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Justice News

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Jackson County Men Sentenced for Digging Up Native American Human Remains

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Brian K. Skeens, 49, and Toby Lee Thacker, 56, of Wellston, Ohio were sentenced in U.S. District Court for violating the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act by trafficking the human remains of Native Americans. The case is the first criminal enforcement of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act in the Southern District of Ohio.


Benjamin C. Glassman, 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 E. Frazier and Rick Perkins, Chief Ranger, National Park Service at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, announced the sentences.


Skeens was sentenced to 90 days in prison and Thacker to 30 days in prison for engaging in the excavation and sale of the human remains of a Native American.


Mark M. Beatty, 57, purchased the human remains. He was sentenced in August to serve three years of probation including three months of home confinement, pay a $3,500 fine and pay $1,000 in restitution to the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, to be used for re-burial of the Native American remains. 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.

According to court documents, a witness saw people digging in a rock shelter on property on Sour Run Road in Jackson County, Ohio in November 2012 and chased them off. They left behind shovels, dirt sifters, buckets and trash. Sheriff Frazier’s investigators confirmed that three Wellston men – David E. Skeens, 40, Brian K. Skeens, and Thacker – had been digging on the property and had unburied human remains and artifacts. And subsequently, Beatty illegally bought 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 rock shelters were used extensively for burials in Southern Ohio and specifically in Jackson County. DNA testing confirmed a direct connection between tribes living thousands of years ago to present day Native Americans.

David Skeens was sentenced on July 21, 2016 to 30 days’ incarceration followed by a year of supervised release and ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to one count of illegal trafficking of Native American remains.

U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of the Interior, and the participation from an archeologist from Wayne National Forest and researchers from Ohio University, The Ohio State University, Washington State University and the FBI, 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 2, 2017