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Henrikson receives life sentence in Carlile contract killing, speaks about abortion and drugs at hearing

FILE - This undated file photo provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office shows James Henrikson, who was convicted last year for ordering the deaths of two former oil patch associates. (AP / U.S. Attorney's Office via The Bismarck Tribune)
FILE - This undated file photo provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office shows James Henrikson, who was convicted last year for ordering the deaths of two former oil patch associates. (AP / U.S. Attorney's Office via The Bismarck Tribune)

Convicted murder-for-hire mastermind James Henrikson chose not to apologize for the brutal slayings of Douglas Carlile and Kristopher Clarke on Tuesday, instead delivering a rambling statement about the evils of drugs and abortion.

“I think this should have been a death penalty case from the beginning,” said Henrikson, 37, before launching into a lengthy speech that not once mentioned Carlile, Clarke or any of the dozens of people involved in his trucking and oil businesses at the center of his hiring of a Spokane hit man.

U.S. District Court Judge Salvador Mendoza, saying Henrikson’s crimes were driven by his greed and ego, sentenced him to multiple life sentences for ordering Timothy Suckow to murder Clarke and Carlile. He was sentenced to addtional prison time for conspiring to kill many others.

“What I hear from you is a complete lack of remorse,” Mendoza said before handing down his sentence, adding the case had nothing to do with abortion, or drugs or the criminal justice system, but with his decision to take the lives of two people.

Mendoza ordered Henrikson to pay roughly $70,000 in restitution to Carlile’s family. But he did not order the 37-year-old to pay the legal fees of Jill Williams, the mother of Clarke, who filed bankruptcy after defending a defamation lawsuit filed by Henrikson and his then-wife, saying it would be “inappropriate.” Many of the claims Williams posted online about Henrikson were supported by evidence uncovered in the investigation of the murders.

Members of Carlile’s family once again filled Mendoza’s courtroom in Spokane on Tuesday, less than a week after Suckow, Lazaro Pesina and Robby Wahrer received lengthy prison sentences for their roles in Carlile’s slaying at his South Hill home in December 2013. Elberta Carlile, the widow of Douglas Carlile, addressed her remarks in the courtroom to Mendoza, rather than Henrikson, who was seated 30 feet away.

But Elberta Carlile said that from the first day of a trial in Richland, which lasted more than a month, that she knew that Henrikson could not understand the pain she felt in losing her husband of 42 years.

“Had he known that kind of love, he could not have taken a life,” Elberta Carlile said in the courtroom.

MeLainee McLane, the Carliles’ oldest daughter, told Mendoza she learned of Doug Carlile’s death in a phone call from her brother while attending her daughter’s ballet recital the night of Dec. 15, 2013.

“We all knew, instantly, that James Henrikson was responsible,” McLane said.

After the sentencing, the Carliles said they were ordered by the court not to address Henrikson at the hearing. Last week, Elberta Carlile looked in the eyes of the men who participated in the home invasion leading to her husband’s death and told them she forgave them. She referred to Henrikson during the hearing as “that person.”

“The sad thing is that man has no remorse for what he’s done, no admission of guilt,” Elberta Carlile said after the sentencing outside the Thomas S. Foley U.S. Courthouse in Spokane. “To me, that’s really sad. He has no heart.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Aine Ahmed, the lead prosecutor in the case, told Mendoza it was “sheer happenstance” that Henrikson was not a serial killer. In addition to Clarke and Carlile, Henrikson sought the killings of many other business associates and their family members, including Tex Hall, the former chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes, on whose land Henrikson operated a trucking business.

“This is someone who’s got a black heart. He’s cold. He’s heartless,” Ahmed said.

Henrikson began his remarks with an essay originally published in a magazine aimed at teenage readers and sponsored by Focus on the Family, a religious group opposing abortion. The essay, titled “When Lilacs Bloomed,” is written from the perspective of a nursing student who expects to witness a birth, but instead observes an abortion. Henrikson, whose criminal history does not include a diagnosis of any mental illness, then began speaking of the evils of legalizing marijuana and the lax criminal justice system.

Elberta Carlile said she was not surprised by Henrikson’s remarks.

“To me, it was just like, he was going to see how much more attention he could get, with the time he has left,” she said.

Henrikson’s defense attorneys, Mark Vovos and Todd Maybrown, stood at his side as he delivered his lenghty statement. Both declined comment on the case after the hearing.

The prison term delivered by Mendoza means Henrikson will spend the rest of his life in federal prison, though he retains the right to appeal the jury’s verdict and the sentence. Henrikson said he would not be appealing the case, but that statement in court is not binding.

Elberta Carlile, who following the break-in shooting spent months in the darkness of her bedroom with memories of her husband and often woke up in terror, said Tuesday she was ready for the next chapter of her life, without Henrikson as a shadow.

“My husband still speaks. He still speaks through the lives of our children, and I will speak for him the rest of my life,” she said. “I love him. I’ll love him until the day I meet him again, in eternity.”


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