Grave Robbing in Chesapeake & Ohio Canal NHP
These days when you hear about grave robbing it usually involves an incident in the Southwest, where the vast number of archaeological sites lures those hoping to make money off artifacts. Today, though, the news revolves around an incident that took place in a section of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Maryland.
The case originated just about a year ago when some visitors to a backcountry section of the park came across a historic cemetery and noticed what appeared to be an excavation. It turns out that three men had broken into the grave of Mary Ohr, who died in 1875. Apparently the three were using metal detectors to search for relics.
"Even though the hole dug over the grave was only five feet deep, it was found that Ohr’s casket had been entered," reports Ranger Leigh Zahm. "Last June, rangers and NPS special agents interviewed three people, all residents of Hancock, Maryland – Christopher Pelchat, 24, Jonathon Carroll, 29, and James Carroll, 53.
"All three admitted to metal detecting and relic hunting in the park, and Pelchat and Jonathon Carroll were found to have excavated the gravesite. They also admitted to digging 25 to 30 holes in the area before finding the gravesite. They dug there in hopes of finding jewelry in the casket."
While the three told investigators that they began "creeping
out" after they had dug down about five feet and abandoned their
efforts, they already had dug through Ohr's remains.
In January two of the men agree to a plea agreement with prosecutors. Jonathon Carroll and Pelchat were sentenced to pay the park $2,569 in restitution for the damage incurred, ordered to serve a year’s probation and complete 25 hours of community service in the park. They also had to forfeit two metal detectors, and were banned from entering any Park Service site for two years.
In February, William Carroll pled guilty to digging cultural/archeological resources and was ordered to pay $1,015.94 in restitution to the park.
In an apology letter written by Christopher Pelchat, he admitted that the excavation of the grave “was a stupid and very foolish thing to do.”