A Heber Springs couple plead guilty on Thursday in federal court to unlawfully excavating and damaging archaeological resources in the Buffalo National River.
Michael L. Walters, age 64, of Heber Springs, and his wife Yvonne Jenay Walters, age 55, each plead guilty to a violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Park Rangers patrolling the Grinders Ferry area of the Buffalo National River in 2015 reported seeing Yvonne Walters taking rocks and minerals from a gravel bar. Rangers later found Michael Walters digging nearby in what park records list as a prehistoric archaeological site.
The couple admitted they had come to the park to search for rocks and artifacts, including Native American arrowheads. Officials discovered the couple had been to the same area previously to dig for rocks and artifacts.
Officials stated â€œBoth were involved in searching for, locating, excavating, trading, and selling artifacts, and actively engaged in social media group communities with the same interestsâ€.
The court will determine the couple’s sentences at a later date. The maximum penalties for each defendant include up to one year and a fine of $100,000.
Michael and Yvonne also agreed to forfeit artifacts, tools and equipment and to pay $4,111 restitution to the National Park Service.