Yellowstone cemetery

A man who was hunting for the Forrest Fenn treasure in Yellowstone National Park has been sentenced for digging in a park cemetery.

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A federal district court judge sentenced a Utah man to six months in prison for digging in a cemetery in Yellowstone National Park while on the hunt for the famed Forrest Fenn treasure, which has since been found by another person.

Rodrick Dow Craythorn, a 52-year-old man from Syracuse, Utah, was found digging in the Fort Yellowstone cemetery in 2019 and 2020. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges of damaging archeological resources and federal property.

Chief United States District Judge for the District of Wyoming Scott W. Skavdahl on Wednesday sentenced Craythorn to six months of imprisonment, six months of home detention and two years of supervised release. The judge also ordered Craythorn to pay $31,566 in restitution.

U.S. Attorney Spokesperson Lori Hogan said that Craythorn has been ordered to self-report to a federal prison on May 3.

Yellowstone rangers and other National Park Service employees found 17 sites of illegal excavation inside the Fort Yellowstone Cemetery, where the U.S. Army buried at least 54 people between 1888 and 1916.

Those buried in the cemetery were mainly civilian Army employees and relatives of the Army personnel who were deployed to the park beginning in 1886.

The Army used Fort Yellowstone as its park headquarters until it left in 1918. The cemetery is included in the National Register of Historic Places and was designated in 2003 as a National Historic Landmark.

Cam Sholly, the superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, said that the investigation into the damage caused by Craythorn’s illegal excavation was the most extensive in the recent history of the park.

“A national park is no place to stage an adult treasure hunt motivated by greed,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray. “The harmful actions of Mr. Craythorn, no matter the reason or intent, destroyed valuable archaeological resources that cannot be undone.”

Multiple people have died looking for the Fenn treasure, which was found in Wyoming in 2020 by 32-year-old Jack Stuef of Michigan. The treasure was buried by New Mexico art dealer Forrest Fenn, who left a clue-filled poem in his memoir as to the location of the treasure of precious metals and gems valued to be worth between $1 and $5 million.

Stuef kept his identity secret for some time before he was forced to reveal himself as the result of a lawsuit, but Fenn confirmed before his death in September 2020 that the treasure had indeed been found.

After Fenn’s death, when Stuef’s identity was revealed, Fenn’s family confirmed that it was him who had found the treasure.

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.

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