Accused Looter Commits Suicide

June 13, 2009 at 7:57 am | Posted in News | 1 Comment

In our Scavenging Code of Ethics, Rule #5 is “Don’t remove historical or archaeological artifacts from areas where they are protected. The United States is full of historical sites that are protected by law. Battlefields, ghost towns, Native American settlements, archaeological sites, historic buildings, and so on. As tempting as it might be, never ever remove any artifacts of any kind from protected sites such as these. It might feel like scavenging, especially when no one else is around, but there’s another name for it: looting.”

A man who allegedly broke that rule and was arrested on Wednesday promptly committed suicide, as we read in today’s Los Angeles Times:

“Dr. James Redd’s body was found in his car on Thursday afternoon at the edge of his property outside the southeastern Utah town of Blanding…. Redd, 60, was one of 16 Blanding residents arrested Wednesday and accused of trying to sell artifacts taken illegally from public and tribal lands. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the indictments at a news conference in Salt Lake City, and dozens of federal agents hauled Redd, his wife and others from their homes in handcuffs shortly after 6 a.m…. A family spokesman, Phil Mueller, said that more than a dozen agents took James Redd and his wife, Jeanne, from their house.

“They were driven 72 miles to Moab, where a federal judge admonished them not to tamper with other artifacts in their possession. They were then released.

“The deserts of the Southwest are abundant with ancient Native American burial grounds, settlements and cliff houses. In towns like Blanding, scavenging for centuries-old arrowheads, beads and bowls is a local pastime….

“Juan Becerra, an FBI spokesman in Salt Lake City, also declined comment. In an interview Wednesday, he contended that the people charged in the case were not mere hobbyists. ‘It’s looting a grave and disrespectful and desecrating a valuable burial site,’ he said. ‘There’s a lot of illicit money to be made in this market.’

“The federal case, more than two years in the making, stemmed from an antiquities dealer who surreptitiously recorded transactions with what authorities called a network of excavators, grave-robbers and middlemen in the Four Corners states.

“Redd and his wife were charged with trading two illicitly obtained pendants for two other pendants. Jeanne Redd was also charged with other counts of theft from tribal organizations for her possession of a ceramic bowl, hatchet and other artifacts.

“The Redds have been in similar legal trouble before. In 1996 they were charged with illegally taking Native American items from state land. The charges against James Redd were dropped, and Jeanne pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge. The couple paid $10,000 to settle a lawsuit, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Family spokesman Mueller “said the couple had been looking for ancient beads on what they thought was private property and had strayed across the boundary onto state land….

“Redd was not the only prominent Blanding resident charged in the case and the effect is being felt across town.”

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