Hardcastle, agent for two purported grandsons of the old outlaw.