Jury convicts a grave robber

  After a trial full of grisly detail, a jury found Oregon resident Jack Lee Harelson guilty of looting an Indian burial cave in Nevada. Although the crime was too old to prosecute under the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act, the state of Oregon convicted him on state charges of theft, abusing a corpse and tampering with evidence.

Harelson and his ex-wife Pamela, who testified against him at the trial, had excavated the basket-encased mummies of two Paiute Indian children in the early 1980s. Pamela Harelson told the jury that once back in Oregon, they removed the basket contents "so we could get to the goodies," reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Harelson then detached the skulls and reburied the corpses in plastic bags in his backyard, according to District Attorney Tim Thompson.

Harelson says he plans to appeal, adding that he's an amateur archaeologist practicing a common Western hobby on public lands. "I know I'm not a grave robber," he said. His sentence, which could be up to 20 years in prison, will be announced Feb. 6.

Wilson Wewa Jr., a Paiute religious leader from central Oregon who testified at the trial, applauded the conviction: "If he can't understand that it's against the law, he must be mentally sick."

Meanwhile, Earl Shumway, a notorious Utah pothunter who once bragged that he had raided thousands of ancient sites, was recently sentenced to six-and-one-half years in prison. He was convicted this summer on four violations of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (HCN, 9/4/95).

* Elizabeth Manning

High Country News Classifieds