RICHLAND – In testimony broken by tears and long pauses Monday, Timothy Suckow described the two grisly killings he said were ordered by James Henrikson, including what he described as his reluctant shooting of Douglas Carlile.
“He dropped his hand,” Suckow said, recounting the moment he confronted Carlile in his South Hill kitchen on Dec. 15, 2013. He paused. “And, uh, I started shooting.”
Defense attorneys for 36-year-old Henrikson, who faces life in prison if convicted of hiring Suckow for the killings of Carlile and Kristopher Clarke, have signaled they will attack Suckow’s credibility. The Spokane Valley resident is a convicted felon who twice mentioned on the stand his belief the world is coming to an imminent end.
“Our world doesn’t have 30 years left,” Suckow said when questioned about the plea deal he made with prosecutors to avoid life imprisonment. “Any time is too long.”
Suckow, who resumed testimony Monday in the murder-for-hire trial of Henrikson, said he couldn’t remember aiming the .45-caliber pistol he used to shoot Carlile, and turned to flee the home “before he hit the floor.”
“I remember hearing the shell casings bouncing,” Suckow said, his voice quickening into a sob that matched those of Elberta Carlile, Douglas’ widow, who was also in the home that night and sat in the courtroom gallery Monday.
Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aine Ahmed, Suckow described an email exchange with Robert Delao that began in September 2013 leading to Carlile’s shooting. Suckow said he cut ties with Henrikson and Delao for about a year after killing Kristopher “K.C.” Clarke at Henrikson’s request in February 2012.
“It was rough. The experience was too rough,” Suckow said, referring to a return trip to North Dakota after he said he bludgeoned Clarke to death while Henrikson watched in February 2012. “I didn’t want to stay there.”
Suckow recalled shaking Clarke’s hand moments before he struck him four times in the back of the head with a floor jack handle. He then spent what “seemed like hours” cleaning Clarke’s blood from the floor of Henrikson’s truck shop near Watford City.
“Blood stains concrete pretty well,” Suckow said. “You’ve got to clean it up.”
Suckow said Henrikson was nearby during the violent attack and did nothing to stop it, then paid Suckow $20,000 for the killing. Henrikson’s attorneys say Suckow and Delao concocted the story to use the 36-year-old as a scapegoat for their own criminal acts.
Clarke was buried in a shallow grave on state park land south of Williston, Suckow said. He recalled cradling the dead body in his arms, his head wrapped in a garbage bag to keep blood from spilling out.
“I heard the blood sloshing around in the bag,” Suckow said, wiping tears from his eyes.
Authorities have not recovered Clarke’s remains, despite Suckow showing them where he believed the body was buried. During cross-examination Monday afternoon, Mark Vovos, an attorney for Henrikson, played an audio recording of Suckow’s plea negotiations in which Ahmed said “it wasn’t good enough” for Suckow to supply them with helpful information. They needed a body for the 30-year prison sentence deal to go through.
“My life is not over yet,” Suckow said in response to defense questioning. “They could take me back anytime. I’m pretty sure I know where he’s at.”
Suckow said after killing Clarke he returned to a cabin near Watford City.
“I took a shower,” Suckow said, his voice breaking on the stand. “I couldn’t wash myself clean.”
Suckow insisted Monday morning that his intention, even when he arrived at the Carlile home that night in December 2013, was not to kill. He brought along handcuffs and dressed in SWAT gear in an attempt to pull off a home invasion robbery, he told the jury, though he’d been emailing with Delao for months about killing Carlile. The two referred to themselves as Henrikson’s “black ops” team in text messages.
“People usually obey police officers, and all I wanted to do was tie (Carlile) up,” Suckow said, describing why he wore SWAT gear.
Instead, he emptied an entire clip from a .45 handgun into Carlile and ran. Suckow said he expected an additional $20,000 and some OxyContin pills from Henrikson for killing Carlile.
Henrikson sat shackled but not handcuffed at the defense table Monday, scribbling occasional notes as Suckow testified. Prosecutors say Henrikson ordered Suckow to kill Clarke because he believed the 29-year-old was planning to leave his employment for another firm on the Bakken shale oil fields. Carlile was targeted after the pair’s investments in oil drilling on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation went sour.
Suckow is scheduled to take the stand again Tuesday morning, where he will continue to be cross-examined by the defense.Follow @kiphillreporter on Twitter for the latest updates in this case.
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