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Metal Detecting and Grave Disturbance Incident

Metal Detecting and Grave Disturbance Incident

In April 2006, two individuals walking in a back country area of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park near Hancock, Maryland, came upon a historic cemetery. The individuals found a grave in the cemetery which appeared to have been disturbed. The individuals reported the grave disturbance to authorities and an investigation ensued by the National Park Service.
U.S. Park Rangers responded to the area and found the disturbed gravesite of Mary Ohr, who died October 10, 1875. Mary Ohr's grave is marked with a large headstone and is surrounded by a wrought iron fence. She was married to Dr. Charles H. (C.H.) Ohr. He was the mayor of Cumberland from 1859-1866 and he spent several years as a member of the Maryland state senate.
In the surrounding area of the cemetery, rangers located small holes which had been dug into the surface of the ground. From evidence found, metal detectors were suspected as being utilized in the crime.
With the assistance of National Park Service (NPS) archeologists, the crime scene was carefully processed. Even though the hole dug over Mary Ohr's gravesite was only five-feet deep, it was found that the casket had been entered.
Relic hunting and metal detecting in national parks is a violation of federal law and is strictly enforced across the country. The Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (16 U.S.C. 470) was enacted to protect archeological resources on public lands as these resources have become increasingly endangered due to their commercial attractiveness.
In an apology letter written by Christopher Pelchat to the park, he states, "It was a stupid and very foolish thing to do."
[Distributed by C&O Canal National Historical Park]

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