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Detectives seek items 2,000 years old

More than a dozen arrowheads and a ceremonial knife were stolen at the Crystal River archaeological park.

By CATHERINE E. SHOICHET
Published December 22, 2005


CRYSTAL RIVER - State and county authorities are investigating the theft of more than a dozen arrowheads and a ceremonial knife from the Crystal River Archaeological State Park.

The items were stolen from a visitor center display case that housed items from the Deptford period ranging from 500 B.C. to 500 A.D., park manager Nick Robbins said.

The thief or thieves did not touch any other items in the nine exhibit areas at the center at 3400 N Museum Point.

"They knew what they were after," Robbins said.

One or two of the stolen items may have been replicas, he said. But the other items were irreplaceable and probably were valued at least at thousands of dollars, Robbins told Citrus County sheriff's deputies.

The Sheriff's Office and the state Department of Environmental Protection's Park Patrol are investigating the burglary.

"It's disheartening to think that someone would steal from the citizens of Florida. ... What those people do for the most part is steal a piece of a puzzle that may allow us to learn more of how people lived in ancient times," Robbins said.

Robbins said the security system at the visitor center was upgraded as a result of the theft.

But park ranger Susan Clemons said that should have happened sooner. She said she has criticized the visitor center's security system for months.

"Nobody cared enough about what belonged to the public to secure it correctly," she said.

Robbins said he discovered the burglary when he returned to the park about 8:45 p.m. Monday and heard an alarm going off inside the visitor center.

He told deputies that someone had broken into the glass side door of the museum.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney said crime technicians reported to the scene, and detectives are trying to develop suspects.

She said deputies were investigating the incident as a burglary and she did not know whether additional charges could be brought because the items were historic artifacts stolen from a state park.

Robbins said stealing the items was a serious crime.

"Whoever did it will probably go to prison," he said.

In a report, a sheriff's deputy noted that there are two ways to approach the center: by vehicle off the main road, or by boat off the Crystal River.

Robbins told deputies that the stolen items were always of particular interest to visitors because they are part of a collection specific to the area.

"He was not able to indicate anybody or anything suspicious in terms of somebody asking about the collection," Tierney said.

The archaeological state park is on 14 acres about 2 miles west of U.S. 19 along the Crystal River.

In addition to the artifacts housed in the visitor center, the park includes burial mounds as high as 15 feet and a 30-foot-high temple mound.

Robbins said it was the first forced entry burglary since the visitor center opened 40 years ago.

Tierney said anyone who may have information about the burglary should contact the Sheriff's Office at 726-4488 and ask for Detective Luther Willis at ext. 337.

Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at cshoichet@sptimes.com or 860-7309.

[Last modified December 22, 2005, 00:58:15]


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