Pajama-clad man caught on camera trying to snatch artifacts from historic fort

IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. — As the site manager at historic Fort Dobbs in Statesville, Scott Douglas knows the property like the back of his hand.

“Fort Dobbs was actually constructed during the French and Indian War in the 1750s,” he said.

Soldiers used the fort for protection. The rich history and the reconstruction of the fort are only known from unearthed artifacts like buttons and bullets.

“When we are able to recover those items, they teach us about what people’s daily lives were like, what kind of clothes they were wearing, and what the history was here in general,” said Douglas.

But deputies in Iredell County say a man, captured on surveillance video, put all that in jeopardy earlier this month.

In the surveillance images, the man is wearing pajamas and a headlamp. Douglas said the man had a metal detector and dug more than 60 holes, trying to snatch up artifacts.

“He actually filled in the holes and then kept moving on,” explained Douglas.

The group “Friends of Fort Dobbs” has worked hard to make sure only trained archeologists remove the items from the ground.

Steve Hill said it’s disheartening.

“I think it’s pretty sad that a pajama-clad individual would sneak in here under the cover of darkness and steal from us,” Hill said.

The process of finding artifacts takes time and money. Now, those who maintain the site said they could be missing pieces of this historical puzzle.

“We don’t know exactly what is in the ground until we can dig it up and catalog it,” Douglas said.

Officials said the person in the image blatantly broke the rules. Signs posted outside the site read “No relic hunting or metal detecting.”

The crime is a class three misdemeanor in North Carolina that could bring fines or jail time.

Hill told Channel 9 he just wants justice.

“It’s such a special place for the community and it’s really disheartening,” he said.

People who work at Fort Dobbs have no way of knowing what, if anything, the suspect got away with.

On Saturday, the fort will commemorate 261 years since the battle between soldiers and Cherokee Native Americans.

If you recognize the person in the image, contact the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office.