The tale of Pulaski’s DNA samples, how they were tested

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Last month, we heard surprising results about the DNA of local Revolutionary War hero Casimir Pulaski, i.e. that he was intersex.

Now we’re learning of some concerns from the City of Savannah regarding that DNA testing.

In a letter to a Georgia Southern professor dated May 1, the city indicated that the testing of the Pulaski DNA samples was unauthorized. The letter demanded the return of the samples and said at that point, the city considered the samples “stolen City of Savannah property.”

The city’s letter also indicated that in 2012, three samples had been received by then Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) employee Dr. Jamie Downs. The letter stated that Downs reportedly did not follow protocol by providing the samples to the professor. 

The GBI provided a letter it wrote in response to the City of Savannah, stating in part that “the GBI has been unable to locate any samples that were submitted by the City of Savannah in March of 2012 and by your (city’s) records were received by Dr. Jamie Downs.”

The GBI said Downs had not been employed since July of 2016 and it takes “very seriously the handling, security, and documentation of evidence. In this case, based on your (city’s) records, it does not appear that those procedures were followed.”

Dr. Downs referred News 3 to his attorney, Christian Steinmetz III, who said Downs did nothing improper and that the samples were provided to Georgia Southern after Downs was instructed to do so by the Coordinator of the Pulaski Identification Committee who Steinmetz said was Charles Powell.

Steinmetz said a number of assertions in the city’s letter were incorrect. He said Dr. Downs has a longstanding reputation in the community as a pathologist and there was a lengthy timeline of the samples being handled properly by Downs.  

He said Downs did not violate any protocols and again upon instructions provided the samples to Georgia Southern in February of 2017. Steinmetz said that was after Downs had secured the samples upon leaving the GBI.

A city spokesman confirmed the samples were returned recently. But a city legal representative took exception to the idea that the city had nothing to do with controlling the samples or should have had nothing to do with it.  

The city’s complaint, we are told, was being kept out of the loop regarding the samples being taken and then tested.

Georgia Southern responded to News 3’s request for information saying it took immediate steps to provide the samples when it received word that the city wanted the materials returned. 

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