BOISE – A man and woman accused by federal prosecutors of looting a historic Idaho mine are set to stand trial this week in Boise’s U.S. District Court.
Russell L. Nuxoll and Janet Rose Sylten were indicted by a federal grand jury last fall, each charged with destruction of government property and theft of government property. Their trial is set to begin today.
Prosecutors say the couple went to an abandoned, government-owned mine near Hailey and dismantled the large wooden head frame and wooden ore bin, selling the wood for more than $10,000 to a recycled timber company.
But Nuxoll and Sylten have told authorities that they believed they held a valid mining claim at the site, and were simply cleaning up the structures after an unknown person knocked them down.
According to a trial brief filed by prosecutors, the Snoose Mine and its structures were eligible for listing in the National Registry of historic places and dated to about 1910. It was also considered the most intact representative sample of the Mineral Hill Mining District, according to the brief.
A Bureau of Land Management law enforcement ranger first noticed the roughly 30-foot wooden head frame and wooden ore bin were gone from the mine while he was patrolling the region in August. Prosecutors say the following month they talked to an employee with Idaho GluLam Inc. Recycled Timbers, who said he’d paid Nuxoll and Sylten for four separate loads of timber and that the wood matched the description of the missing Snoose Mine timber.
According to court documents, the employee called law enforcement officers the next day to report that Nuxoll had tried to sell him another load of timber, which he declined to buy.
BLM archaeologist Lisa Cresswell has estimated that damage at the Snoose Mine site totals more than $61,000, according to court documents.