Meriwether Lewis: suicide or murder?

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Lewis' modern-day relatives have spent years seeking permission from a reluctant federal government to remove his body from its Tennessee grave, examine it and answer the question once and for all.

Now they're pushing even harder — hiring a publicist, launching a Web site and opening new lines of dialogue with the National Park Service, the agency that would permit the exhumation.

Some historians have criticized the effort, and how much evidence is in Lewis' grave is a matter of debate.

Several archeologists have signed on to help the family, including James Starrs, a professor of law and forensic sciences at George Washington University who has worked with the family since the mid-1990s, and anthropologists at Middle Tennessee State University.

Larry McKee, senior archeologist with the archeology and preservation firm TRC, said there's a chance that the true story of Lewis' death might still be etched on his bones.

Nearly 200 distant nieces, nephews and cousins have signed a petition seeking permission to exhume the remains in hopes of learning what really killed him and, if nothing else, giving him a proper Christian burial.

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