Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

July 24, 2009

Charges to be dropped in Indian Rock case

By KENNETH HART

The Independent

GREENUP The criminal case against Steve Shaffer, the Ironton historian who led the expedition to remove a historic boulder from the depths of the Ohio River, will apparently be coming to an end without Shaffer being prosecuted

Greenup Commonwealth’s Attorney Clifford Duvall on Friday filed a motion to dismiss a felony charge of removing a protected archaeological object without a permit against the 51-year-old Shaffer. The charge is a Class D felony that carries a prison sentence of one to five years. A Greenup County grand jury indicated Shaffer on the charge in June of last year.

In his 12-page motion, Duvall said he was dropping the case because he would not able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the 8-ton boulder that Shaffer and his cohorts pulled out of the river in September 2007 is, in fact, the same Indian Head Rock that was registered with the University of Kentucky as a protected archaeological object in the mid-1980s.

“While the undersigned prosecutor is convinced of the defendant’s wrongful intent in raising what he thought was an Indian relic, the defendant is lucky in that it is very questionable whether he has done so,” Duvall wrote.

According to the motion, an inscribed rock that was named as “Portsmouth Indian Head Rock,” probably at some point in the mid-1800s, was reported to the UK Department of Anthropology in 1985 by a man named James Swauger.

However, there has been more than one rock in the river known as “Indian Head Rock” or “Indian Rock” and there is confusion over which is the “official” one, Duvall wrote.

The rock that was raised from the bottom of the river by Shaffer and a team of rescue divers is inscribed with numerous names and initials dated around the mid-1800s, along with a crude etching that resembles a face.

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