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Anasazi case is finally put to rest

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Seven years after a Blanding doctor and his wife were arrested on charges of digging at an Anasazi ruin near Bluff, San Juan County, the case is over.

The case went through a bewildering series of dismissals and refilings. It also prompted the Legislature to pass a law protecting ancient Indian remains.

Dr. James Redd and Jeanne Redd originally were charged with desecrating a dead human body on Jan. 6, 1996. The allegation is that they moved Anasazi bones while digging for artifacts. They asserted they had the right to dig at an Anasazi ruin on private land, but a survey later showed the site was on state land.

The Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration filed a civil suit against the Redds alleging trespassing on trust land, but this case was put on hold while the criminal matter was resolved.

At one point 7th District Judge Lyle Anderson, a Monticello magistrate, dismissed the desecration charge, saying he was uncertain whether digging up remains that could be 1,000 years old constitutes the criminal offense of desecrating a corpse. That led to protests from Indians, who said their ancestors' remains were not protected while those of white pioneers were.

The 1999 Utah Legislature remedied the supposed loophole by enacting HB192, which specifically added legal protection for "any part of a human body in any state of decomposition including ancient human remains."

Later, the state's Supreme Court ordered the charge reinstated, ruling that the original law did cover the matter.

In November 2002, 7th District Judge Mary Manley dismissed a felony corpse desecration charge against James Redd. Jeanne Redd pleaded no contest to a reduced class A misdemeanor count of attempted abuse or desecration of a body.

The plea did not admit guilt but acknowledged that prosecutors had evidence that could convict her. As recommended by the attorney general's office, she was placed on six months' unsupervised probation with no fine or jail fine. After completing probation the conviction can be reduced one level, to a class B misdemeanor.

That still left the trust lands civil suit.

On Thursday, the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration announced that the suit was settled with the Redds paying $10,000 in civil claims. Asked whether that was the end of the legal entanglements resulting from the case, Trust Lands' Dave Hebertson replied, "I think that's it."

The settlement dismisses all civil claims arising from the incident. The attorney on the case told him the Redds had paid the fine, Hebertson added.

E-mail: bau@desnews.com