June 2, 2009

Fossil Hunter Going To Jail For Stealing Dinosaur Bones

A fossil hunter famed for the discovery of the world's best-preserved dinosaur will serve 60 days in jail for stealing raptor bones from private land, The Associated Press reported.

A self-taught paleontologist, 51 year-old Nathan Murphy was convicted in March of felony theft after trespassing onto a ranch in northern Montana and taking the raptor fossil.

Murphy is also involved in a separate federal case involving more fossils taken from Bureau of Land Management land.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 9.

Murphy discovered what is considered the best preserved dinosaur in the world in 2000 when he found a mummified, 77-million-year-old duckbilled hadrosaur known as Leonardo.

In 2002, one of Murphy's workers discovered the bones of the turkey-sized prehistoric raptor at the heart of his theft conviction and authorities have since seized the bones.

Investigators said Murphy sought to have molds of the fossils made that could have brought up to $400,000 in the sale of casts on the retail fossil market.

Murphy has since claimed honest mistakes led to the investigation.

However, he acknowledged in an interview Monday with The Associated Press that he had concealed the truth about where the raptor bones were found and asserted that he is not the only fossil hunter to do so.

Murphy maintains that he is being made an example of and that the investigation created a "poster boy" out of him.

"They're going to have Nate Murphy to hold up to the public and say, 'Don't pick up nothing on public land, and know where you are at.' They needed somebody like me," he said.

Over the next 6 months, he must serve 60 days in jail for the charge.

District Judge John C. McKeon also fined Murphy $2,500 and ordered him to pay $650 in restitution at his sentencing on Wednesday.