A Utah man has been formally indicted on charges of unlawfully excavating and damaging the Fort Yellowstone Cemetery in Wyoming between October 2019 and May 2020, allegedly in search of a hidden chest containing gold, gems and rare coins.
Rodrick Dow Craythorn, 52, appeared in federal court Thursday, where he pleaded not guilty to the two charges — one of which alleges that he willingly and knowingly attempted to “excavate, remove, damage, alter and deface” archaeological resources, and another which alleges he willfully intended to “damage, injure, and commit depredation against property belonging to the United States,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Wyoming, wrote in a news release.
Craythorn will next appear at trial on Dec. 14, in Casper, Wyoming.
The Attorney’s Office added that Craythorn was in search of a treasure chest hidden by Forrest Fenn, a New Mexico art dealer who publicly announced in 2010 that he had hidden a cache of gold, jewels and more jewels in the Rocky Mountain area. This announcement, which came by way of a book containing clues to the whereabouts of the treasure, kicked off a decade-long search in the Rocky Mountains and surrounding areas.
The treasure was eventually discovered in Wyoming in June 2020. Fenn died a few months later, in September.
Craythorn’s case isn’t the first incident of controversy sparked by the hunt for the Fenn treasure. Over the last decade, several people have died while allegedly in search of the chest. Other incidents of burglary or unlawful digging on private land have also prompted police to ask Fenn to call off the hunt.
Upon its discovery in 2020, Fenn publicly announced that “the search is over.”
“It was under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains and had not moved from the spot where I hid it more than 10 years ago,” said Fenn on his website. “I do not know the person who found it, but the poem in my book led him to the precise spot.”