On June 10, 2009, two dozen people* were indicted after a sweeping investigation into ancient artifacts allegedly stolen from public and tribal lands. The indicted are accused of stealing, receiving, or trying to sell American Indian bowls, stone pipes, sandals, arrowheads, jars, pendants, and necklaces.
More than 100 agents were involved in the arrests of 23 people. Another person was issued a summons. All were part of a tight-knit network of people involved in illegally excavating, dealing, and collecting stolen artifacts, said Timothy Fuhrman, of the FBI office in Salt Lake City.
Bureau of Land Management and FBI agents used a confidential source who in 2007 and 2008 paid more than $335,000 for 256 stolen artifacts, according to court documents.
The local reaction was swift and vocal. People were upset with the federal government, and the anger soon also turned to sorrow.
The day after the indictments, James Redd - a 60-year-old physician and defendant in the case - was found dead on his Blanding property. He had killed himself, while sitting in his vehicle by a pond on his property. He died of carbon-monoxide poisoning. And then another suicide occurred, by gunshot. What does all this have to do with Mormons?
First, a bit more on Redd.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported on how the body was found:
San Juan County Chief Deputy Grayson Redd said James Redd left a note at his home about 6:30 a.m. Thursday [June 11, 2009] saying he was going to the pond. When he did not return by 10 a.m., the family called their LDS bishop. After a brief search, the bishop called the sheriff's office, which joined in the search.
The Jeep was obstructed from the searchers' view, but a passing neighbor was able to see it and told the bishop, said Grayson Redd, who is a distant relative of the doctor.
The bishop found the Jeep and James Redd about 4 p.m.
"He was one of the best guys I knew," said Paul Reay, a physician who worked with Redd at the Blanding Clinic. "He was a very competent physician, he was kind and always doing things for people. "I feel it's a waste of human life over pottery," Reay said. "The priorities of our federal government are badly misplaced."
On June 10, 2009, Redd was charged with one felony count of theft of Indian tribal property as a co-defendant with his wife, Jeanne Redd, 59, who faces two counts. Court papers say that in September 2007, Jeanne Redd possessed with intent to sell ancient relics, including a black and white ceramic mug, a hafted ax, a gourd necklace and an effigy bird pendant. Each of the artifacts was valued at more than $1,000. She also was accused of swapping two stone pendants for two other stone pendants valued at more than $500. In October 2008, she allegedly sold four sandals valued at more than $1,000.
The Salt Lake Tribute noted, in part:
A 78-year-old member of the Utah Tourism Hall of Fame, Harold J. Lyman, of Blanding, entered a plea of not guilty Thursday to trafficking in stolen artifacts.
Lyman's arrest was particularly galling to many in Blanding.
"Harold Lyman is the nicest guy you'll every meet," said Steve Knight, who lives in neighboring Dove Creek, Colo., but does business in Blanding, a town of about 3,200. "He hasn't broken a law in his life."
And many townspeople spoke bitterly about the federal government, which oversees enormous tracts of federal land throughout Utah.
"Everybody in Blanding is outraged," said Joy Holliday, 69. "Why aren't they out stopping things that hurt people?" Holliday's home was raided in 1987 by federal agents who "took two pottery bowls and a pair of sandals," she said. "They never took us to court, but we couldn't get our things back."
Her nephew, the late Earl Shumway, was convicted at that time of trafficking in antiquities and served six years in federal prison.
In the Four Corners area, pre-Columbian ruins, potsherds, arrowheads and other relics dot the landscape by the thousands.
"You can't walk two miles in any direction without running into an Anasazi site," Holliday said. "In San Juan County, [collecting relics] is a hobby for many people."
...the people of Blanding were mourning James Redd. Reay, his colleague, said Redd was "heroic" in responding when a tour bus overturned on a sharp curve near Mexican Hat to the south last year. Nine of the 53 people aboard were killed and the rest were injured.
