Louisville, Ky. – U.S. District Court judge sentenced Gary Womack, 60, of Woodburn, Kentucky, to 15 months in prison for three felony violations of the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) on June 6, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The case resulted from a three-year undercover investigation by the National Park Service, based upon allegations that Womack possessed human remains which originated from Mammoth Cave National Park. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assisted Park Service agents throughout.
The undercover investigation revealed Womack’s dealings in artifacts removed from the graves of Native Americans buried in caves and rock shelters in South Central Kentucky and also burials from as far away as the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Womack dealt in artifacts from the so-called “G.E. Mound” case prosecuted in the Southern District of Indiana in 1992. 

Artifacts recovered from that case were supposed to have been returned and re-buried at a site in Posey County, Indiana; however, Womack purchased artifacts from the previous prosecution in 2015 in Boonville, Indiana, for approximately $2,500, and transported them to Kentucky, where a portion of them were sold to the undercover federal agent. Womack also pled guilty to two additional counts charging him with trafficking in archaeological resources (Native American artifacts) from the Western United States. All artifacts in the case have been recovered and will be repatriated according to law.
In sentencing, the judge told Womack that he was disturbed that the defendant had chosen to dig the graves of the ancestors of Native Americans for profit and had done so while being fully aware of the laws he had chosen to violate.

A letter from Ben Barnes, Second Chief of the Shawnee Tribe, of Miami, Oklahoma, was made a part of the record and read at the sentencing hearing. The letter states, in part: “The remains that are within the soils of our original homelands contains the hallowed remains of human beings, our ancestors. We would urge the court to send a message to all those what would desecrate a grave, that ARPA violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

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