Every time I hear the phrase “return to the scene of the crime” I smile and chuckle a little inside. It goes back to an evening about ten years ago when Lillian and I and her two teenage daughters were living on a small farmstead north of Dickinson. One early Spring evening, just after dark, I was driving Chelsea to her piano lesson about 15 miles south of where we lived. The route was on gravel roads, and as is often the case in the early Spring in North Dakota, they were muddy.
About halfway there, I hit a slippery patch and we slid sideways off the road into the ditch, leaving some pretty deep tracks in the mud. Luckily we weren’t stuck, and I was able to drive back out onto the road. I mumbled something about “not telling mom,” about this being our secret and not worrying her, and we proceeded on to the piano lesson.
The next time Chelsea and I were going down that road, we saw the tracks, and Chelsea said “There’s the scene of the crime.” We laughed. And we laughed every time we drove by that spot all Spring and Summer, as each time we approached it, Chelsea said “There’s the scene of the crime.”
Well, I want to return one last (maybe) time to the “scene of the crime” involving the strange and sordid case of James Henrikson. Henrikson’s sitting in a prison cell in Eastern Washington, a place he’ll probably spend the rest of his life. He’s about 40, so that’s a long time, likely.
He’s been convicted of two counts of murder—paying a ruffian named Tim Suckow, also in prison now—to bludgeon Henrikson’s employee Kristopher Clarke to death with a jack-handle at a shop in western North Dakota in February of 2012, and to shoot Henrikson’s business partner, Douglas Carlile, at his home in Spokane in December 2013. The jury returned its verdicts last week.
The legal process has played out in Washington because that’s where Suckow’s stupidity led to police finding evidence to connect him to the murder there, as well as evidence connecting him to Henrikson. I thought it would be worth revisiting “the scene of the crime,” meaning the first news of this story here in North Dakota, how I happened on to it, and how naïve we all were about this kind of thing really happening in our state. So I’m just copying and pasting my original blog onto the end of this introduction. At the very end are some links to other websites. The very last one is the police report. I was absolutely blown away by how good the police are in bigger towns like Spokane. To be honest, reading it was kind of like watching a TV show, but this was the real thing, real cops, putting together real evidence, to catch a murderer.
While it was the Carlile murder that got Henrikson and five of his associates caught and convicted (all except Henrikson pled guilty and testified against him), there was enough evidence presented at the trial last month to convict him of Clarke’s murder as well. That murder took place in a big steel building on the Fort Berthold Reservation owned by former Tribal Chairman Tex Hall. Hall was leasing it to Henrikson, although the two also had other business ties. The building is still there—if you go straight north of Dickinson 70 miles on Highway 22, just past the Mandaree turnoff, the building is just west of the highway at its intersection with Highway 73.
Now they’ll all be sentenced. The judge out there held off sentencing the associates, as well as the actual killer, Suckow, until he made sure they testified against Henrikson and Henrikson was convicted. Henrikson’s sentencing is scheduled for May. There’s an interesting sidebar to that.
Last September, it was reported that Henrikson decided to cop a plea in return for a 40 year sentence. But then he had second thoughts, probably because he realized there is no provision for parole in the federal system, and if he lived that long, he would be over 80 when he got out. So he decided to take a chance on a jury, and withdrew his plea. Apparently he had some money stuffed away in a North Dakota bank somewhere to pay an attorney. A good one, one who had successfully defended other alleged killers. That led to his February trial, which cost the government—U.S. taxpayers—a lot of money. To get to the same result—guilty. I expect the judge will take that into consideration when he sentences Henrikson in May. The sentence is not likely to be less than the 40 years Henrikson had agreed to last fall. Like I said earlier, probably the rest of his life.
Let me add just one more thing to this: Henrikson might not be in prison—he might have fled the country—if not for some additional good police work back here in North Dakota. While this was playing out in Washington in January of 2014, a few weeks after the Carlile murder, federal, state and local agents here carried out a raid on James Henrikson’s home in Watford City, North Dakota, and found a bunch of guns. Henrikson was already a convicted felon from crimes he had committed in Washington and Oregon, so he was not allowed to have them. Henrikson wasn’t home at the time.
A couple days later, on January 18, 2014 (also just two days after my first blog post), agents tracked him down in Mandan and arrested him, and our U.S. Attorney, Tim Purdon, announced that he had Henrikson in jail in Bismarck for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Henrikson has been in custody ever since, more than two years now. There’s pretty good evidence that if Purdon and federal and local officers hadn’t nabbed Henrikson that day, he would have skipped the country with a lot of cash and lived happily ever after. Good police work here, too.
Here’s the original blog, and a link to it if you want to go there.. The links at the bottom are fascinating, especially the “Ripoff Report.”
