A misplaced headstone in a Granbury, Texas, cemetery that shifted through the years fooled researchers looking for the remains of the outlaw, Southwest Texas State forensic anthropologist David Glassman said Friday.
Instead of exhuming the skeleton of J. Frank Dalton, who claimed until his death in 1951 to be Jesse James, researchers unearthed the body Henry Holland, who died in 1927.
Although the mistake was apparent shortly after the coffin was exhumed May 30 and opened shortly afterward, researchers waited to notify Holland's family before announcing the error, Glassman said.
Now, researchers are awaiting another court order to exhume a second coffin. An adjacent coffin partially exposed during the exhumation is the one researchers want to open, Glassman said.
According to historical accounts, James was shot in the back of the head by Bob Ford, a member of his own gang, on April 3, 1882, in St. Joseph, Mo.
But some Granbury residents say the outlaw survived, assumed the name of J. Frank Dalton and moved to the town 25 miles southwest of Fort Worth. They claim he lived to be 104 and was buried in 1951 under the gravestone that reads "Jesse Woodson James," which includes the inscription, "Supposedly killed in 1882."
In late May, cemetery crewman, working under a court order, moved aside the hefty headstone. A second court order must be issued before work can begin on the second site.
The grave vault, which was not opened at the gravesite but was taken to an undisclosed site, was removed to compare DNA from the skeleton against a known descendant of James.
Bud Hardcastle, a Purcell, Okla., car dealer who financed the attempt to prove the Dalton-James connection through DNA testing said searchers suspected they'd made a mistake soon after they looked into the coffin and found the corpse had only one arm.
Dalton is known to have both arms intact at the time of his death, he said.
Officials said that a series of earlier temporary markers at the grave had been removed by souvenir hunters, likely causing the later marker mix-up.
Hardcastle, who is also an agent for two purported grandsons of the infamous outlaw, has vowed to seek a court order to open a second grave.
Jesse James was among the most famous outlaws of the Old West, his exploits sensationalized in dime novels. Along with his brother Frank, James was a member of the feared Quantrill's Raiders during the Civil War.
After the war, he joined up with other former Confederates to rob banks and trains.
CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report