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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Ohio

Friday, March 4, 2016

Fourth Defendant Pleads Guilty in Native American Bones Trafficking Case

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A fourth defendant has pleaded guilty in the first criminal enforcement of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act in the Southern District of Ohio.

Toby Lee Thacker, 55, of Wellston, Ohio, pleaded guilty in U.S District Court today to violating the Act by engaging in the excavation and sale of the human remains of a Native American.

David E. Skeens, 39, and Brian K. Skeens, 38, both of Wellston, Ohio, each pleaded guilty in December 2015 to engaging in the excavation and sale of the Native American bones.

Mark M. Beatty, 56, of Wellston, Ohio, pleaded guilty in August 2015 to purchasing the remains.

Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Angela L. Byers, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Field Division, Jackson County Sheriff Tedd Frazier and Rick Perkins, Chief Ranger, National Park Service at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, announced the plea entered into today before U.S. District Magistrate Judge Terence P. Kemp.

According to court documents, David and Brian Skeens and Thacker were observed digging in a rock shelter in Salt Creek Valley in Jackson County, Ohio. When they were approached, they ran off into the woods and left behind shovels, dirt sifters, buckets and trash. Investigators confirmed that they had unburied human remains. Beatty admitted to purchasing those remains.

An anthropologist confirmed that the human remains were consistent with Native Americans, specifically identifiable by cradle boarding, a cultural activity used only by Native American Indians in North America. The identity of the remains was also confirmed by an archeologist, who verified that rockshelters were used extensively for burials in Southern Ohio and specifically in Jackson County.

DNA testing concluded a direct connection to present day Native American Indians living in the United States today.

The remains will be transferred to the federally recognized tribes who have assisted with this case, and re-buried in Ohio at an undisclosed location and in private once all the court proceedings are completed.

U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the investigation by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and FBI and the participation from an archeologist from Wayne National Forest and researchers from Ohio University, The Ohio State University and Washington State University, as well as Assistant United States Attorneys J. Michael Marous and Brian Martinez, who are representing the United States in this case. 

Indian Country Law and Justice
Updated March 4, 2016