Meriwether Lewis will stay buried

January 13, 1998

It was not exactly a groundbreaking decision. In fact, forensic scientist James Starrs calls it "buncombe."

Yesterday, Starrs had his long-standing request to dig up the remains of the 19th-century explorer Meriwether Lewis turned down by the National Park Service.

Starrs, a George Washington University professor who has exhumed historical figures from Jesse James to Alferd Packer, the Colorado cannibal, believes the remains can resolve the question of whether the 1809 death of Lewis on the Natchez Trace in Tennessee was murder or suicide.

"National parks throughout the country entrusted with the stewardship of burial sites could be profoundly affected if this project were allowed to go forward," Jerry Belson, director of the National Park Service's southeast region, said in a letter rejecting Starrs' request.

Nine presidents and a collection of lesser dignitaries are buried in National Park Service land.

"That's buncombe," Starrs said in a phone interview at the end of his seven-year fight.

"There's no proof people would line up behind me to exhume people from Park Service land."

Starrs said he would appeal the ruling to National Park Service Director Robert Stanton, and go to Federal Court if he must.

Pub Date: 1/13/98

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