Murder For Hire And A Plot To Kill Tex Hall
16 January 2014 / Jim Fuglie /
“The lawlessness, big money and complex business dealings of the North Dakota oil fields likely prompted the shooting death of a South Hill man in his home last month, according to investigators. Spokane police detectives stitched together an intricate web of speculative business deals by Doug Carlile, who solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars each from several investors to get in on the ground floor of a piece of Indian reservation land with the potential to produce billions of dollars worth of crude, according to one speculator. Carlile was found dead of a gunshot wound in his home at 2505 S. Garfield Road the evening of Dec. 15.” –Spokane Spokesman Review, Page 1, Wednesday, January 15, 2014
The last trace of the age of innocence in the North Dakota Oil Patch trickled down the drain this week amid charges of a likely murder-for-hire scheme and an unfulfilled assassination plot on legendary Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Tex Hall.
Got your attention now? Well, this story sure has mine. Tuesday morning I saw what looked like an innocent, but interesting, Facebook post from an old acquaintance (and Facebook friend) of mine, Calvin Grinnell, who’s a tribal elder and historian, and the curator of the Three Affiliated Tribes Museum at New Town. It was a link to a website called the Ripoff Report, which is a fairly sophisticated site that is designed to “Help you, the consumer…Search the Ripoff Report before you do business with retail stores with bad return policies, checking & credit theft, rebate fraud or other unscrupulous business policies such as phony auto repairs, auto dealer bait-and-switch tactics, restaurants with bad service or food, corrupt government employees & politicians, police corruption, home builders, contractors, unethical doctors & lawyers, online stores that sell non-existent products, dead beat dads & moms, landlords & tenants, fraudulent employment & business opportunities, and individual con artists who scam consumers.”
I know, that covers some big ground, but it really is a very credible site. Consumers are invited to write reports about companies that have ripped them off, and submit them to the Ripoff Report, and they are posted to help other consumers. Here’s what was on the page that Calvin sent the link to:
BRIDGEWATER ENERGY AND JAMES HENRIKSON
Bridgewater Energy,Blackstone Crude and its affiliates are trucking, construction and service companies in the oil industry located in North Dakota. These companies are owned by James Terry Henrikson and his wife Sarah Creveling. James and Sarah are con-artists and thieves and should be considered extremely dangerous. James is a convicted felon with dozens of arrests including fraud, theft, drug trafficking and rape. They currently owe millions of dollars to vendors, former employees and investors whom they refuse to pay and may be involved with the “disappearance” of an employee and the murder of a business partner.
This post is dedicated to protecting the people of North Dakota, especially those who work in the oil industry, from dangerous people like James and Sarah . . . In this website you will find a timeline of James’ criminal history and the fraud that he and Sarah are perpetrating in North Dakota, especially on the Fort Berthold reservation. There are also several court documents included. At the bottom will be a list of contact information for the various courts and/or probation offices where James’ criminal history can be verified.
Our goal is to expose the fraud that James Henrikson (he goes by the alias Henricksen) and his wife Sarah Creveling have committed in North Dakota in an effort to prevent them from stealing from honest companies and harming innocent people working in the oil industry in this great state, and to keep our people safe from these dangerous convicts and con-artists (Robert Delao, a manager at Blackstone and James’ right hand man, was convicted of double homicide for killing two rival gang members in cold blood – and he’s working in the Blackstone office on the Fort Berthold Reservation!)
Let’s get these people out of North Dakota so they can’t continue their crimes here.
Well, okay, I thought, I’ll bite. So I read the report. Indeed, the first few paragraphs had summed it up well. You can read the whole thing by going here. I was kind of intrigued, so I Googled around a bit, but I didn’t find much more, so I moved on to writing a story about the pinochle game I had played the night before.
Then Wednesday morning I was back on Facebook and a couple of people, including my friend Jeff and the folks at Bakken Watch, had a link to another story that sounded interesting, titled “Bad blood, black gold and the death of Doug Carlile.”
Well, I thought I recalled seeing the name Doug Carlile in Tuesday’s Ripoff Reportposting, so I checked back to see if I remembered correctly, and sure enough, I found this in the timeline history of James Henrikson:
“An intruder broke into the home of Douglas Carlile at 2505 S. Garfield Road, and killed Douglas Carlile in what the police are calling a”targeted” killing which may be “linked to a business dispute involving the victim’s dealings in North Dakota.”
Well, sure enough somebody at the Bakken Watch, another public service website (from their website: “Bakken Watch is a group of citizens from North Dakota (and around the world) who are keeping an eye on oil and gas development in North Dakota and all the issues associated with it: health, infrastructure, surface rights, and other topics.”) had made the connection between a murder in Spokane and the oil fields of North Dakota. The reason Douglas Carlile’s murder was included in James Henrikson’s record in the Ripoff Report is because the two were business partners, and Henrikson may be a suspect in Carlile’s murder.
Well, now I was fully engaged, thanks to “social media” and the two websites, so I started looking further. Here’s what I found.
