In 2012 the disappearance of a young man working in the trucking and oil industry of North Dakota raised alarm for citizens…but the saga of events and murder-for-hire plots that followed left everyone in this portion of the badlands baffled and bewildered.
- North Dakota State Government: Tribal Nations by staff.
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park
- Williston Herald (Williston, ND): Man is reported missing, by Jase Howell.
- Williston Herald (Williston, ND): Search continues for man, by Jenna Ebersole.
- Billings Gazette (Billings, MT): Reward offered in case of missing Williston man, by Lauren Donovan.
- Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, ND): Man connected to Washington homicide often shot at gun range despite felonies, by firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, ND): Investigators say Watford City man hired gunman; threatened others, by Mike Nowatzki.
- Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, ND): Grand jury indicts Watford City man of murder for hire, by Forum News Service.
- The Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, ND): Murder charge with no body for evidence, by Lauren Donovan.
- Williston Herald (Williston, ND): Law firm: Hall abused his power, by Josh Wood.
- The New York Times: In North Dakota, a Tale of Oil, Corruption and Death, by Deborah Sontag and Brent McDonald.
- The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA): Cellphone records link murder-for-hire suspects, missing man, by Kip Hill.
- HQ Q6 (Spokane, WA): Court docs show James Henrikson plotted escape.
- KHQ Q6 (Spokane, WA): Spokane murder for hire plot: Prosecutors believe James Henrikson planned four more murders.
- Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, ND): Former Bakken businessman in murder-for-hire case tried to escape prison, officials say, by Forum News Service.
- The Oregonian (Oregon): Hunt for body continues after central Oregon man pleads guilty in N. Dakota oil business killing, by Associated Press.
- Herald Net (Everett, WA): 3 plead guilty in murder-for-hire plot, by Associated Press.
- Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, ND): Murder for hire trial set for Bakken oil patch operator with hit list
- Billings Gazette (Billings, MT): Man pleads guilty in Bakken murder-for-hire cases, by Forum News Service.
- The Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, ND): Search for body continues in badlands, by Lauren Donovan.
- Billings Gazette (Billings, MT): Guilty plea withdrawn in Bakken murder-for-hire case, by Associated Press.
- Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, ND): Another man charged with aiding in oil patch murder-for-hire, by Forum News Service.
- Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, ND): Trial scheduled for oil truck operator in North Dakota murder-for-hire case, by Reuters Media.
- The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA): The Case Against James Henrikson.
- Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, ND): Witnesses lined up for upcoming Bakken murder-for-hire, missing body trial, by Lauren Donovan.
- The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA): Mother of missing son wants to face Henrikson as murder-for-hire trial begins, by Kip Hill.
- Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, ND): Trial starts for oil truck operator in North Dakota murder-for-hire case, by Reuters Media.
- KREM 2 (Spokane, WA): Dismissed juror: Henrikson case is ‘idiots being idiots’, by Lindsay Nadrich.
- Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, ND): North Dakota woman to seeks clues at Henrikson trial for unfound body, by Lauren Donovan.
- KREM 2 (Spokane, WA): Opening statements begin in murder-for-hire trial, by Lindsay Nadrich.
- KREM 2 (Spokane, WA): Murder-for-hire hitman breaks down on the stand, by Lindsay Nadrich and KREM.com.
- KREM 2 (Spokane, WA): First of 70 witnesses testifies in murder-for-hire trial, by Lindsay Nadrich.
- Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, ND): Oil truck operator convicted in North Dakota murder-for-hire case, by Reuters Media.
- KNDO 24 KNDU 25 (Kennewick, WA): Murder-for-hire mastermind James Henrikson sentenced to two life sentences, by Associated Press.
- Prairie Business (Grand Forks, ND): North Dakota oil truck operator sentenced to life for two contract killings, by Reuters Media.
- The Columbian (Vancouver, WA): Spokane man sentenced to 22 years in murder-for-hire killing, by Associated Press.
- Dateline NBC: A Dangerous Man (Season 25, Episode 4).
- Dateline: The Search for KC Clarke’s Remains (video clip).
- American Greed: Deadly Black Gold Riches (Season 11, Episode 13).
- Spokesman Review: Widow in Carlile murder-for-hire slaying forgives killer during sentencing. By Kip Hill.
Hi park enthusiasts…
I’m your host, Delia D’Ambra. The story I’m going to share with you today is a wild one.