"It's going to be a real loss to the community down here," he said. "He's pulled a lot of people through. A lot of the time, he was the only one around who could do a surgery or deliver a baby."
Then on June 19th, it happened again. A second defendant in the federal crackdown on archaeological looting in southern Utah killed himself.
Steven L. Shrader, 56, a resident of Santa Fe, New Mexico, who faced two felonies in the antiquities case, shot himself twice in the chest late Thursday, June 18, or early Friday, June 19, behind an elementary school in the village of Shabbona, Illinois, authorities said. Winnebago County, Illinois, Coroner Sue Fiduccia said Shrader was in Illinois to visit his mother.
The Salt Lake Tribune commented:
Shrader was indicted for allegedly trafficking in stolen artifacts -- specifically ancient sandals and a basket -- along with Carl "Vern" Crites, 74, Marie Crites, 68, and Richard Bourret, 59, all of Durango, Colo.
An affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver implicates Shrader in a 2008 "arrowhead hunt" in Disappointment Valley near Dove Creek, Colo. The affidavit says an undercover operative, identified only as the "Source," was in the Crites residence in March 2008, when Vern Crites displayed arrowheads he said came from Disappointment Valley, a huge area ringed by prehistoric ruins.
During a subsequent conversation with the Source, Shrader said he had gone to the valley with Crites. It was unclear from court papers whether he was on public land.
Reached at his home in Durango, Vern Crites questioned the accusations against Shrader.
"I don't know why he was charged even," Crites said. "I don't think he did anything wrong."
Crites lamented the loss. "That's a shock to me, because he was a friend," he said. "He was a good young man, a single man, a hard-working man, very personable."
Crites declined to further discuss his relationship with Shrader.
For those not looking behind the headlines of this story, part of the linkages here to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or Mormons might not be obvious. Clearly, both men who have died by suicide to date and perhaps most of those indicted, are Mormons. Is there some connection between certain members of the Mormon church and Indian artifacts?
Shabbona, Illinois, is an interesting town to which to return to die. Are there new Mormon martyrs that are being created?
This area of Illinois is historically significant in Mormon history. The town of Shabbona (which is very tied to Native history) was a focus of early Mormon thought, where Joseph Smith first conceptualized polygamy (Shabbona, October 1859) and where his followers formulated restructuring of the Church. Shabbona's Postmaster and Justice of the Peace, the Freemason William Marks (November 15, 1792 – May 22, 1872) was a leader in the early days of the Latter Day Saint movement. It was to Marks in Shabbona that Smith's son wrote (1850), saying he would someday be the "head of the Mormon church." Marks was a member of the First Presidency in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (1860).
In a parallel to the digging up of ancient items, Smith was a "seer," using seer stones in attempts beginning in the 1820s to locate lost items and buried treasure. It will be recalled that Joseph Smith founded the Mormon church after an angel directed him to a long-buried book, inscribed on golden plates, which contained a record of God's dealings with ancient Israelite inhabitants of the Americas. He also found other artifacts (including a breastplate and what Smith referred to as the Urim and Thummim), which were buried in a hill near his home.
Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial is a granite obelisk on a hill in the White River Valley near Sharon and South Royalton, Vermont. There is a LDS Church meetinghouse on the same property as the memorial.
The death of Joseph Smith, Jr. (b. December 23, 1805) on June 27, 1844 marked a turning point for the Latter Day Saint movement, of which Smith was the founder and leader. When he was attacked and killed by a mob, Smith was serving as the mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois, and running for President of the United States. He was killed while jailed in Carthage, Illinois, on charges relating to his ordering the destruction of facilities producing the Nauvoo Expositor, a newspaper whose first and only edition claimed Smith was practicing plural marriage and that he intended to set himself up as a theocratic king. While Smith was in jail awaiting trial, an armed mob of men with blackened or painted faces (shades of the "Indians" and the "Boston Tea Party") stormed the jail and shot him and his brother Hyrum to death. Latter Day Saints view Joseph and Hyrum as martyrs.
