FBI: 2nd defendant in artifacts case found dead
Associated Press Writer
SALT LAKE CITY – A second defendant indicted following an investigation into the theft and illegal trafficking of American Indian artifacts from the Four Corners area has been found dead in an apparent suicide, the FBI said Friday.
Steven L. Shrader, 56, of Santa Fe, N.M., was found dead in Shabbona, Ill., on Friday, the same day he was scheduled to appear in federal court in Salt Lake City.
The DeKalb County sheriff’s office said it received a call about a despondent person at a relative’s home late Thursday. Before deputies arrived, the man reportedly left the house on foot, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
Shrader’s body was found behind an elementary school about 2 1/2 hours later. The sheriff’s office said he died of two self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
An autopsy found the gunshot wounds were to Shrader’s chest, Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia said. She said it is possible to shoot oneself multiple times in the chest “as long as you don’t hit a major artery the first time.”
A coroner’s jury would have to officially declare the death a suicide, she said.
Shrader was one of two dozen people indicted following a two-year undercover investigation of suspects in Utah, New Mexico and Colorado. He was charged with two counts of felony theft of government property but had not yet entered a plea. The indictments were unsealed June 10.
The day after the indictments were announced, a prominent southeast Utah doctor, 60-year-old James Redd, committed suicide. A family member said Redd died from apparent carbon monoxide poisoning in his Jeep.
Shrader was listed in an indictment along with Carl Lavern Crites, 74, and Marie Virginia Crites, 68, both of Durango, Colo.
Federal officials accused Shrader in the trafficking of a pair of ancient sandals and a basket, each valued at more than $1,000.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Fuhrman of Utah said in a statement Friday that Shrader voluntarily came to the FBI’s offices in Santa Fe on June 12, two days after the indictments were announced. Shrader made an initial appearance in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., on Monday.
Steve Killpack, the federal public defender in Salt Lake City, said his office spoke with Shrader earlier in the week in anticipation of Friday’s scheduled court appearance in Utah.
“He outlined what I thought was a plausible defense,” Killpack said.
The case was touted by federal officials as the nation’s largest-ever investigation into the theft of archaeological objects.
Shortly after the indictments were announced, however, federal officials came under fire, accused of heavy-handed tactics during raids on a dozen homes June 10.
U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, both of Utah, called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate how the arrests were carried out. Holder defended the arrests, saying they appeared to conform with standard operating procedures.
Associated Press Writer Carla K. Johnson in Chicago contributed to this report.
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