Underneath the FBI’s tents: Experts weigh in on Rush Co. collection

(WISH Photo/Chopper 8)
(WISH Photo/Chopper 8)

RUSH COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) – An FBI investigation continued Thursday into an Indiana man who has collected artifacts from some 200 countries. Authorities told WISH-TV it will take weeks to look through it all.

While the FBI is not releasing many details about its investigation into the collection of 91-year old Don Miller, 24- Hour News 8 spoke with two local experts about what might be going on underneath those tents in Rush County.

From the air, the FBI’s setup at the Miller house in Rush County looks to be enormous. Even by FBI standards, it is.

“This is almost as big as I’ve seen in any kind of case easily,” says Bill Ervin, the former FBI Agent in charge of the Indianapolis office.

While he doesn’t have any knowledge of this particular case, he says it’s not likely they’d waste their time on this size of an operation without a good reason.

“I think they had a quantity of evidence that indicated that there is at least some material either stolen or mis-gotten or misapplied, or something,” he said.

Ervin said with a collection that big, it makes sense to bring the experts to the scene rather than try and move it all somewhere else.

“What are these things? How old are they? Where do they think they came from?” Dr. Christopher Schmidt, a professor of anthropology and an archeologist with the University of Indianapolis asked.

Dr. Schmidt said while he doesn’t know specifically what’s going on, often, archaelogists are called in to look specifically at what is called “mortuary items.”

“Any item that is associated with a grave is protected, especially prehistoric artifacts – those are clearly protected by federal and state law,” he said.

While the experts are identifying the collection, law enforcement will be putting it into a computer database, cataloging all of it, said Bill Ervin. He said that is a long process.

Erwin said Don Miller, the owner of the collection, can help the process move more quickly. He will likely be asked what each piece is and where he got it, if he can remember.

Erwin said before Miller can be charged criminally, the government would have to prove intent. And that includes much more than just going through his collection.

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