Strange artifacts are part of the history of the Mormon church. For instance, James J. Strang produced a counterfeit letter from Smith commissioning him to lead the church, as well as revelations with a seerstone and discovered another set of supernatural writings, the Voree Plates. Strang attracted two thousand followers, but Strang himself was assassinated in 1856, after he began to practice polygamy.
Is there more to this story of Indian artifacts, arrests, indictments, and suicides in Utah and Illinois than meets the eye? Is there more to be told on the level about all of this? What is occurring from the West to the East here, folks?
*Here is the list of everyone arrested and indicted.
Richard Raymond Bourret, one felony count of violating ARPA, one felony count depredation of government property
Brent Bullock, 61, Moab, Utah, three felony counts of violating ARPA, two felony counts of theft of government property;
Carl Lavern Crites, 74, Durango, Colorado, two felony counts of violating ARPA, two felony counts of theft of government property, one felony count depredation of government property;
Marie Virginia Crites, 68, Durango, Colorado, two felony counts of theft of government property;
Tad Kreth, 30, Blanding, Utah, seven felony counts of violating ARPA, three felony counts of theft of government property, two felony counts of theft of Indian tribal property;
David A. Lacy, 55, Blanding, Utah, four felony counts of violating ARPA, three felony counts of theft of government property, two misdemeanor counts of violating NAGPRA;
Brandon Laws, 38, Blanding, Utah, one felony count of violating ARPA, one felony count of theft of Indian tribal property;
Nicholas K. Laws, 30, Blanding, Utah, two felony counts of violating ARPA, one felony count of theft of government property;
Reese Laws, 27, Blanding, Utah, three felony counts of violating ARPA, one felony count of theft of government property, one felony count of theft of Indian tribal property;
Dale J. Lyman, 73, Blanding, Utah, three felony counts of violating ARPA;
Harold J. Lyman, 78, Blanding, Utah, one felony count of violating ARPA, one felony count of theft of government
Raymond J. Lyman, 70, Blanding, Utah, one felony count of violating ARPA;
Aubry Patterson, 55, Blanding, Utah, four felony counts of violating ARPA, two felony counts of theft of government property;
Jeanne H. Redd, 59, Blanding, Utah, two felony counts of violating ARPA, two felony counts of theft of government property, three felony counts of theft of Indian tribal property;
James D. Redd, 60, Blanding, Utah, one felony count of theft of Indian tribal property;
Steven L. Shrader, Durango, Colorado, two felony counts of theft of government property;
Kevin W. Shumway, 55, Blanding, Utah, eight felony counts of violating ARPA, four felony counts of theft of government property, two misdemeanor counts of violating NAGPRA;
Tammy Shumway, 39, Blanding, Utah, three felony counts of violating ARPA, one felony count of theft of government property;
Sharon Evette Shumway, 41, Blanding, Utah, one felony count of violating ARPA, one felony count of theft of government property;
Joseph M. Smith, 31, Blanding, Utah, 17 felony counts of violating ARPA, eight felony counts of theft of government property, three felony counts of theft of Indian tribal property, one count of misdemeanor theft of Indian tribal property;
Meredith Smith, 34, Blanding, Utah, one felony count of violating ARPA, two felony counts of theft of government property, one count of misdemeanor theft of Indian tribal property;
Rulon Kody Sommerville, 47, Monticello, Utah, one felony count of violating ARPA, one misdemeanor count of violating ARPA, one felony count of theft of Indian tribal property;
Loran St. Claire, 47, Monticello, Utah, one felony count of violating ARPA, one misdemeanor count of violating ARPA, one felony count of theft of Indian tribal property; and
David Waite, charged with one count each of trafficking in stolen artifacts, transportation of stolen property and theft of government property.
ARPA incident sources: #1; #2; & #3.