City dentist, mom charged in Montana artifacts theft

September 14, 1990|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Evening Sun Staff Tim MacDonald, a writer from Montana, contributed to this story

A Baltimore dentist and his mother have been charged with breaking into a ghost town building in rural Montana and carting off irreplaceable artifacts, including an antique gold scale dating back at least a century.

Sherman H. Deveas 3rd, 38, of Ellicott City, and Marjorie Deveas, 59, were arrested in Jackson Hole, Wyo., on Tuesday. They were scheduled to be transported to the jail in Beaverhead County, Mont., last night. Bail has been set at $25,000 bail apiece, law enforcement officials said.

Sherman Deveas maintains a dental office in the 3300 block of Frederick Ave. He and his mother waived extradition yesterday in Jackson Hole, about 230 miles away from the Beaver County Jail.

They were arrested in Jackson Hole as they pulled up to return a rental car that had been seen in the Montana ghost town, according to Sgt. John Daily of the Teton County sheriff's office.

The Deveases are accused of breaking into an old gold assay office in the Bannack State Park on Sunday and allegedly taking an antique gold scale, a country doctor's kit that belonged to one of Montana's first doctors, antique lanterns and hand tools, two washboards and a box of antique bottles.

Dale Tash, the park curator, called the artifacts "irreplaceable," dating to times when the area was a gold boom town in 1860.

Tash told authorities that he learned of the theft when he went through the fee envelopes that visitors to the park dropped into the collection booth at the park entrance Sunday. Among the envelopes was an anonymous note.

The note writer said he had seen a man taking items out of the old gold-weighing office Sunday and placing them in a white Chrysler New Yorker. The note gave the vehicle's license plate number, which police traced to a car that had been rented to Sherman Deveas in Jackson Hole.

Police said they discovered that the Deveases were scheduled to fly out of Jackson Hole on Wednesday. When the Deveases returned to Jackson Hole in the Chrysler on Tuesday, Daily was )) waiting for them.

Daily, who questioned the Deveases, said they were on vacation and were collecting souvenirs. They are not antique collectors, Daily added.

Daily said police found the antique gold scale and another artifact in the back seat. Authorities had obtained a warrant yesterday for the rest of the Chrysler and were expecting to search the vehicle.

A relative telephoned Beaverhead County authorities Wednesday to say the bail would be posted after the Deveases were arraigned, police said.

Baltimore lawyer James Gillece said his clients' alleged offense "was not the crime of the century -- a relatively minor incident." He said they will return home following their arraignment.

Montana officials, however, contend the alleged theft went "beyond dollars and cents." Daily said the artifacts represent an historical piece of the region that dates back more than a century.

"Where the theft occurred," he said, "why, that's the first territorial capital in Montana and those items taken are from that beginning."

Records in Maryland, meanwhile, show that Sherman Deveas has had problems with alcohol and driving in the past. The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration records show that driving privileges for Sherman Deveas are suspended until July 1991 relating to an alcohol-related incident in Florida in November 1987. He was assessed eight points by Maryland MVA officials nearly a year later.

And in March of this year, he was cited when he refused to submit to a blood alcohol test by police following a traffic stop.

An MVA spokeswoman said Deveas has an alcohol restriction noted on his driver's license. Under that restriction, when his suspension expires next year he will be able to drive only in Maryland, and only to his place of employment and to alcohol education classes.

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