He has cracked the toughest cases in Connecticut, probed mass graves in Bosnia, starred in the O.J. Simpson trial. Now Henry Lee is on what may be his strangest mission yet: finding Pocahontas' grave for Wayne Newton.
The legendary princess who befriended Jamestown colonists was buried in an English graveyard 383 years ago, but the location of her remains was lost. Now, prompted by Newton, Lee has organized a forensic "dream team" to find her.
Newton, whose Native American ancestry includes Pocahontas' Powhatan tribe, showed up in Lee's Connecticut public-safety commissioner's office one day to plead for his help in a longtime quest to find and return her remains to her native Virginia.
Lee dismissed Newton's request at first, but soon was won over. "His sincerity in wanting to bring her back here to close a piece of American history touched me," Lee said.
Newton, who could not be reached for comment, has called Pocahontas' expatriation an "atrocity."
So Lee enlisted New York pathologist Michael Baden and English coroner Peter Dean, who often works with Scotland Yard. The scientists are not being paid, although Newton is covering expenses. He also agreed to perform for free at this year's annual American Academy of Forensic Science conference.
The three visited St. George's Church in Gravesend, England, several months ago to tour the grounds and look at historical data. "This is a long-term project and not something that is going to happen right away," Lee said. "We've just touched the surface of this."
Lee said Pocahontas' bones could have been moved twice since her original burial.
Gravesend residents don't seem to share Newton's passion or Lee's scientific curiosity for finding Pocahontas' remains.
"We don't normally go looking for remains of folks buried for more than 350 years," said David Willey, the rector at St. George's Church. "She's in glory with God no matter where her bones are buried."
Pocahontas was the daughter of Powhatan, a powerful chief who led several tribes around what is now Virginia where Jamestown colonists settled in 1607. According to the legend recounted in the Disney movie - and discounted by many historians - she saved the life of Capt. John Smith after his capture by an Indian hunting party.
She maintained sporadic contact with the colony during the next several years, but in 1613 was captured and held as ransom for some English prisoners taken by Powhatan. The next year, she converted to Christianity, took the name Rebecca and married colonist John Rolfe.
In 1616, the Rolfes traveled to England, where they were introduced at court. Pocahontas caught a respiratory disease as they boarded ship for America. The ship was forced to dock at Gravesend, a London suburb, where Pocahontas was buried at St. George's.
The original burial registry indicates she was interred on March 17, 1617, in a vault beneath the chancellor of the church, which shows the esteem in which she was held, Willey said.
"You don't get buried under a church in a private vault unless you're quite important," Willey said.
The church burned in 1727, and a new one was built on the same site. Several graves were opened during construction, and the remains were reinterred in the church courtyard.
There is no record indicating which graves from the hundreds on site were moved. Many of those were moved again in 1890 when an addition to the church was built.
"We aren't sure where her bones are," Gravesend Chamber of Commerce Director Graham Sawell said. "We believe they may be underneath the church, but without digging up the whole thing they'll never find them."
A group of Americans known as the Pocahontas Memorial Association received permission from England's Ministry of Home Affairs to do some digging in 1923. Their search proved fruitless.
But, with gains made in forensic science, Newton believes there's a better chance of tracking down the princess' bones.
But to dig for Pocahontas' remains, Lee will need approval from the church. And that isn't likely.
"We would resist strongly because there are remains of other people in Gravesend here, and I don't think there would be any justification for digging them up," Willey said.