DNA Solves Mystery Surrounding ‘America’s 1st Serial Killer’

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This summer’s great murder-mystery surrounding a man hanged in Philadelphia 121 years ago and known as “America’s first serial killer” has been solved.

We think.

An eight-part television show called “American Ripper” on the History Channel that examined the life, death and legends surrounding mass murderer Herman Mudgett, aka H.H. Holmes, concluded Tuesday night.

NBC10 Investigators were first to unearth the growing mystery in April of the Holmes conspiracy that he escaped death. Then, in July, NBC10 exclusively reported that a search for the truth was underway — with Holy Cross Cemetery in Delaware County as the epicenter.

The question all along, spurred on by co-host and Holmes’s great-great-grandson, Jeff Mudgett, was whether Holmes actually was hanged at Moyamensing Prison in South Philadelphia in 1896 and then buried at the Yeadon cemetery.

NBC10 Investigators: The Mystery of America’s First Serial KillerNBC10 Investigators: The Mystery of America's First Serial Killer

Mudgett and a team of anthropologists from the University of Pennsylvania exhumed bones found at the grave site Holmes was believed to be buried. Then came skeletal analysis and facial reconstruction and look backs at newspaper accounts questioning whether Holmes escaped his hanging.

Like this news story, the television show waited a while — until the final seconds of the 42-minute season finale — to reveal the DNA evidence that would prove conclusively whether Holmes did indeed hang.

In the end, the evidence concluded … the body in the grave was indeed Holmes.

DNA analysis at Kings College in London, England, comparing the skull of the skeleton in the grave to Mudgett’s DNA, proved a match.

Watch NBC10 News at 6 p.m. to see investigative reporter George Spencer talk more about the grave excavation and ultimate results of the DNA testing.

“Dental records and DNA testing reveal a conclusive link to Jeff Mudgett,” the show announced in its final moments. “Proving that the remains exhumed are those of H.H. Holmes. The result ends a century of speculation about Holmes’ final days.”

Mudgett, however, remains skeptical.

“This doesn’t deter me from my investigation. There are too many coincidences for this to be another bogus theory,” he said of connections between his ancestor and theories that Holmes killed as many as 200 people in several cities, as well as, possibly London.

1 Philadelphia

Philadelphia News & Search

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