By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A man found digging in a cemetery inside Yellowstone National Park while hunting for treasure ended up with a jail sentence this week instead of the chest full of gold and jewels he was looking for.
Rodrick Dow Craythorn, 52, of Syracuse, Utah, was sentenced in federal court this week to six months in jail plus six months of home arrest, along with two years of supervised probation, for excavating and damaging archeological resources in the Fort Yellowstone National Historic Landmark.
“This is the most significant investigation of damage to archaeological resources in Yellowstone National Park’s recent history,” said park Superintendent Cam Sholly. “I want to sincerely thank law enforcement officers, special agents, archaeological staff, the Department of Justice District of Wyoming and the U.S. District Court Judge for their outstanding work on this complex case.”
Craythorn was also ordered to pay $31,566 in restitution.
The sentence handed down in U.S. District Court in Casper followed Craythorn’s guilty plea in January to the charges outlined in a federal indictment.
The indictment alleged that Craythorn was found digging in the Fort Yellowstone Cemetery inside the national park in late 2019 and again in early 2020 while looking for a treasure hidden by author Forrest Fenn, which was reportedly worth millions.
The indictment said rangers and special agents detected 17 sites of illegal excavation in the cemetery, including work that damaged a historic grave.
“This is an example of a highly egregious resource violation stemming from the Forrest Fenn treasure hunt saga,” said Yellowstone National Park Chief Ranger Sarah Davis. “Today’s action by the (federal Department of Justice) sends a clear message that these types of transgressions will be aggressively investigated and prosecuted.”
“Yellowstone is one of the country’s most popular national parks and we must do everything in our power to investigate and prosecute those who damage and destroy its natural and cultural resources. A national park is no place to stage an adult treasure hunt motivated by greed. The harmful actions of Mr. Craythorn, no matter the reason or intent, destroyed valuable archaeological resources that cannot be undone,” stated acting United States Attorney Bob Murray. “Craythorn deserves time in a federal prison, no matter the length. Yet this case really serves to remind those enjoying our national parks the importance of respecting and preserving it for the whole of America.”
The treasure was found earlier this year by a Michigan man. Fenn died a few months after it was discovered.
A poem in Fenn’s book “The Thrill of the Chase: A Memoir” included nine clues on where to find the treasure. Fenn said the treasure was contained in a 12th-century bronze chest that weighed 20 pounds by itself and was filled with 22 pounds of gold coins, gold nuggets and other valuables.
Jack Stuef said he found the chest in early June somewhere in Wyoming (he did not reveal the location), and drove down to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to meet with Fenn and prove he discovered the chest.
At least four people died in search of Fenn’s treasure over the years.