Archive for Friday, May 19, 2006

Sleuths continue digging into grave mystery

May 19, 2006


A bit of bone.

That's all they have for now, and that may be all two University of Colorado professors need to solve the century-old mystery of who was buried in an unmarked grave in Lawrence's Oak Hill Cemetery.

After several hours of digging, crews shortly after noon today uncovered what they believe is a piece of shoulder blade.

They will run tests on the bone and attempt to solve a dispute that in 1892 was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case generated an important piece of federal evidence law.

Law professor Marianne Wesson and anthropology professor Dennis Van Gervin, both of the University of Colorado, are the sleuths in the case.

They believe the grave could hold the remains of either John Hillmon or Frederick Adolph Walters.

In 1879, Hillmon set off from Lawrence with a companion, John H. Brown. Later, Brown appeared at a home outside Medicine Lodge, southwest of Wichita, and said he accidentally shot Hillmon while unloading his gun.

But insurance companies that had underwritten life insurance policies on Hillmon suspected fraud. They believed Hillmon and Brown killed a third man, not Hillmon, to collect on insurance. That man was Walters, who reportedly sent his girlfriend a letter announcing his plans to travel with Hillmon.

The case was tried six times and taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court twice. The court's first ruling created an exception to the hearsay rule known as the "state-of-mind" exception, dealing with statements describing the intentions of the speaker or writer. The court said the letter should have been allowed for evidence in a case because it met this description.

The researchers will continue digging at the site today. They will bring their finds to a lab at Kansas University for inspection and testing before returning them to the ground Sunday. The researchers also uncovered an old nail.

For any more on this story, see the 6News reports at 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Sunflower Broadband's Channel 6 and pick up a copy of Saturday's Journal-World.


flames_over_the_wasteland 9 years, 4 months ago

Somehow, the haters of all things academic will attempt to show how professors investigating nineteenth-century Kansas history are actually turning our innocent youth into immoral, liberal, American-hating terrorists. They may need to listen to Bill O'Reilly or David Horowitz first, but they'll ultimately find a way.

Ready, set, go!

MerryPresent 9 years, 4 months ago

Are they both just out there by themselves...digging?

Aren't there supposed to be guys in HazMat outfits doing that?

I know they have permission, but still, I didn't think they would just pitch in and start digging!

flames_over_the_wasteland 9 years, 4 months ago

Wow, with a name like "Informed," it's a surprise that you'd even ask such a question . . . use your brain.

MerryPresent 9 years, 4 months ago

My high school psychology teacher wanted to have his son dug up to somehow prove that his son had not committed suicide...and when I raised my hand and asked him "Are you going to do it yourself?" he got all mad and horrified.

I always wondered after that...if not the petitioner...then whom?

conservative 9 years, 4 months ago

I think it's a pretty cool piece of historical trivia, and look forward to hearing how this turns out. My only question would be if this is privately or publicly funded.

mom_of_three 9 years, 4 months ago

According to the previous articles, the city will dig up the first two feet, and then the professors would dig by hand. But it doesn't say anything how it is funded, just that it would solve a mystery. I guess most lawyers learn about this case in law school.

Christine Pennewell Davis 9 years, 4 months ago

haz-mat come on the corpse is over100 yrs old no haz-mat needed. Do you use haz-mat when doing ancient ruin digs?

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