Five men who investigators believe were involved in murder-for-hire plots emanating from North Dakota’s oilfields were charged Wednesday in federal court in Spokane.
A sixth, the alleged mastermind of the plot that resulted in the death of a Spokane businessman in December, is scheduled to enter a plea Friday in Spokane.
Some of the charges could carry the death penalty.
North Dakota oil speculator James Henrikson, who will appear Friday, allegedly plotted to kill Doug Carlile late last year in Carlile’s South Hill home because the Spokane man owed him money from a business deal. Five of his alleged accomplices entered not guilty pleas to charges Wednesday.
Spokane Valley resident Timothy Suckow, who is accused of shooting Carlile on Dec. 15, and Robby Wahrer, who is accused of driving Suckow to the scene, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Rodgers facing charges of murder for hire and conspiracy to commit murder for hire.
Court documents also implicate Suckow in the slaying of Kristopher “K.C.” Clarke, a 30-year-old employee of Henrikson in the Bakken shale oilfields who has been missing since February 2012. Clarke’s body has not been found.
Suckow entered a not guilty plea in a voice barely above a whisper Wednesday afternoon. He already is charged with murder in state court for Carlile’s death. A trial in that case is tentatively set to begin in November.
County prosecutors declined to seek the death penalty in that case, but prosecutors Wednesday indicated the Department of Justice still is reviewing whether to pursue a death sentence for Suckow on the federal charges.
The charging documents allege Suckow committed the Carlile murder “in an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner” and that payment was offered for the killing. Those findings, if proven in court, could open the door for a capital sentence.
Clarke and Carlile are not the only men Henrikson ordered killed, according to allegations contained in court documents unsealed Wednesday.
Todd D. Bates and Lazaro T. Pesina, both identified in court documents as Henrikson employees, face charges of conspiracy to commit murder for hire in plots targeting Jay Wright and Tim Scott in Washington, and Jed McClure in Illinois. None of those three men were killed.
According to court documents, Scott introduced Henrikson to Carlile, and Henrikson and Carlile bought mineral rights to land near Watford City, North Dakota.
That’s where Henrikson was arrested in January and faces federal charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Hours after Carlile, 63, was found dead of gunshot wounds in his home, Spokane police called Henrikson. He said he was angry with Carlile over a nearly $2 million debt but denied involvement in Carlile’s death. Subsequent witness interviews and phone records indicated Henrikson was in contact with Suckow in the days leading up to and following the slaying.
Suckow was arrested in January after police recovered a glove with his DNA in Carlile’s backyard, according to court records. A van caught on surveillance camera at a nearby elementary school also was traced to Suckow.
Wahrer was arrested by Spokane police in April after police said informants told them he’d been talking about driving the getaway van in the Carlile slaying. Wahrer was arrested in an unrelated case two days after the Carlile shooting and Suckow posted his bond, according to court records.
Robert Delao turned himself in to authorities at his court appearance Wednesday. He also faces murder-for-hire charges in Carlile’s death and a potential death sentence for his alleged involvement. He also is implicated in court documents for the plots involving Wright, McClure and Scott.
Delao voluntarily spoke to police shortly after Carlile’s death, detailing the business dealings of Carlile and Henrikson. He recounted their connection with Tex Hall, chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Indian tribes that own the land the two men sought to drill on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Delao also passed a lie detector test denying involvement in Carlile’s slaying, according to court documents.
Pesina was arrested earlier this month in Walla Walla. Court records claim he was involved in the plot to kill Carlile, but a criminal complaint revealing the details of the lengthy investigation remain under seal in federal court. Appearing in a Spokane County Jail jumpsuit Wednesday, Pesina audibly cracked his knuckles as Rodgers read charges against other defendants.
Suckow, Delao, Wahrer, Pesina and Bates were ordered held without bail by the U.S. Marshals Service.
In addition to his alleged involvement in the murder plots, Bates faces charges of conspiring to distribute more than 100 grams of heroin at Henrikson’s command. Bates, clad in jean shorts and a T-shirt, shook his head as Rodgers read the allegations Wednesday.
Court dates have not been set for the five defendants who appeared Wednesday. They all have been booked into Spokane County Jail.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter