A sobbing Timothy Suckow spun to face Elberta Carlile in a Spokane federal courtroom Friday, more than two years after she watched the 52-year-old point a handgun at her unarmed husband in the South Hill home they shared.
“I remember that night,” Suckow said, wiping away tears.
“I know,” Carlile responded from the audience. “I looked you in the eye.”
The widow of Douglas Carlile, who was killed by Suckow at the direction of jilted business partner James Henrikson, faced four of the men who pleaded guilty in the murder-for-hire plot culiminating in the deadly shooting Dec. 15, 2013. She offered them foregiveness, but called on U.S. District Court Judge Salvador Mendoza to sentence Suckow, Robert Delao, Robby Wahrer and Lazaro Pesina to the maximum amount of time in prison.
“It was finally our time,” Elberta Carlile said, noting that she and her husband had raised six children and were looking forward to retirement at their home on Garfield Avenue, supported by the earnings from an oil drilling venture Douglas Carlile brokered with Henrikson and others.
Mendoza agreed with prison sentences of 10 years for Wahrer, who drove the work van Suckow used to flee the scene of the shooting, and 12 years for Pesina, who was prepared to break in to the Carliles’ home with Suckow. He also signed off on a 30-year sentence for Suckow, who testified against Henrikson in Carlile’s death as well as the disappearance of Kristopher “K.C.” Clarke. Suckow, 52, testified he bludgeoned Clarke to death at the direction of Henrikson and hid the body, which has not been found to date, on state park land near Williston, North Dakota.
Suckow, standing before Mendoza with his shoulders slooped and his hands folded before him, said he didn’t eat for 54 days after his arrest in January 2014. He lost 70 pounds and was prepared to waste away, he told a nearly full courtroom of observers.
“My wife came to me, and said she didn’t want to see me die,” Suckow said. He began cooperating with investigators, as did Delao.
The men were also ordered to pay roughly $315,000 to Carlile’s family, to cover the expenses of repairing the home and his lost wages.
Mendoza rejected the 14- to 17-year sentence negotiated for the 41-year-old Delao, who also testified against Henrikson during the murder-for-hire trial. While acknowledging the importance of his testimony, and the hundreds of text messages investigators recovered from his phone detailing the plot to kill Carlile, Mendoza pointed to Delao’s lengthy criminal history, which includes another killing.
“He was, essentially, the trigger,” Mendoza said.
Delao’s attorney Andrea George disagreed, saying there was “a very big difference” between actually killing someone and making a phone call. George also said that Delao had placed himself in great danger by testifying against Henrikson, and would likely serve his sentence in isolation outside the general prison population because of his reputation.
“He’s going to be in 23-hour lockdown,” George said. “He’s going to have to do his exercise in a caged-in area, where he is alone. That’s a very difficult way to serve a sentence.”
Mendoza cited his own personal history with Delao as an informant. During the Henrikson trial, Mendoza vacated the prison sentence of another man Delao had testified against in a previous crime, ruling that Delao had lied on the stand. Mendoza called Delao a “professional informant” and a “criminal chameleon.”
Mendoza told George he was mulling a 30-year prison sentence for Delao, the same amount of time Suckow is serving. George asked for more time to review whether Delao would withdraw from his plea deal and go to trial.
Henrikson is facing a potential life sentence at a court date scheduled for next week in Spokane. Prosecutors argue the life sentence is required by law, while Henrikson’s attorneys say the law is unconstitutional.
Multiple members of Carlile’s family, including children and grandchildren, filled the first two rows of seats in Mendoza’s courtroom. Elberta Carlile told the men claiming responsibility for her husband’s death she met Douglas Carlile at age 16. It was raining and she’d sought shelter in a garage with her horse when he offered her a jacket.
“He said then, ‘I’m going to marry you someday,’ and he did,” Elberta Carlile said.
Suckow wept as he apologized to the family before Mendoza rendered his sentence. He said knowing that the couple had just arrived home from church the night of the murder, and were celebrating Elberta Carlile’s birthday the day before, was like “a sword being shoved right through your soul.”
“I forgive you,” Elberta Carlile said, with a broken voice, from the front row as Suckow’s sentence was handed down. “The Lord forgives you.”