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Who is really buried in John Wilkes Booth's grave?

12:51 PM, Jan 5, 2011   |    comments
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Just who is really buried in the grave of Abraham Lincoln's killer?

Rumors have swirled for decades that John Wilkes Booth's Baltimore grave is occupied by someone else, and the presidential assassin survived his reported death.

Now descendants want to test the DNA of his brother and uncover the truth once and for all.

As a child Joanne Hulme knew she was related to famed 1800s actor Edwin Booth.

Her mother later revealed to her that Edwin was also the brother of the man who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln: John Wilkes Booth.

There was also a family secret about whether John was really shot by federal troops while escaping.

"You might as well know now that he never died in the barn," Hulme says. "That here was a gentleman named James William Boyd that died in the barn and he lived for many years."

It was when noted historians began interviewing her family at their Bucks County, Pennsylvania farm that Joanne says she realized there was growing evidence that someone else was buried in John Wilkes Booth family plot in Baltimore.

"Everybody should have the right to know where your relative is. It doesn't matter if they're famous or infamous or whatever. You need to have that peace of mind," Hulme says.

Along with two surviving sisters, Joanne Hulme wants to compare Edwin Booth's DNA to bone fragments claimed to be those of his notorious brother.

"There should be no public outcry of bringing Edwin Booth up from the grave, taking the DNA and putting him right back down," she says.

She is petitioning to open Edwin's grave in Cambridge, Massachusetts as well as John Wilkes' grave in Baltimore to finally confirm or refute what has haunted their family and Joanne's mother in the last years of her life.

"She really died of a heartache of never really knowing what the outcome was. And my family had all really laid it to rest before history knocked at our door," Hulme says.

According to the Boston Globe, in 1995 a baltimore judge denied a request to exhume the remains of the person buried in John Wilkes Booth's grave.

A family attorney tells the newspaper he'll contact the massachusetts cemetery about exhuming edwin booth's remains.

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