Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil told reporters Wednesday that his detectives, probate court investigators, the county coroner's analysts, and historians will study documents, photos, old letters and do interviews to verify that the sword Neil held in gloved hands is the same one that disappeared 40 years ago from the Cincinnati Historical Society.
It's believed the sword was carried in battle by President William Henry Harrison and before him, Continental Army Col. John Cleves Symmes, Harrison's future father-in-law.
Police in Windsor, Conn. seized the sword last month, just before it was to be auctioned by James Kochan, of Wiscasset, Maine.
Kochan told the Associated Press he is a veteran historian, curator and collector who bought the sword in 2015 from a collection being sold by Christie's auction house in New York. He was offering it Oct. 19 as part of an auction of artifacts from the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars to benefit his Mars & Neptune Trust, dedicated to the preservation of American military and naval history, sites and artifacts from before 1850.
Dave Sunberg, a Roman Catholic priest and a member of the Harrison-Symmes Memorial Foundation who searches for memorabilia to add to its museum, spotted the sword online the day before the auction and emailed another foundation member.
Kochan told police that he had told the Harrison-Symmes foundation his sword was authentic and his to sell, but reluctantly turned it over to officers. It's now in custody in Hamilton County, where the Harrison-Symmes foundation historians say the Symmes family donated it to Hamilton County Probate Court in 1922.
Documents show the court loaned the sword to the Cincinnati Historical Society, which used it in a 1976 Bicentennial display. Sometime within the next few years, it disappeared from storage in a Cincinnati museum.
The Harrison-Symmes foundation said the historical society didn't publicize the alleged theft, and they became aware when they asked for it to display for a 1993 celebration of the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Village of Cleves, 15 miles west of Cincinnati. The village sits on a large swath of land where John Cleves Symmes was a pioneering landowner.
"So we have been looking for the sword since 1993 and we think we've found it," foundation President Bev Myers told the AP.
Kochan, an alumnus of Miami University in nearby Oxford, says he still believes he has rights to the weapon and thinks the missing Cincinnati sword was a copy.
"The fact is, nothing has been established yet," Kochan told AP by phone. "I have legal title to the sword they have." He added that he was "looking into my options" to regain the sword.
Like the missing sword, Cincinnati authorities say this one was made by Jacob Hurd around 1776 and is inscribed with the names of six Symmes family members and Harrison.
Kochan said a modern jeweler could have engraved the names on another sword.
Hamilton County Probate Judge Ted Winkler, who said the sword should be on public display as part of local history, said Kochan's suggestion is "not a very strong argument in my opinion."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.