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Let's Talk About DNA

The following paragraph is a copy of a message I addressed to Betty Duke on October 19, 2001 on the Genforum website. This was just after the James/Younger gang discussion group met in San Angelo.

Several things were laid on the line in San Angelo. In my opinion, the most important was the question I have asked Betty several times but still awaits response. So, I will try again. Betty, what were the results of the DNA tests you had done last year when you asked Harold Haun, great-grandson of JLC's brother Theodore, to send hair samples to a DNA scientist in California? You were going to send hair samples from a JLC male descendant to be matched to Harold. Harold gave me the name and email address of this scientist. I emailed him to see if any mtDNA from a matrilineal descendant of JLCs sister would be of any help. He became very excited and said "Yes, please send it, it will help greatly on some new tests I am contemplating." I got cheek swabs and hair samples from two of my husbands female cousins and sent them to the same address that Harold had been given. I emailed him two weeks later to see if the samples had arrived. He said that they had, the mtDNA had been extracted that morning, and they expected preliminary results in about two weeks. This was in late August of the year 2000, and that is the last I have heard from him. He doesn't respond to email or voice mail. So, Betty, how can you expect anyone to have more DNA tests done as long as you refuse to reveal the results of the tests you had done last year? Have you forbidden your scientist to have any contact with anyone else in the family? If so, why? David has said you laid it all on the line in San Angelo. Well, not quite. I ask again, Betty, "What were the results of the DNA tests you had done a year ago?"

This question is still unanswered.

Colleen Taylor, who lives in Tennessee, and I share the same opinion of Mrs. Duke's book. Colleen's husband's great-grandfather, Jonah Taylor, was a blacksmith in Nashville and had taken care of the horses owned by Jesse and Frank when they lived there, and Jonah had testified at Frank's trial in Alabama, saying that Frank couldn't have taken part in a robbery there because Jonah was putting new shoes on his horse that day.

Colleen and I decided to have our own DNA tests done. I sent form letters to many family members and received donations sufficient to pay for the tests. I collected cheek swabs from Harold and his father Lee Haun, who is a grandson of Theodore. Mr. Jack Courtney of Crockett, Texas, a grandson of JLC, also contributed a cheek swab, and they were all sent to Dr. Mickey Prinz, an Assistant Director of the Department of Forensic Biology in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York City. Her report was received on July 11, 2000. She stated that except for a mutation noted on DYS385, all markers were consistent and she felt it very likely that these three gentlemen had a common ancestor. The report can be seen in the Documentation section, along with an email from Dr. Prinz. I had called her to see if we couldn't get any closer than "very likely." She sent all data to a forensic mathematician - the test results, how many generations were separating them from their common ancestor, and the mutation rate of DYS385, and the forensic mathematician concluded that "the data is a hundred or more times more consistent with 'related' than 'unrelated'". Mrs. Duke still says that these tests "don't prove a thing," even after her own DNA scientist agreed with the findings. I had given Colleen his name and address, and she sent a copy of the report to him. He emailed her back, and the full email can be seen on Genforum.com/James/ message number 6051. I will quote part of it here:

"Before I read Dr. Prinz's report, I had told Betty that I thought the likelihood of a mutation (given what we know about the mutation rate of STRs and the small number of generations separating the DNA samples (of Courtney and Haun) from their alleged common ancestor was quite low. After I read the report, I told Betty that barring technical errors (which I have no reason to suspect) that I would have come to the same conclusion as Dr. Prinz. Moreover, the structure of the presumed mutant allele was as we would expect of a mutant (i.e. it differed by only a single repeat motif from the non-mutant form), based on how we believe STR genes to evolve."

End of quote. The rest is quite technical but you get the message.

At San Angelo, Betty announced that she had just heard of a new method of DNA matching, and she challenged Judge James Ross, great-grandson of Jesse, to provide a blood sample for testing. She has refused to give us the name of the scientist that is doing this testing. She just wants to have samples collected and sent to her, and she will tell us the results. A few weeks later, I posted a message to her on Genforum, pointing out that if this new method of testing could match Judge Ross to Sue Laura Hale, a great-granddaughter of Jesse's sister, then it could also match Herschel Shelton, grandson of JLC, to my husband's female cousins, and asked her again for the name of the scientist. I still haven't received it. Mrs. Duke says she doesn't want him harassed. So sending DNA samples for testing would be harassment? Mrs. Duke seems to have dropped this issue for now.

Be sure to go to the Documentation section to see the results of our DNA tests.


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