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Area historian takes fresh look at death of Jesse James

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Nov. 9, 2009, at 12:07 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, Nov. 9, 2009, at 6:44 a.m.

Local history buff Ron Pastore, who is convinced Jesse James faked his death and quietly lived out his life in southeast Kansas, has a prominent role in a documentary airing tonight offering new theories on what the bank robber did with his wealth.

The show, which airs at 8 p.m. CST on the History Channel, suggests James hid the stolen money in various locations and used it to finance exploits of the Knights of the Golden Circle, a forebear of the Ku Klux Klan.

"This was an arm of the Confederate secret service," Pastore said. "They were trying to resurrect the South."

Pastore led hunts for the hidden loot, deciphering "code glyphs" in caves and canyons for clues. He's not saying whether he found any of that money until after the show airs.

He also hopes the documentary will demonstrate conclusively that the man Robert Ford shot in 1882 in a rented home in St. Joseph, Mo., was not Jesse James.

"My biggest hope is that we finally break this shroud of secrecy that Jesse James faked his death," Pastore said. "It's just really blatantly obvious that it was a ruse."

Pastore said the man shot in the back of the head that day was a first cousin of James.

Pastore dismisses a 1995 History Channel documentary on James hosted by Bill Kurtis, which reported DNA evidence did not support the theory that the outlaw faked his death.

That program "ignored a lot of the forensic evidence that we put forward," Pastore said.

The new History Channel documentary will also air at midnight Tuesday and 5 p.m. Saturday.

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com.

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