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Former Minnesota State Mankato Professor's New Technique Helping Solve Mystery

Skeletal remains in North Dakota may be identified as Northfield bank robber Clell Miller thanks to former Minnesota State Mankato prof's analysis techniques.


Testing on a North Dakota skeleton indicates that it could be the remains of Clell Miller, one of two outlaws killed in the famous Northfield bank raid in 1876.

The mystery of the missing outlaw from the Jesse James raid on Northfield might be a step closer to being solved.

Historians have long wondered what happened to the body of Clell Miller, one of two raiders shot to death in the street in the first few minutes of the great raid on the First National Bank on Sept. 7, 1876.

"There is a fascination with those outlaw characters from yesteryear," said Scott Richardson, president of the Northfield Historical Society.

In its most recent newsletter, the Historical Society says a former Mankato State professor has used a new technique called craniofacial superimposition to determine that a skeleton owned by a private collector could be that of Miller.

"This is not a definitive finding, but it certainly brings us a step closer to finding the skeletons of these two outlaws," Hayes Scriven, executive director of the Historical Society, says in the spring newsletter announcing the findings.

Richardson said last week that his hunch is that there is probably a 70-30 chance the skeleton is that of Miller.

"It's remarkable the reference points in that skull and that of Miller," he said.

Miller was shot to death by Henry Wheeler, who was home for the summer from the University of Michigan medical school. For more than a century, however, no one has known for certain what happened to his body or if a body buried in a Miller family plot in Missouri is in fact that of the outlaw.

James Bailey, formerly of Minnesota State University, Mankato and now a forensic scientist at the University of North Carolina, examined a skeleton found in Grand Forks two years ago that reportedly was in Wheeler's possession.

Wheeler reportedly obtained the body, and that of the second outlaw killed, after they were buried and took them with him to Michigan to use for training purposes.

But the Miller family asked for the return of the body for burial in Missouri, and a body was shipped back. "They did ship someone down there, and someone is buried in the plot," Richardson said.

He believes the body buried in Missouri is likely that of Bill Chadwell, the other outlaw killed during the raid.

"If it is Miller in North Dakota, we have to make sure he is properly buried," Scriven said. "Even though he was a bad guy, he still needs to be treated with respect after death."

Lore has it that Wheeler kept the Miller body and later its skeleton until he donated it to the Odd Fellows in North Dakota, where he was practicing medicine when he retired.

Bailey performed CT scans on the cranium and then, using a series of reference points, superimposed the scans on a postmortem picture of Miller.

Bailey presented his findings at the spring meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Bailey said the matches were "remarkable" and that the remains he examined could be that of Miller.

(To see the complete story, pick up a copy of the Star Tribune or go to

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