Timothy Suckow, clad in a red jumpsuit and leg chains, stared at the table in front of him and kneaded his brow with his hand Wednesday afternoon as a U.S. assistant attorney read from a plea agreement, recounting the moments before Doug Carlile was killed in his South Hill home nearly two years ago.
“The truth must be told,” Suckow told U.S. District Court Judge Salvador Mendoza later, moments before he pleaded guilty to performing murder-for-hire in the deaths of Carlile and Kristopher “K.C.” Clarke. Prosecutors will recommend a 30-year prison sentence for 51-year-old Suckow contingent upon providing testimony against James Henrikson and others.
“I was told by Mr. Henrikson, through (Robert) Delao, that Mr. Carlile was to be murdered for $20,000,” Suckow told Mendoza.
Earlier Wednesday, Delao – who has been identified by prosecutors as the middleman between Henrikson, Suckow and others in plots to kill rival businessmen – tearfully pleaded guilty to nine federal criminal counts, including involvement in setting up the Carlile murder. He is expected to receive a prison sentence lasting from 14 to 17 years. Lazaro Pesina, who was present outside the Carlile home for the shooting in December 2013 but said he didn’t realize it was going to end in murder, pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge. Prosecutors are recommending a 12-year sentence for Pesina.
At the beginning of the day, it appeared only Henrikson would be seated at the defense table when trial is scheduled to commence in Spokane next month. But Todd Bates, who is accused of discussing plots to kill four of Henrikson’s business rivals stemming from oil speculation on the Bakken shale in North Dakota, did not convince Mendoza that his guilty plea was willful.
At a hearing Wednesday morning, Bates said he remembered discussing assault with Delao at the direction of Henrikson, not murder, telling Mendoza he was dyslexic. He was noncommittal in comments to Mendoza later that afternoon.
“Robert was my friend,” Bates said. “I would respond back to any texts.”
Bates and Pesina bumped fists before entering their pleas Wednesday morning. Members of Carlile’s family, and Bates’ daughter, were in the audience to witness the proceedings.
Robby Wahrer, who is accused of driving Suckow and Pesina to the Carlile home, chose not to plead guilty after Bates was excused from the courtroom. Both men appeared next to an orange-clad Henrikson at a pretrial hearing held after the guilty pleas were entered. Henrikson was brought back to Spokane from the Yakima County Jail. He was moved to Yakima last month following a suspected jailbreak attempt in Spokane. Attorneys questioned Jennifer Banks, an FBI special agent, about the cellphone analysis she conducted tying Suckow and Henrikson to the cities in North Dakota where Clarke and his vehicle were last seen in 2012. Defense attorneys questioned the accuracy of her analysis, attempting to keep her testimony out of the courtroom when a jury trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 5.
Suckow told Mendoza “no one else was there” when he shot Carlile seven times in his home. Prosecutors plan to argue that Henrikson was enraged that Carlile would not give up his shares in an oil lease on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and owed him nearly $2 million. He called on Suckow, according to a grand jury indictment and prosecutors, because the Spokane Valley resident had killed before, bludgeoning Clarke to death. Suckow told investigators they buried the body at a nearby state park, but the body has yet to be found, according to court records.
“Through various texting and discussion, I decided to turn it into a home invasion,” Suckow said of the Carlile killing. “I ended up shooting Mr. Carlile.”
At a hearing this morning, attorneys are expected to argue whether the trial should be held in Spokane because of the intense media interest in the case. Henrikson’s attorneys say the jury pool has been turned against their client. The assistant U.S. attorney handling the case, Aine Ahmed, responded in court pleadings this month that the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the man convicted of bombing the Boston Marathon, was not moved from Massachusetts despite media attention.
Suckow, Delao and Pesina are scheduled to be sentenced in Spokane on Dec. 8. Suckow will remain under court supervision for the rest of his life, per the terms of the plea agreement.