Friday, September 29, 2023
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Government Worker Stole Human Remains

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CN) - Concluding a case of stolen human remains, federal prosecutors announced that the former superintendent of the Effigy Mounds National Monument has pleaded guilty.

Before trumpeting the plea Monday, it had been a very quiet few weeks since Uncle Sam unveiled charges in a mostly sealed case against 76-year-old Thomas Munson.

The government has now acknowledged that Munson, of Prairie du Chien, Wis., spent three decades as an employee of the National Park Service.

When Munson retired from government work in May 1994, he had spent the last 23 years as superintendent of the Effigy Mounds National Monument.

President Harry Truman established the monument by proclamation in 1949, "primarily to protect over 200 known prehistoric earthen burial mounds, some in the shape of animals, constructed between 700 and 2,500 years ago," according to a statement from the Justice Department.

Though entrusted with preserving and protecting the sacred site in Allamakee County, Iowa, prosecutors say Munson "knowingly removed prehistoric skeletal human remains from the ... monument collection."

On July 16, 1990, Munson "carried a box of human remains from the curatorial facility to his car, and directed a subordinate to do the same," the Justice Department's statement notes.

"Munson then drove the stolen items to his home in Wisconsin where he concealed them for more than twenty years," the statement continues. "When the boxes were finally recovered, investigators discovered that several of the human bones were broken or fragmented beyond recognition."

Munson admitted to these at a plea hearing before Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Jon Scoles.

The National Park Service spent $83,905 to restore and repair the remains so far, and it will spend at least another $25,000, the government says.

Prosecutors claim that Munson is responsible for at least $108,905 in restitution.

"It is a very sad day when a public official betrays the public's trust," U.S. Attorney Kevin Techau said in a statement. "This was a serious crime and the betrayal was compounded by a violation of the most sacred trust placed in Mr. Munson as the superintendent of Effigy Mounds National Monument."

Munson remains out of jail pending a sentencing hearing Judge Scoles has yet to schedule.

The Wisconsinite faces up to one year imprisonment, a $100,000 fine, $25 in special assessments, and one year of supervised release following any imprisonment.

Prosecutors identified 20 tribes that affiliate themselves with Effigy Mounds National Monument. They are the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe; Flandeau Santee Sioux; Ho-Chunk Nation; Iowa Tribe of Kansas & Nebraska; Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma; Lower Sioux Indian Community; Omaha Nation; Otoe-Missouria Tribe; Ponca Tribe of Nebraska

Prairie Island Indian Community; Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska; Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma; Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa; Santee Sioux Nation; Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community of Minnesota; Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe; Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Upper Sioux Indian Community; Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska; and Yankton Sioux Tribe.

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