FBI investigating Rush County home for artifact collection - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

FBI investigating Rush County home for artifact collection

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RUSH COUNTY -

The FBI says a 91-year-old Indiana man who collected thousands of archeological artifacts over his lifetime may have acquired some of them improperly.

At a news conference Wednesday, the FBI could not say if Donald Miller would face charges for his collection in Waldron. Dozens of agents were at Miller's farm to collect and process the artifacts.

It happened in Waldron, a classic, quiet, one-stoplight Indiana town. 

"We had no idea what was going on," said Joe Runnebohm, who runs H & R Water Systems Plumbing in Waldron. "I was really surprised." 

Not the kind of place you'd expect to see dozens of FBI agents, special military-style tents, specialized equipment and a command post that would put some small town police stations to shame. The focus of their investigation is 91-year-old Donald Miller and his massive collection of Native American and other artifacts. 

"It was pretty neat stuff. I was really interested in looking at all of it," said Runnebohm. He saw the collection while working on the plumbing at Miller's house. He said Miller was proud to show it off.  

"He had a head with an arrowhead stuck in it, like a skull and all kinds of Indian artifacts from arrowheads to hatchets to peace pipes to just anything," explained Runnebohm.

Outside, near the front door, we saw statues that appeared to be from the Far East.

Several people in Waldron said the house was like a museum, that school groups and Scout troops would go on regular tours.     

The FBI has around 100 agents at the farm and they say it could take them up to a week to figure out what all the artifacts are. They've brought in a team of outside experts of archeologists and anthropologists to help.

That includes archeologist Dr. Larry Zimmerman from IUPUI.

"I'm frankly overwhelmed I've never seen a collection like this in my entire life," he said.

Then, there is the collector himself. 

"He has been very cooperative at this point. And I think the goal here again is to identify those items, see if they belong elsewhere and we're going to work very closely with him to make that happen," said Special Agent Paul Bresson, an FBI spokesman. 

The collection that took 80 years put together will be dismantled piece by piece. 

"Over the last several months a FBI investigation has determined Mr. Miller may have knowingly or unknowingly collected artifacts relics and objects which may have been a violation of several treaties, federal, and state statues," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Jones.

"They never had a family; I guess something he and his wife could do together," said Runnebohm.

Agents won't say what all the items are, but say there are thousands of artifacts spanning the globe.

"China, Haiti, Australia, Russia, New Guinea, Italy, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Greece, Peru, and we believe several other countries," said Special Agent Jones.

Authorities said Miller has been fully cooperative so far and he is not considered a criminal suspect.

The Rushville Republican newspaper featured Miller in a series of articles. Read them here:

Part one

Part two

Part three

Part four

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