Somebody’s out of their skull, but not Claytons | NevadaAppeal.com

Somebody’s out of their skull, but not Claytons

Jeff Ackerman

Patrick and Susan Clayton are together again.

Literally and figuratively.

A brief ceremony was conducted Monday at Lone Mountain Cemetery, where Patrick and Susan’s skulls were returned to the crypt they were ripped from on Halloween night, 1997.

Until that fateful evening, the Claytons had been resting peacefully together for more than 90 years. That’s what you expect to do when you die. They plant you in the dirt (or crypt) and you stay there Resting In Peace. It’s often etched in your headstone as some presumed eternal money back guarantee.

You shouldn’t have to worry about a couple of crankheads digging you up so they can swap your skull for some drugs.

Unfortunately, that’s allegedly what happened to Patrick and Susan. A guy named David Shaughnessy and his girlfriend pried open the Claytons’ crypt and removed the couple’s skulls from their respective skeletons.

Last week a woman named Nanette Birdsell admitted paying Shaughnessy several hundred dollars and some drugs for Susan Clayton’s skull. She’s slated to be sentenced next month, but the District Attorney’s Office is only recommending she receive 15 days in jail. When he was arrested last year, Shaughnessy still had Patrick’s skull in his backpack. It’s a small market for 125-year-old skulls and Birdsell apparently wasn’t interested in Shaughnessy’s 2-skulls-for-the-price-of-1 Halloween special.

Shaughnessy was given probation and 100 hours of community service for stealing the skulls. Grave robbery in Nevada isn’t nearly as serious an offense as slot machine rigging, bad check writing, or spitting on sidewalks.

Birdsell really hasn’t said what she intended to do with Susan Clayton’s skull. Witchcraft was suggested, but drugs and the things that go through your mind when you’re on drugs probably had something to do with it. Birdsell’s police mug looked a lot like the skull she paid for. Living skulls buying dead skulls from numskulls.

It’s a vicious circle.

According to history reports, Patrick Clayton came to Carson City in 1859 and is credited with founding Nevada’s Democratic Party. You’d have thought the Democrats would have been livid at the notion that someone had swiped their founding father’s skull. Especially in an election year. And especially since all four judges in Carson City are Democrats.

Republicans would have strung the culprits by their thumbs and made them listen to Rush Limbaugh until they chirped like birdies.

Up until last week Susan Clayton’s skull was still missing and there didn’t seem to be any urgency to get either Birdsell or Shaughnessy to hand it over.

An “agent” for Ms. Birdsell reportedly delivered the missing skull to authorities. Even grave robbers and skull brokers have agents these days. “Yes. I’m an agent representing Ms. Birdsell and I have a skull here. Can you please sign the receipt at the bottom?”

The two-year flight from the “Ever After” to the “Here And Now” and back must have been quite traumatic for the Claytons. Especially considering the company they had to keep. They didn’t have many crankheads running around stealing skulls back in the 1800s. And if there had been you can bet Patrick Clayton would have dealt with them swiftly and efficiently. They say Patrick was a pretty tough prosecutor.

If there’s conversation in the “Ever After,” I imagine Patrick and Susan are having one heck of a reunion today:

“My God!” Susan might say. “Did you see what’s become of Carson City?”

“Yeah,” Patrick would reply. “Heck of a thing, isn’t it? Who would of guessed they’d have a Republican in the governor’s mansion.”

“No. Not that, dear,” Susan would say. “I’m talking about the drugs.”

“Yeah,” Patrick would respond. “And did you take a look at that traffic? They still haven’t built that damned bypass we talked about in 1861.”

Fortunately, the Claytons are home again. May they rest in peace and never again have to see the light of day where living skeletons rob from graves to feed drug habits.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher and editor of the Nevada Appeal.