A wealthy Spokane businessman, Douglas Carlile, opened the door of his house in a trendy Spokane neighborhood last December 15 and was greeted by a man with a pistol who shot Carlile numerous times in the head, killing him instantly. After some very good detective work by Spokane police, Tuesday, almost a month to the day after the murder, they arrested 50-year-old Timothy Suckow and charged him with the murder. Suckow is in jail in Spokane. Here is the lead sentence from the lead story on the front page of Wednesday’s Spokane Spokesman-Review newspaper:
“The lawlessness, big money and complex business dealings of the North Dakota oil fields likely prompted the shooting death of a South Hill man in his home last month, according to investigators. Spokane police detectives stitched together an intricate web of speculative business deals by Doug Carlile, who solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars each from several investors to get in on the ground floor of a piece of Indian reservation land with the potential to produce billions of dollars worth of crude, according to one speculator.
“Carlile was found dead of a gunshot wound in his home at 2505 S. Garfield Road the evening of Dec. 15.
“Police used DNA evidence from a leather glove left at the scene to arrest Timothy Suckow, 50, on a first-degree murder charge early Tuesday”.
Pretty much everybody who knows anything about the case believes Carlile’s death was a murder for hire, and that Suckow was hired by Henrikson to do the job. Henrikson denies any involvement. As far as I know, Henrikson still lives in Watford City, and has not been charged.
“Henrikson also is a suspect in the 2012 disappearance of Kristopher “KC” Clarke, who had worked as an operations manager for one of Henrikson’s companies, according to court records.
“And federal investigators are investigating Henrikson for bilking an energy company run by the Native American tribes for millions of dollars, according to police.”
The reference to an energy company run by the Native American tribes likely refers to a company named Maheshu Energy LLC, owned by current Three Tribes chairman Tex Hall.
Tuesday, Spokane television station KXLY reported that a witness whose identity is being protected by Spokane police, but is likely a North Dakota employee of Henrikson’s, told him in mid-September 2013 that Henrikson had approached a fellow employee, Eric Guerrero, “to see if he knew anyone that could kill Tex Hall, the elected leader of the MHA Nation.”
The TV station reported that Henrikson and two others who had done work for Hall’s company are under federal investigation for defrauding Hall’s company out of millions of dollars.
Henrikson is also suspected of hiring someone in early 2012 to kill one of his employees, Kristopher D. Clarke, who may have been his partner in a drug operation in Texas before coming to North Dakota with Henrikson. The Ripoff Report says this:
“Blackstone Employee Kristopher D. Clarke, Nickname-K.C., disappeared after an argument with James Henrikson. KC was a long-term friend of James and may have been involved with James in the Texas drug manufacturing operation. KC was owed $600,000 by James Henrikson, who refused to pay him, so KC decided to quit working for Blackstone (one of Henrikson’s companies). KC was leaving to work for another company and was taking Blackstone’s subcontractors with him. KC was last seen in an argument with James at the Blackstone office building. James is a suspect and was questioned by BCI Special Agent Steve Gutknecht, but he refused to take a lie detector test. Currently, there is no concrete evidence linking James to KC’s disappearance.”
But KXLY TV reports:
“Henrikson has been interviewed by detectives investigating Carlile’s murder, but authorities have not said whether or not he is a suspect or a person of interest in the killing. However, he is a person of interest in the February 2012 disappearance of Casey Clark, the one-time operations manager for Henrikson. (emphasis added)
“Detectives were tipped off by an individual who was roommates in North Dakota with Robert Delao, a known criminal in Spokane with a long history of offenses including theft and assault. Delao would often receive visits from a man identified as Todd Bates, who Spokane Police know is a friend of Delao’s.
“On one occasion the witness said he overheard Henrikson and Bates talking about a job from February 2012 and that “this job would pay the same as the last job.” The witness speculated the last job was Casey Clark, and that Bates, who court documents confirm has multiple convictions in Alaska for assault, was an enforcer for the company, who would beat up or intimidate people who caused Henrikson problems.
“The witness, concerned for his safety, left the company and moved home to Texas.
Clark simply disappeared in February of 2012, and his body has not been found, but his relatives told television station KREM in Spokane that they think Henrikson had him killed.
That’s about what I can figure out reading newspaper and television reports and theRipoff Report. I didn’t call information to see if there is a phone listing for James Henrikson in Watford City, but I’m guessing lots of people there know him. He’s not exactly a low profile person. I also didn’t call Tex Hall to ask him how he feels about being targeted. But Tex is a pretty big boy. He can generally take care of himself. Still, this is another ugly North Dakota Oil Patch story, reinforcing casual observers’ image of North Dakota as the “Wild West.” Not the Legendary wild west of North Dakota tourism advertising, but the real deal. I think you’ll be seeing more about this whole episode on TV and radio and in North Dakota newspapers. For everyone’s safety, I hope so.
(Update: The Bismarck Tribune picked up the Spokesman-Review’s story and ran it Thursday morning. Also Thursday morning, Bakken Watch carried a link to a Spokane TV station KXLY story reporting that FBI agents raided Henrikson’s home in Watford City Wednesday, looking for evidence to link him to Carlile’s murder.)
Here are some links to story details:
This morning’s Spokane Spokesman-Review story
One more Spokane Spokesman-Review story
And here’s a link to the complete police report from the Spokane PD that led to Suckow’s arrest.