O.C. man charged in sale of 200-year-old skull

An undercover agent obtains the relic, which an eBay offer
claimed was taken from an excavation site on Maui in 1969.

Orange County Register
Thursday, September 9, 2004

The Orange County Register

Edward Ayau had one purpose in mind when he contacted an Orange County man who claimed to have a Hawaiian warrior's skull and was selling it on eBay.

"I asked him if he would kindly surrender the remains of somebody's child, somebody's parent, so that we could give it a ceremonial return," Ayau said.

Ayau, a Hawaiian lawyer, is active in a group that tries to persuade people to return ancient remains. He said he was shocked at the rebuff from Jerry David Hasson, 55.

"He said he wasn't going to do it - it was his property," said Ayau, 40. "He said he had every right to it and he was going to sell it."

Ayau reported Hasson to federal authorities. The Huntington Beach resident was charged Wednesday with violating laws that prohibit the removal or disturbance of American Indian and Native Hawaiian remains on federal land. Interstate trafficking in the remains also is a crime, no matter their origin.

Hasson, who could not be reached to comment, faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

The charge comes after a lengthy investigation by the Bureau of Indian Affairs that began with a review of the eBay offer, headlined "200 Year Old Hawaiian Skull."

The skull was supposed to have come from the excavation of Whaler's Village, a tourist area under construction in 1969 on the island of Maui. Hasson contended in court papers that he was a 17-year-old lifeguard at the time and was working as a bit character in a Hollywood production, "The Hawaiians."

On the set, Hasson said, he met Frasier Heston, the son of the movie's star, Charlton Heston. Along with a third teen, he said, they sneaked onto the site, dug into the sand and found a human skeleton. It was surrounded by weapons characteristic of the 1790s battle of Kaanapali Beach, fought at the site.

Hasson said he took only the skull, according to the court papers.

The FBI interviewed Frasier Heston, who reported no recollection of Hasson but did recall finding bones. He denied taking any remains.

John Fryer, a special agent for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, posed as a buyer willing to pay $2,500 for the skull. Hasson, court papers say, had a plan to dodge the laws. He would give the skull to Fryer as a gift, and Fryer would buy a collector's edition comic book from him for $2,500.

The exchange was made.

An expert determined that the remains were not those of a warrior but of a 50-year-old woman who had died before the famous battle.

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Ho`iho`i Mai