Pete Larson with
PMNS Board Chairman, T. W. "Terry" Proctor, J.D.
August, 2005
with pre-historic
Tortoise shell

Terry Brawner, 2005-2006 Pres.
PMNS with Pete Larson
August, 2005 at the
Black Hills Institute

Peter Larson is a leading authority on Paleontology, especially on dinosaurs and specifically Tyrannosaurus Rex (aka T-Rex). He is a man very respected in paleo circles, speaking to many professional scientific groups, to Rock & Mineral clubs, and personally to visitors to the Black Hills Institute at Hill City, South Dakota.

Pete received a tremendous dose of injustice at the hands of the Federal government, but because of his wonderful personality, has remained friendly, communicative, and taken what happened to him in stride that would have embittered, angered and led many a person to spending the rest of their life being hostile over the incident.

1990, a lady named Sue Hendrickson discovered some interesting fossil dinosaur bones. Sue works at the Black Hills Institute for Peter Larson, who is President of the Black Hills Institute. Peter Larson communicates with Maurice Williams, the landowner where the bones are located. Maurice is an indian, although he owns his land. Peter agrees to pay Maurice the sum of $5,000.00 for the right to excavate the dinosaur, later to become the now famous T-Rex called "Sue", in honor the finder of this T-Rex, Sue Hendrickson.

In 1991, after "Sue" has been excavated from Maurice's land, and taken to the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, Inc., where it is being prepped (i.e. prepared for display), Sioux indian leaders become alarmed as there are reports that Pete Larson intends to sell "Sue". The Sioux indian leaders claim that Maurice Williams had no right to sell the rights to the fossil remains of "Sue", as Maurice's land is held by the federal government in trust for him.

On May 14, 1992, the FBI raided the Black Hills Institute. In the raid, the FBI seizes and removes a huge number of the files belonging to Peter Larson and the Black Hills Institute; many fossil specimens; and 10 tons of "Sue"'s bones, which are still encased in plaster for preservation. "Sue" is removed to a garage in Rapid City, South Dakota. Some paleontologists charge that these conditions would create sulfuric acid, which would tend to destroy "Sue"'s old fossilized bones. This is not an uncommon problem in fossils and minerals, for sulfuric acid to form in the material, after removal from the Earth, and for the acid to start to deteriorate the fossil or mineral. Some pyrites are totally destroyed and fall completely apart from the acid breaking the material down.

As a result of the U.S. Government's actions in seizing "Sue" and seeking and obtaining indictments against Peter Larson, his brother Neil Larson, their partner, Robert Farrar and the Black Hills Secretary, Marion Zenker, all of the Black Hills Institute. These indictments were not related to the matter of "Sue", however, but from other information obtained in the FBI seizure apparently. Therefore, Peter Larson and the others just listed, had a desperate need to raise funds for a legal defense of the indictments against all of them. At that time, Irene Offeman (a good friend of PMNS's Curator, Terry Proctor, who are fellow members of Houston Gem & Mineral Society)), was then the Paleo Curator at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. A deal was made for the HMNS to purchase several dinosaurs from the Black Hills Institute, providing Houston with a wonderful group of dinosaur fossils and the indictees with funds to pay their criminal defense attorney to represent them.

Eventually Pete Larson did two years in the Federal Penitentiary, house at Florence, Colorado, then was moved to a halfway house in Hill City, South Dakota, where he could work in his beloved Black Hills Institute during the day and report to the halfway house at night.

In 1994 a Federal Court ruled that the dinosaur belonged to Maurice Williams, who turned it over to Sotheby's to sell at auction.

In March, 1995, a federal District Court convicted Peter Larson of two felonies (for failing to disclose cash while crossing U.S. borders) and two misdemeanors (for taking a fossil worth less than $100 and for possessing a fossil, both from federal land). Peter Larson was not convicted of any crime related to "Sue".

On February 21, 1996, Peter Larson starts serving a two-year prison term while his appeal was being processed in court.

In November, 1996, "Sue" arrived in New York City, under FBI seal, and the auction house Sotheby's started preparing "Sue" for sale. Peter Larson, became concerned that the things which he understood were intended to be done, to prepare "Sue" for sale by Southeby's would damage "Sue" and while he hoped to still be able miraculously, from prison, raise the funds to purchase "Sue" back at the auction, complained to many persons, about that the hasty preparation will destroy the remains of "Sue".

This entire matter would make a great comic opera. While the Federal Government originally determined it had a duty to protect fossils from private collectors and that Maurice Williams didn't have the right to sell "Sue" to Peter Larson and the Black Hills Institute in 1990, later a Federal Court essentially determined that Maurice Williams did have the right to sell the fossil "Sue" to the highest bidder, in an auction conducted by Sotheby's, six years later. Did Maurice Williams have any compassion on what happened to the man who paid him for "Sue" originally? Not that we know of.

Ultimately on October 4, 1997, "Sue" sold to the Chicago Field Museum (Museum of Natural History in Chicago) for the top bid of $7.6 million, with a total price, after factoring in the buyer's premium and taxes, of $8,362,500.


This section will be added shortly.