Two men plead guilty for disturbing burial ground

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Two men pleaded guilty in Cape Girardeau Monday to charges of damaging archeological resources and damaging federal property by digging for artifacts at an American Indian burial site near Southeast Missouri's Lake Wappapello.

Prosecutors said Steven Scott Tripp, 40, of Pevely, Mo., and William Thomas Cooksey, 53, of Union, Mo., illegally excavated and damaged archaeological resources. Gary Stilts, the Army Corps' operations manager there, previously estimated the damage at $14,000.

Last Aug. 15, park rangers, responding to a tip, found Tripp and Cooksey digging at a burial site in a remote area near the lake.

The men allegedly had some arrowheads and "camp" stones, which historically were used as grinding tools. Tripp and Cooksey found human remains during the alleged excavation, but those had been set aside, officials said.

Tripp and Cooksey could get 12 years in prison and $270,000 in fines. Sentencing is scheduled for April 28.

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