Bones of Contention

Finding Barnum was hard enough. But to excavate the intrigue around the prize T. rex, you must dig deeper.

"I'm happy to be on bad terms with him," Williams adds. "He's got no knowledge of paleontology and no respect for it, really. But he's got the power to buy. All in all, people in the fossil community tend to be ethical and accountable. John Bolan's an exception to the rule."

Christine charges that Boyce has been "covering" for her ex throughout the T. rex affair. She believes that the shifting stories about when her husband was involved in the deal are part of an effort to conceal the fact that he still had an interest in the fossil, a marital asset, at the time the couple separated.

"I think John is a key part of this whole thing, but nobody is going to say anything about it," she says. "You've got to realize that Japh Boyce makes a ton of money because of John, who's paid him to restore numerous fossils and to dig for him."

Tyson Smith
Missing links: A video taken during the dig, starring Japh Boyce.
Missing links: A video taken during the dig, starring Japh Boyce.

The divorce decree in the case of Bolan v. Bolan contains an unusual clause, even by California standards: "As to the disputed existence of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, commonly referred to as JB, if it has been partially excavated and is found somewhere, it belongs to Mrs. Bolan at no charge."

The judge signed that order on March 14, 2000 -- one day before Mark Newman sold JB, alias RJB, also known as Barnum, to Jeff Miller.

Recently, Christine Bolan received a letter from Newman's attorney asking her to sign a waiver of any interest she might have in some T. rex "bone remnants" found in Wyoming. She has no intention of signing such a document without fair compensation.

"All I want is my share of it to help take care of my son," she says. "You think this T. rex is a dupe? This is only one portion of what I was duped out of in all the years I was with the man."

John Bolan declined to comment for this story. Japh Boyce refers all questions about his T. rex dealings to his attorney.

"I wish I had more information," Boyce says. "I just don't. I don't know as much about it as everybody thinks."

Ed Ramey, the Denver attorney representing Boyce and Newman in the Ty Rex lawsuit, says the latest version of Barnum's ownership provided by his clients is as complete and accurate as possible.

"What all the mystery about Bolan was, I have no clue," Ramey says. "I have seen these earlier representations of what was going on. It was stupid. Everybody on our side of the table is admitting that it was stupid. From what I can tell, Bolan's involvement was very minor."

However, the assertions of Ramey's clients are contradicted not only by Christine Bolan, but by Bob Stoddard. In an interview with Westword, the rancher took issue with several of Boyce's claims about Bolan's role in the project.

After the T. rex was found on his land, Stoddard says, he was besieged with dozens of offers to purchase the fossil while it was still in the ground. But he already had an arrangement with Bolan, who had "exclusive" rights to hunt fossils on the Stoddard ranch in exchange for leasing cattle-grazing rights to the Stoddards. It was Bolan who brought Boyce into the deal, the rancher says, and he denies ever buying Bolan's share of the partnership, as Boyce claims.

"Boyce and Bolan were still involved when I got out," Stoddard says. He sold his share in 1999 -- and subsequently wrote the letter in Bolan's divorce case stating that "nothing significant" had been found -- because it was his understanding that the excavation had produced far less than expected. He no longer leases grazing rights from Bolan and has terminated Bolan's claim to fossils found on his land.

"You live and learn," he says. "I could have made a more substantial deal than I did, but I know very little about fossils. We know where some more are, but I'm not going to deal with John Bolan anymore."

Ramey concedes that the "informal arrangements" between the parties makes it difficult to know who's telling the truth. "I see no documents showing any of these guys were in or out of the deal," he says. "But we've offered to stand behind the provenance we've given Mr. Miller and to indemnify him against any claims contrary to that. We even offered to let them out of the deal. I'm having a great deal of difficulty figuring out what Mr. Miller wants."

As for Christine Bolan, Ramey says, "If she has a claim, she could certainly assert it and we'll deal with her. There isn't a lot of money there. This isn't Sue."

Newman insists the title problems have been greatly exaggerated. "I could put it in an auction tomorrow if I wanted to," he says. "Bottom line, I don't think the guys have the money to pay. We offered indemnification. That should have closed the deal for them right there."

But Ty Rex's Grano says the offer is meaningless. "Mark Newman could offer to indemnify us for $10 million, and if he doesn't have the assets, what's the point?" he asks.

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