GRANTS PASS — A former insurance agent and amateur archaeologist convicted of looting ancient Indian graves in the Nevada desert and later offering $10,000 in opals for a hit man to kill a former business partner has died in prison.
The Department of Corrections confirmed Thursday that Jack Lee Harelson, 72, of Grants Pass, died Dec. 14 in the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem. The agency said he died of natural causes in the prison infirmary. His death was first reported by the Grants Pass Daily Courier.
When he was arrested in 1995, a U.S. Department of Interior archaeologist said that Harelson’s unauthorized excavations of the Elephant Mountain Cave in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in the early 1980s destroyed the historical record of a site that was inhabited by ancestors of the Paiute Tribe for 5,000 years. Harelson served 30 days in jail.
In 2005, Harelson was convicted of trying to hire a hit man to kill Lloyd Olds of Brookings, a partner in an opal mine whom Harelson blamed for his grave-robbing conviction.