see this site: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-04-08-soldiers-exhumed_N.htm - -also
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Bodies removed from Fort Craig
Alleged grave robber died in 2004
Evelyn Cronce El Defensor Chieftain Reporter
"It all started with a casual remark and ended with the removal of 67 skeletons from the cemetery at Fort Craig, south of Socorro. Jeffery Hanson, archaeologist for the Bureau of Reclamation said a fellow historian was picking up some things from him at the bureau's archaeology department when the man happened to mention that he had seen the remains of a Buffalo Soldier at the home of another amateur historian. Hanson and fellow archeologist Mark Hungerford went to the site of the Fort Craig cemetery and found signs of looting.
The BOR teamed with the Bureau of Land Management to investigate. While the former cemetery is on BOR lands, Fort Craig itself is on BLM land. Also, the BOR has no law enforcement division. Hanson said there were actually two excavations. The first was done between 2005 and 2006, as part of the criminal investigation to obtain evidence matching remains with artifacts. The second round of exhumations were completed between August and October 2007, to prevent further looting.
Hans Stuart, chief of public affairs for the BLM in Santa Fe, said the investigation has been closed. He said the case was closed when the alleged grave robber died. The report named Dee Brecheisen, of Peralta, who was 66 at the time of his death in 2004, as the alleged suspect. Stuart said investigators were told Brecheisen even referred to himself as "the grave robber."
"The case is closed. I'm not allowed to comment on whether or not there are any further investigations," Stuart said.
Stuart said he also is not allowed to give out the names of any of the investigators in the case.
"One of the really sad things about this story is that people knew about the grave robbing," he said. "This kind of crime needs to be reported. If you see somebody start a fire, you report it. If you see somebody with a shovel digging and a screen sifting through the dirt, you should report it."
Stuart said the BLM has produced a handout for people visiting Fort Craig that explains the cemetery is not and never has been open to the public. He said the exhumations have left nothing to be seen. The site has been leveled except for the walls. The handout also asks people looking for information or to report anything suspicious to call Mary Carlson at the BLM public affairs office at 505-462-3576.
Although previous press releases have referred to the exhumations as "secret," Hanson said it was more low profile than secret. He said the camp host at Fort Craig, as well as pertinent law enforcement officials were informed. He said it was handled quietly because there is an unusually active looting problem in Socorro and Sierra Counties.
"I think a lot of it (the artifacts) are sold here and abroad," he said.
Hanson went on to say that he believes there to be a million dollars a year in illegal black market trade in both commercial and hobbyist artifacts.
The bodies that were exhumed will be examined by the archeologists to attempt identification but Hanson doubts more than five at the most will be identifiable beyond a doubt.
"We want to be confident that we know who the remains belong to before we put a name on a gravestone. We don't want to make any mistakes burying somebody under the wrong name," he said.
The BOR has the burial registry from Fort Craig. Hanson said the military burials recorded are all Union soldiers, New Mexico Volunteers and California Volunteers. He said those who died after the Civil War are listed as United States Army.
Unfortunately, the registry does not include civilians. He said they have exhumed 26 bodies belonging to infants and small children. Hanson said they do not expect to be able to identify any of them.
"Osteological analysis will be impossible," he said. "The skeletal samples are good enough for DNA evidence. We could do matches will descendants. We're very open to doing that."
Hanson said anyone who would like to find out if remains belong to a blood relative who was buried at Fort Craig should contact Carlson.
Carlson said the BOR have made presentations on the exhumations and might schedule one in Socorro County.
"We're thinking about having some sort of memorial at the fort," she said.
Hanson said the archaeological department of the BOR is planning to produce a documentary on the events to be shown in the fall. He said it is too early to know if it will be on public television or on a different television station.
"The whole enterprise underscores the problems we have with looting," Hanson said. "Not only is it desecration to our ancestors and our veterans, but our collective heritage is being robbed."
After the archeologists are finished with the study and identification of the remains, the bodies will be reburied in a national cemetery where security is tighter. He said the BOR is looking into several locations and has not yet decided exactly where the remains will be interred."
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