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Nabbed: Fourth of July Serpent Mound Vandal Arrested

A Peebles, Ohio, man who took a thrill ride in a four-wheel-drive truck across Ohio’s sacred Serpent Mound over the July 4 weekend, has been arrested.

A Peebles, Ohio, man who took a thrill ride in a four-wheel-drive truck across Ohio’s sacred Serpent Mound over the July 4th weekend, leaving ugly tread marks across the lush green landscape, was nabbed thanks to video cameras installed at the site.

Deputies arrested Coleman Dargavell, 20, on the evening of July 7 after they asked the public for help in identifying the truck captured in the video footage, Adams County Sheriff K. R. Rogers told ICTMN. Rogers said Dargavell, who had been drinking when the incident took place, confessed to the crime. He had a passenger with him, though this person was not identified because they were not arrested. Dargavell was charged with vandalism to property controlled by a government entity, which is a felony of the fifth degree.

In addition to the 1,400-foot-long serpent effigy mound, the 54-acre Serpent Mound site contains three burial mounds, two from the Adena culture (800 B.C.-1100 A.D.) and one from the Fort Ancient culture (1000-1650 A.D.). Beneath the surface lay remnants of both Adena and Fort Ancient villages, said Brad Lepper, Curator of Archaeology for Ohio History Connection Ohio, a non-profit organization that owns the Serpent Mound property. The entire site is a National Historic Landmark and is on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Tentative List of sites to be submitted to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization for inclusion on the World Heritage List.

The incident happened at about 2 a.m. on July 5, according to Lepper. Although Dargavell did not get close to the serpent effigy itself, he drove up the largest burial mound, an Adena mound.

Lepper said the damage is limited to the turf zone, mainly ripped up grass and a few inches of sod. “It looks hideous, but the damage is cosmetic mostly. It’s not to say it’s not a problem. For people looking at the site, it looks horrible, and it really is a sad sight to see such an important site treated like that. It will require people to replace that damaged sod.”

Lepper said there is a gate, but recently—including the night that Dargavell went on his joyride—it has not been closed. He believes the incident was opportunistic; in other words, it would not have occurred if the gate had been properly shut.

This was not the first time Serpent Mound was desecrated by vandals. Lepper said a few years ago a New Age group entered the site and planted a bunch of talisman-like objects into the soil of the mound. The group recorded a video of its work and then posted it on YouTube. Lepper is not certain about any arrests made in that case.

On this recent vandalism act, Lepper said the site should be viewed, especially by locals, as a “valued resource and something to treasure.” He added, “It’s very sad, and we’re just glad that the situation has been resolved and the person who did it has been identified and we can move forward.”