Once the subject of sensational headlines, a man serving out his conviction for involvement in a murder-for-hire plot died of natural causes in an Oregon prison infirmary. Jack Lee Harelson’s December 14 death was confirmed by the Department of Corrections.
The 72-year-old inmate had a criminal history that also included looting and grave robbery at archeological sites.
Harelson was imprisoned at Oregon State Penitentiary after being found guilty of trying to fund the killing of his business partner. He was serving a ten year sentence on charges of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder and solicitation of murder.
The Grants Pass Daily Courier reports that this was not Harelson’s first brush with illegal activities. Considered an amateur archeologist, he was earlier accused of pilfering grave sites during unauthorized excavations two decades ago.
His actions while unearthing artifacts at a Nevada site are thought to have destroyed a 10,000 year long historical record of human life.
During a 1995 arrest, police found partial mummified remains belonging to two children buried underneath Harelson’s garden. They are thought to be part of his excavation of Elephant Mountain Cave, located in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.
Inhabited by the Paiute Tribe’s ancestors for 5,000 years, the site contained approximately 2,000 artifacts including woven baskets that contained the remains of the children found on Harelson’s property.
Constrained by the statute of limitations, authorities were unable to file federal charges against Harelson. The US Department of Interior went forward with a civil lawsuit against the man, winning a $2.5 million judgment in their favor.
According to The Associated Press, Harelson was later accused of trying hire someone to murder Lloyd Olds, his business partner in a Nevada opal mine. The man believed his partner was responsible for his troubles in the grave robbing case.
The Oregon man reportedly offered opals valued at $10,000 in exchange for his partner’s death. Recorded conversations between Harelson and an informant led him to be convicted in 2005 for his solicitation of murder-for-hire.