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Archaeologists solve America's oldest cold murder case

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 28th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Archaeologists say they have solved America's oldest cold-case murder. After studying the body of a young man that lay buried for 400 years, they now say they know the cause of death, and the victim's identity.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The skeleton of a man was discovered in 1996 with a broken right leg, buried near the site of the colony's church. However, there seemed to be no way to identify the body. There was no marker and the grave had long been covered by an old dirt road.

The young victim was about 18-20 years old, 5ft 9' tall,  and in excellent health, which was not bad considering he was living in Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas where food was scarce.

He was also thought to come from a family of some means, since he was buried in a coffin - a luxury that few could afford in those early days.

Despite his health, he met an untimely end. The body was previously known to archaeologists as JR 102C, or simply "JR" to those working with his remains.

Archaeologists working with his remains observed that his leg was badly shattered, and a musket ball remained embedded in the fragments of bone. Shot through the leg with a musket ball, he probably died from a severed artery, bleeding to death within minutes after being shot. The ball struck him on the side of the knee.

This is consistent with practice at the time, of standing sideways while shooting.

Using this information, researchers were able to match the body with historical records that showed a 19-year-old man named George Harrison died in 1624 following a duel. His killer was a local merchant named Stephens. Stephens was well-known and had a habit of being argumentative and a fighter.

Stephens was reportedly in another fight in 1635 where he lost some teeth and died himself in 1636.

In addition to identifying Harrison, experts have also managed to rebuild his skull, crushed after four centuries in the ground, and they have reconstructed his face.

With this, they have finally solved the oldest cold-case in America and perhaps George Harrison can now rest in peace once again, now his story is told.

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