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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Key witness in Doug Carlile contract killing receives 22-year prison sentence

The man who acted as a go-between in the contract killing of South Hill businessman Doug Carlile, and later the government’s key witness in unraveling James Henrikson’s criminal oil-field conspiracies, will serve 22 years in federal prison.

Robert Delao, 41, told U.S. District Court Judge Salvador Mendoza he was “never happy” when working for Henrikson, and had put himself and his family at risk by providing investigators with a cellphone containing thousands of text messages linking his employer with Timothy Suckow, the man who shot and killed Carlile in his South Hill home in December 2013.

“It was like opening your diary,” Delao said. “It forced me to look at how I was living.”

Spokane Police Detective Mark Burbridge and FBI Special Agent Eric Barker called Delao’s cooperation “pivotal” in convicting Henrikson, who was sent to prison for life after a jury convicted him of ordering the deaths of Carlile and Kristopher “K.C.” Clarke. Henrikson ordered Suckow to kill the two men, who he believed stood in the way of his business interests on the oil fields of North Dakota.

Barker said Delao’s text messages “read like a novel.”

“It was a jackpot,” Barker said.

Mendoza indicated at a sentencing hearing for Suckow and the other men involved in the break-in that ended in Carlile’s death that he was leaning toward a 30-year sentence for Delao, who has cooperated with investigators in the past. Delao’s attorney, Andrea George, said Delao’s previous cooperation was essential to his assistance in the Carlile case.

“It was an incredible leap of faith that he sat down with the government and talked about murder, about attempted murders they weren’t aware of,” George said.

Todd Bates, the only man indicted in the Carlile killing who has not been sentenced for his role, is scheduled to appear in court later this month.

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