Montana vandal apologizes; says he was afraid

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The Star Tribune reports the vandal who defaced Pompey's Pillar National Monument in Montana last month has publicly confessed and apologized. Cole Randall, of the musical duo Flora Cash, wrote that his misguided act happened because his honeymoon was interrupted by his new wife's cancer scare. Swedish bandmate Shpresa Lleshaj discovered “a suspicious lump on her breast.

“I was scared … terrified actually, worst-case scenarios raced through my mind,” wrote Randall, 23. “When love and fear of loss team up: we sometimes lose our better judgment … If something were to happen to my wife, I could come back to this place years from now and see her and my names together."

Randall wrote that Lleshaj tried to talk him out of etching their names, but he did it anyway.

Investigators say Randall's letter is consistent with what he told them. They are assessing the damage before deciding whether to press felony charges.

According to the Pioneer Press, the inscription reads “Cole + Shpresa 10/10/2013″ and includes a heart. The marking on Pompeys Pillar National Monument is about 3 feet from the signature of William Clark, a member of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery expedition that opened a land route to the West. Clark signed the rock July 25, 1806, after splitting off from Meriwether Lewis. Clark named the sandstone formation after the infant son of Sacagawea, their interpreter and guide.

The StarTribune said Clark’s signature is the last remaining physical evidence of the journey, which began in 1803. It said local residents are incensed.

Randall, who has roots in Park Rapids, Minn., said he's been deeply disturbed by the hate mail and has learned from his mistake.

City Pages has the text of Randall's letter:

To everyone affected by my signing the sandstone near the great William Clark's signature,

First, I humbly apologize. It was never my intention to harm the archaeological site, which contains Clark's signature. It was also not my intention to proclaim that I am somehow in the same "league" as that great explorer. The fact is: there is no excuse for my etching our names onto that rock... but I owe you an explanation and with that: a context in which my actions can be better understood.

My new wife and I had just finished our honeymoon, which consisted of a road trip to California. Sadly, our honeymoon was cut short when my wife discovered a suspicious lump on her breast. Because she had no insurance at the time, we were forced to make the trip back to Minnesota before we could even attempt to work out a screening. During the entire trip home, I was scared... Terrified, actually. Worst-case scenarios raced through my mind.

Eventually, we happened across the historical site known as Pompey's Pillar. I read the sign that explained why this place was significant and was utterly inspired by the last part of the description, which read, "for generations, Americans passing by this place have left their marks upon the rocks." Despite my better judgment, I was taken with the idea that by putting our names on that stone, we would be adding to a tradition started by the Native Americans, renewed by William Clark and carried forward by the average folk who have passed by and "left their marks" for over 200 years. On top of that, I was motivated by the fact that maybe if something were to happen to my wife, I could come back to this place years from now and see her and my names together. Stupid? Yeah. Misguided? Definitely. But when love and fear of loss team up: we sometimes lose our better judgment, no matter the consequences.

The fact is: regardless of what happens, our names will be removed from that stone. And I will be prepared to face the consequences of my actions. My wife advised me not to etch our names, but I insisted... foolishly. I regret my decision and once again, I humbly apologize to the people of Montana and to every American who was affected by my foolishness. My promise to you is that I have learned a valuable lesson throughout this ordeal and will never repeat such an action in the future. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me for this and realize that I understand the gravity of my mistake.

Kindest regards and best wishes,

Cole Randall

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