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DNA testing sought for remains from Waco cemetery

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Posted: Jul 4, 2014 3:11 PM

Updated: Jul 4, 2014 3:12 PM

WACO, Texas (AP) The committee planning the reburial of about 300 human remains unearthed from a historic Waco cemetery hopes to be able to use DNA technology to identify them.

The First Street Cemetery Memorial Advisory Committee wants Baylor University forensic anthropologist Lori Baker to extract bone samples from each set of remains before the reburial, which is expected to happen in 2015.

"The benefit is possibly being able to identify the remains," committee chairman John Wilson told The Waco Tribune-Herald (http://bit.ly/1qvBLY8 ).

Wilson said the committee is trying to do its best to honor the dead and "set things right" after the graves were disturbed in 2007 during a construction project behind the Texas Rangers Museum. It was determined they were part of the city's historic First Street Cemetery, established in 1852.

The city had gotten a court order in the late 1960s to relocate graves before creating Fort Fisher Park and the Texas Ranger Museum. And while the headstones were moved, there is little evidence of bodies being moved.

City officials say thousands of unmarked graves likely remain in the area that supposedly was cleared.

The city has spent more than $2 million on archaeological work to exhume, analyze, document and store the remains under an agreement with the Texas Historical Commission. So far, none of the remains have been identified.

Baker is known nationally for her work in DNA testing on subjects ranging from prehistoric Americans to migrants who perished in the Southwest desert. She volunteered to collect bone samples that eventually could be analyzed to establish kinship with living descendants or with other family members in the cemetery.

The committee must get permission from the state and Baylor to transfer the remains to Baker. Funding is not available for the DNA analysis itself, which costs more than $3,000 per sample, city officials said.

The remains that were exhumed have been stored at the Ranger museum in boxes. They will eventually be transferred to the city's Rosemound Cemetery, where they will be memorialized.

Assistant City Attorney Annette Jones said the city and its advisory committee are looking for public input on how to memorialize the dead.

A public meeting about the reburial process will be held Tuesday.

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Information from: Waco Tribune-Herald, http://www.wacotrib.com

Topics: TX--Historic Waco Cemetery-DNA Testing

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