Utah Treasure Hunter Sentenced for Damaging Yellowstone Cemetery
A Utah man in 2019 and 2020 did irreparable harm to archaeological resources in the cemetery of the Fort Yellowstone National Historic Landmark in Yellowstone National Park, and received a federal prison sentence for his crime on Wednesday.
Chief U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl handed down a half-year prison sentence. to Syracuse, Utah, resident Rodrick Dow Craythorn for trying to find the famed Forrest Fenn treasure reputedly worth millions of dollars.
Craythorn pleaded guilty in January to one count each of excavating or trafficking in archeological resources and injury or depredation to United States property
After his prison term, Craythorn will be in home detention for another six months followed by two years of supervised probation.
Skavdahl also ordered him to pay $31,566 in restitution.
However, the restitution will not recover some of the damage done.
Acting Wyoming U.S. Attorney Bob Murray said in a prepared statement that law enforcement must investigate and prosecute those who damage and destroy Yellowstone's natural and cultural resources.
"A national park is no place to stage an adult treasure hunt motivated by greed," Murray said. "The harmful actions of Mr. Craythorn, no matter the reason or intent, destroyed valuable archaeological resources that cannot be undone.... Craythorn deserves time in a federal prison, no matter the length," Murray said. "Yet this case really serves to remind those enjoying our national parks the importance of respecting and preserving it for the whole of America."
Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said the Craythorn case marked the most significant damage to archeological resources in Yellowstone’s recent history.
The late Santa Fe, New Mexico, art dealer Forrest Fenn buried a chest of gold, silver, and gems in the western United States and then left a clue-filled poem to solve its location.
Craythorn extensively investigated the case, and told family and friends about his work.
Craythorn believed the treasure was in Yellowstone National Park and actively dug for it in late 2019 and 2020.
Yellowstone Park rangers and National Park Service agents discovered 17 sites of illegal excavation, including damage to an historic grave. The cemetery is a multicomponent archeological site with historical human burials.
The cemetery is included in the National Register of Historic Places and was specifically designated on July 31, 2003, as a National Historic Landmark.
The park itself was founded in 1872 as the nation’s first national park, and the U.S. Army was dispatched to the park in 1886 to protect its natural features and wildlife.
The Army began internments in the cemetery in 1888. At least 54 people were buried in the cemetery between 1888 and 1916, most of them civilian employees of the Army and relatives of military personnel.
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