NEW TOWN, N.D. – A suspected murder-for-hire in Spokane is rippling across a North Dakota Indian reservation.
Pressure is building on the Fort Berthold Reservation for tribal leaders to take action after a criminal investigation raised questions about Tribal Chairman Tex Hall’s business relationships.
The chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes – the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation – is linked in court documents to James T. Henrikson, 34, who is suspected of hiring another man to kill Doug Carlile, a business associate in Spokane. Henrikson has been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Court records say Henrikson and two other people who worked for Maheshu Energy, an oil company controlled by Hall, are under federal investigation for allegedly defrauding the company out of millions of dollars.
Records from the investigation into Carlile’s death include an interview with an informant who says Henrikson wanted to have Hall killed. Henrikson is also connected to K.C. Clarke, a man who disappeared in North Dakota last year.
The business relationship between Hall and Henrikson, a five-time convicted felon, is worrying many tribal members, said Theodora Bird Bear, a tribal member from Mandaree.
“Henrikson has a violent past, and he’s associated with other violent individuals,” Bird Bear said. “Alarm bells are just ringing for people.”
It’s also raising questions about potential conflicts of interest involving Hall’s company, a tribal contract and Blackstone Oil Field Services, a company associated with Henrikson.
The conflict of interest issue – Hall owning an oil and gas services company while also serving as chairman of the Tribal Business Council that regulates oil and gas activity on the reservation – has been questioned before but never addressed by tribal leaders, said Vance Gillette, a tribal member and attorney who lives in New Town.
“They should suspend him, investigate him,” Gillette said.
A draft resolution that has circulated online among tribal members seeks to suspend Hall for 30 days and conduct an independent investigation into potential inappropriate expenditure of tribal funds involving Blackstone Oil Field Services.
The resolution says the company, associated with Henrikson and his wife, Sarah Creveling, received nearly $588,300 between December 2011 and June 2012 for “alleged road watering work” on two tribal roads. The document also says the payment to Blackstone may have included a payment to a company owned by Hall.
Attempts to reach Hall on Wednesday were unsuccessful. Hall issued a statement in January that said he had been fully cooperating with investigators for months.
Glenda Baker-Embry, a spokeswoman for the tribe, said a resolution seeking a suspension and investigation of Hall failed on Jan. 31 at the Tribal Business Council budget meeting.
Tribal Business Council members either declined to comment Wednesday or did not return calls seeking comment.
Tribal members, who have been turning to social media to discuss the draft resolution and seek information, are looking for the Tribal Business Council to take some action, said Charles Hudson, a tribal member who lives in Portland and has been closely following the developments.
Tribal member Kandi Mossett said she recently discovered photos on Facebook of Hall vacationing in Hawaii in 2012 with Henrikson and Creveling. She posted them on the Facebook page, “People for Fort Berthold Environmental Awareness.” Those photos, later removed from the page but still floating around online, prompted more questions about how closely Hall associated with Henrikson, Mossett said.
Henrikson has not been charged in the death of Carlile, who was found shot to death on the kitchen floor of his Spokane home on Dec. 15.
However, court documents suggest investigators believe Henrikson may have hired out the killing to 50-year-old Timothy Suckow, who was arrested Jan. 14 and charged with first-degree premeditated murder in Spokane County Superior Court.
A federal grand jury indicted Henrikson on seven counts of felon in possession of a firearm and one count of felon in possession of ammunition.
Henrikson pleaded not guilty to all eight charges Monday in U.S. District Court in Bismarck.
A jury trial is set for April 1. Henrikson is being held in federal custody without bail.
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