Two people caught digging for artifacts in a state park are in the Screven County Jail, charged with drug offenses as well as illegal digging on state property.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources Cpl. Shaymus McNeely and Ranger 1st Class Jason Miller, following leads on an investigation into illegal digging at Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area in Screven County, caught Gary Paul Joyner, 50, of Painter’s Road in Sylvania, and Tarin Weintraub, 27, of McBride Road in Sylvania, as they were digging for artifacts on June 1, said Screven County sheriff’s Investigator Brett Dickerson.
While it is not illegal to possess artifacts (arrowheads, etc.) if they are found on private property with permission, it is illegal to collect them or dig for them on state property, he said.
McNeely said he and other DNR rangers had been investigating the poaching of artifacts for quite some time. He was on patrol in April when he noticed evidence of digging in the same area he had previously apprehended another person for committing the same crime.
He and others kept an eye on the property, hoping to find the offenders. Over the Memorial Day holiday, a fisherman reported seeing people in the area who were “filthy, dirty and had headlamp-type lights.”
The witness gave a description of the offenders’ vehicle as well, he said.
Further patrol, with rangers visiting the area at various times, led to McNeely and Miller catching Joyner and Weintraub at the scene around 3 a.m. on June 1, he said.
Joyner and Weintraub were found with several “flaked stone tools” such as arrowheads and knives that were left behind between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago by Native Americans, Dickerson said.
They also were found to have in their possession a small amount of methamphetamine, he said.
A search warrant obtained in order to locate possibly more artifacts in the suspects’ possession led to the discovery of a bit less than half a pound of marijuana and the “major components of a meth lab,” he said. Investigators also found several hundred more artifacts at Joyner’s home on Painter’s Road.
Weintraub remained in the Screven County Jail on Thursday but has been given a bond, he said. She is charged with unlawful excavation of artifacts on state property, theft by taking and possession of methamphetamine.
No bond is set for Joyner, who “at the time of arrest … was already out on bond for a charge of manufacturing marijuana from last year,” Dickerson said.
Joyner is charged with unlawful excavation of artifacts on state property, theft by taking, unlawful dumping, littering, possession of methamphetamine, possession of marijuana (felony, more than an ounce) and criminal attempt to manufacture methamphetamine.
McNeely said he has worked similar cases involving illegal digging on private property, but this was his first case on state property.
The artifacts “will be held for state archeology officials, who will conduct a site report” and give a professional assessment of the location and artifacts, he said.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.