Bones not James gang's gunslinger, research finds
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Jesse James gang gunslinger Charlie Pitts was a bad man, and his evil ways caught up with him when he was gunned down during a bungled bank robbery in Northfield, Minn.
But his bones apparently made a clean getaway, according to new research presented here at a forensics symposium.
For decades, the Northfield Historical Society thought that it held the bones of the desperado in its basement.
Genetic testing results from the skeleton confirm earlier DNA findings showing the bones bear no relation to Pitts' descendants.
"It's not Charlie," said forensic scientist Thomas Reynolds of Fairfax Identity Laboratories in Richmond, Va. He presented his findings last week at the 22nd International Symposium on Human Identification.
In fact, based on samples from the scalp, thigh bone and a molar, "it's not anybody," he said. "Most likely it is a composite skeleton from three different people's bones used in a medical school as a teaching aid."
"Jesse James and his gang weren't nice people. They killed, robbed and committed depredations during the Civil War," Reynolds said. "They were colorful, but they were criminals."
And so the James gang met misfortune on Sept. 7, 1876, while attempting to rob the First National Bank of Northfield.
They killed a cashier, rousing the townsfolk, including a man living across the street from the bank. That man grabbed his gun, "took deliberate aim and fired," according to an 1880s account of the gang, "Life and Adventures of Frank and Jesse James." "The ball took effect, and Charlie Pitts, a notorious Texas desperado, fell from his horse, shot through the heart."
As for the James gang, "we think Charlie Pitts' skeleton is still out there," said criminal sociologist James Bailey of the University of North Carolina — Wilmington, part of a scientific team that has been on the trail of the gang for the past three years.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Houthis capture at least 4 U.S. citizens
- FBI says lab errors extend to 1999
- Nivolumab shines in fighting cancerous lung tumors in immunotherapy regimen
- Legal battle over Brazilian emerald likely at end
- Texas waters yield 4 bodies as death toll climbs; rainfall records fall across state
- H3N2 dog flu not cause for panic, experts say
- Anthrax shipments underreported
- Cuba removed from U.S. terrorism list
- Mind was ‘falling apart,’ Colorado theater killing suspect says
- Thousands attend B.B. King viewing
- Ginsburg flung open doors for women