Skull theft | NevadaAppeal.com

Skull theft

Staff and wire reports

Confessed grave robber David Shaughnessy was sentenced in district court Monday to serve five years probation and perform 100 hours of community service for his part in a 1997 Nevada Day skull theft.

Shaughnessy, 38, who hails from Carson City, admitted to conspiring with his then-girlfriend to break into the crypt at Lone Mountain Cemetery where he says she used a chisel and a hammer to remove the skulls of Patrick Henry Clayton and his wife, Susan.

During a pretrial hearing for Nanette Birdsell, 36, who is accused of commissioning the theft and paying about $800 in cash and drugs for one of the skulls, Shaughnessy admitted to prying open the crypt wide enough for his girlfriend to slip in and remove the skulls. He alleged in the trial that later that day he made the transaction with Birdsell.

Shaughnessy was arrested on July 13 outside the Plaza Motel where he was allegedly trying to sell the other skull which he had been storing since 1997.

During the sentencing, Judge Michael Griffin said Shaughnessy had shown remorse for his participation in the crime and had made steps toward ending his drug addiction to methamphetamine by completing a drug rehabilitation program.

The relatively light sentence was also administered as part of a plea bargain Shaughnessy made with prosecutors where he agreed to testify against Hershey and Birdsell for their participation in the robbery.

Clayton, who died in 1874, was an attorney in Carson City and a founding member of the Nevada democratic party. His wife Susan died in 1905. A third skeleton in the crypt is believed to be that of an infant that died near birth.

Janice Hershey, 33, of Carson City, pleaded innocent to the grave robbery charges and burglary. She is set to stand trial March 28 in district court.