Experts hope exhumed remains clear up mystery of the old west - KCTV5

Experts hope exhumed remains clear up mystery of the old west

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KEARNEY, MO (KCTV) -

A lot of old west outlaws once called Missouri home, such as desperados like the Dalton Gang and the James Brothers.

Now, the fate of one outlaw, killed almost 140 years ago, is being discussed in a Clay County courtroom.

You can tell by the grass growing up around its headstones that a quiet cemetery outside Kearney, MO, is almost a forgotten resting place. However, there's a grave located there that's at the center of a mystery almost as murky as the name of the cemetery it's located in.

If truth is written in stone, then Clelland Miller is buried beneath MuddyFork Cemetery's ground but, as people around the area know, you can't trust everything you read.

"I've heard stories he could be buried in Clay County. And some people say he's not," Kearney resident Billy Treece said.

There lies the mystery of who lies in Miller's grave.

While he was a soldier in the Confederate army, Miller was no hero.

"He was a notorious guy that ran with the James Gang," Kearney resident Pam Bullock said.

Robbing banks alongside the outlaw Jesse James is how Miller met his end up in Northfield, MN.

"The day he was killed it was a bank robbery that went bad," Treece said.

Miller's grave states that day was Sept. 7, 1876. But what happened to his body next depends on who you believe. A medical student shot and killed Miller. While he bragged about keeping the body to study anatomy on, Miller's next of kin always claimed they recovered the remains and brought them to MuddyFork Cemetery.

Back in Kearney, that mystery is now part of Miller's legend.

There's an old proverb that says dead people will not betray any secret so, for obvious reasons, those lying closest to Miller's grave aren't telling tales about who is buried next to them. This leaves one way to clear up the mystery of who lies in Miller's grave – dig up the skeleton and test the DNA.

"I think sometimes it's better off left to legend," Treece said.

But while some in Kearney would rather leave the truth about Miller buried and others simply don't care, a Clay County judge is ordering Miller's body exhumed. Now, the mystery surrounding the grave and Miller himself might finally rest in peace.

A group of Miller's relatives living in Virginia and forensic researchers asked for the exhumation of Miller's body. It will happen Oct. 8 at no cost to taxpayers. Forensic researchers out of Minnesota are paying for the costs and labor is being volunteered.

If DNA tests are successful, the body in Miller's grave could be identified by January.

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