Trial date set for suspect in Halloween grave robbery

The woman accused of stealing two heads from a Lone Mountain Cemetery crypt two years ago was scheduled Monday for a March 28, 2000, trial on felony burglary and grave robbery charges.

Janice Hershey faces up to 16 years in prison if convicted, District Judge Michael Griffin told her as he arraigned her. She pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Hershey, 33, was identified in July by David Shaughnessy as the woman who crawled into the mausoleum crypt of Patrick and Susan Clayton the early morning of Oct. 31, 1997, and removed their heads. Shaughnessy said he had been commissioned to get a skull for another Carson City woman and had kept the second skull in a storage unit until he tried to sell it on July 13.

Shaughnessy told investigators he had used a car jack to break the welds on the iron door on the Clayton crypt and pry it open. Hershey was small enough to squeeze through the narrow opening and enter the crypt, which held the remains of the Claytons and their infant child.

In testimony Sept. 3 at Hershey's preliminary hearing, an acquaintance testified Hershey said she spent most of the night in the mausoleum, using a small hammer to break the heads away from the bodies.

When a report of a man trying to sell a human skull at a South Carson Street motel was received in mid-July, a detective confiscated a backpack containing a head from Shaughnessy.

Shaughnessy indicated he was trying to raise money for drugs, then agreed to cooperate with investigators. He identified Hershey as the person who entered the crypt and alleged that Nanette Birdsell, 36, commissioned the theft of the remains. Shaughnessy said Birdsell paid for one skull with $400 in cash and $400 worth of methamphetamine.

Birdsell, who had moved to Stagecoach, turned herself in a few days after Shaughnessy's arrest, after she had been interviewed briefly in the presence of her attorney, Kay Ellen Armstrong. Birdsell also was scheduled for a preliminary Sept. 3, but it was postponed.

Hershey had moved to California, but returned to Carson City in mid-August to appear in justice court on bad check charges. She was arrested then on a warrant for burglary and grave robbery.

Griffin asked Hershey's attorney, Allison Joffee, if she was sure the case would go to trial. Joffee said she was not, that she had some motions and other possibilities that could resolve the case before trial.

Shaughnessy pleaded guilty to felony grave robbery. While awaiting sentencing later this month, Shaughnessy was enrolled in a chemical dependency treatment program in Elko.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment