YouTube video leads to graverobber's arrest. The discerning eye of a federal Bureau of Land Management employee and the investigative skills of Patrick's Point State Park Ranger Greg Hall led to the arrest of a Eureka man this week on suspicion of looting archaeological items from an ancient tribal village site

Jessie Faulkner/The Times-Standard
Eureka Times Standard
Article Launched:12/20/2008 01:33:45 AM PST

At the center of the investigation was a video the suspect created and subsequently posted on YouTube showing him digging at the village site within Patrick’s Point State Park.

”It was a bragging video,” Hall said.

With a search warrant for YouTube, Hall was able to determine the location of the computer used to upload the video and able to identify the suspect by looking at other videos he had posted, since his face was not readily visible in the looting film.

Hall said he then contacted the property management company who handled the suspect’s rental, and was able to obtain his cellular phone number and convince the suspect to come in for questioning.

With another search warrant, state park rangers had searched the suspect’s Eureka home earlier in the day and found several artifacts from the North Coast and other areas.

Hall subsequently arrested James Edward Truhls, 30, on suspicion of removing artifacts from a burial ground, disturbing or removing archaeological features, possession of stolen property and disturbing artifacts — two misdemeanor counts and two felony counts. Truhls posted bail the same day and is scheduled for arraignment on Dec. 31.

”This case is significant,” North Coast Redwoods District archaeologist Greg Collins said, “because we were able to catch the culprit.”

The looting of sacred sites is common, but it’s often difficult to make arrests. Many, like the suspect, are private collectors. Several of the comments made on Truhls’ YouTube video praised his desecration of the site.

For the Yurok Tribe, it’s a crime that is considered one of the most offensive committed against ancestors.

”These items likely came from Yurok burial grounds and removing them from this sacred place is disrespectful and a violation of Yurok traditional law, as well as state and federal law,” Tribal Chairwoman Maria Tripp said in a prepared announcement.

Frank Lara, a member of the Yurok Tribe’s Repatriation Committee, described the spiritual aspect of removing tools from a grave site. Say, he said, there’s a crippled man whose job it is to make regalia, a responsibility that requires specific tools. When he dies, Lara said, he is buried with his tools so he may continue his work in the afterlife. Without the tools — such as when a looter steals them — the spirit wanders and doesn’t belong anywhere.

”This area has a great deal of cultural relevance to Yuroks,” Yurok Tribe Repatriation Committee Chairman Gene Brundin said.

Brundin expressed the tribe’s appreciation to State Parks, Trinidad Police Department and the Bureau of Land Management, who cooperated in the investigation.

Brundin said while it gives the Yurok people great satisfaction to be able to return the stolen items to their resting place, it’s with great sadness that it has to be done in the first place.

Museum Security Network / Museum Security Consultancy

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