It’s not about one murder…or even two murders…its’ about a man who planned multiple murders in his quest for power and money.
His attempt to seize the beauty of the American Northwest for his own gain…left a blood trail from Washington state….to North Dakota that for a time left local, state and federal authorities baffled.
The crimes I’ll cover in this episode all revolve around one main suspect and don’t actually take place within the boundary of a national park …BUT…the remains of at least one in this story are believed to reside very close to if not directly on federal parkland– the Northern boundary of Theodore Roosevelt National Park to be exact.
This area is rugged and according to the National Park Service includes some grassland and rock formation landscape that is known as the ‘badlands’.
Back in 1883, Teddy Roosevelt came to this area in North Dakota to hunt bison and big game. The adventures he had in this environment helped him grow an appreciation for nature and realize how important the conservation of federal land is…thus the reason the park was named after him.
But North Dakota is not one of those states you typically think about when you’re reciting all 50 states…it might even be one that you forgot about on a geography test in grade school…but for those of you who’ve spent any amount of time there…you know its special.
One of the things I think makes it so unique is that it’s home to five federally recognized Tribal Nations and their respective reservation land.
According to the website for the state’s department of Indian Affairs, in total there are 31,329 indigenous Americans living in the North Dakota.
Because the literal ground these nations control is so rich in resources …that leads to big politics and big greed colliding in a pretty nasty way.
In 2012 a saga of events dealing directly with those two things and one man’s insatiable desire for power merged and left a body count in this section of the badlands that no one ever saw coming.
This is Park Predators.
On the evening of Sunday December 15th, 2013—ten days before Christmas—63-year-old Doug Carlile and his wife Elberta had just returned home from a church service in Spokane, Washington.
The couple was looking forward to a quiet evening together finishing up their last- minute holiday decorating…when the unthinkable happened.
Around seven o’clock, while Elberta was climbing the stairs to their second-floor bedroom, she heard a commotion and hushed voices talking in the kitchen…when she walked back down the staircase to see what was going on she couldn’t believe her eyes.
There, struggling with her husband in the middle of their kitchen was a man dressed in all black wearing a mask, holding a gun.
Before she could even process what was going on, Elberta heard a bunch of gunshots and in a panic ran upstairs with her phone in hand and hid in a closet. She immediately dialed 911.
While the receiver was still up against her ear, she heard what sounded like someone leaving the house quickly…then silence.
When first responders and Spokane Police Department officers arrived, they found Doug dead on the couple’s kitchen floor and a completely distraught Elberta inside the house.
According to Dateline, the two lead detectives on the case were Brian Sesnick and Mark Burbridge. When they arrived, they examined Doug’s body lying in a large pool of blood and quickly determined that he’d been shot at least seven times. There were spent shell casings scattered all around him and Christmas music still playing throughout the Carlile’s home.
Something that stood out right away about the scene was that it appeared the attacker’s only motivation had been to murder Doug. No valuables were taken during the shooting and the rest of the house appeared to be untouched. Even Doug’s cell phone and wallet were still on him.
When detective Burbridge questioned Elberta about what she’d seen and heard, he started to wonder if it was possible, she was involved…mostly because her story of what had happened seemed so random and hard to believe.
Elberta told police that while she’d been in another room in the house, she’d heard her husband’s voice yell loudly from their kitchen… “it’s okay, it’s okay, back off back off”…and when she’d gone to check things out, she’d seen a masked man wearing all black shoot Doug several times.
Detectives’ first thought was that it was strange the unknown intruder had killed Doug in such a brutal way but left Elberta alive as a witness. They didn’t completely doubt her story, but they didn’t feel super great about it.
Until they had more to prove that theory though, they continued to work the case like every other murder investigation. Follow the evidence.
A big clue that emerged came from both Elberta and people living in their neighborhood.
According to Dateline’s piece on this, Elberta said that when she and Doug had left for church a few hours before the murder, between five and five thirty, they’d noticed a white van parked by a curb near their house that they’d never seen before.
A person living across the street from the Carlile’s told investigators that they’d also seen the same van around five o’clock that evening. The van had made this neighbor so suspicious that they’d actually called 911 about a half hour after seeing it. Spokane Police Department had received that call, but up until Doug was murdered…no one had put two and two together that the van might be related to the homicide in some way.
Fortunately for police, another neighbor had a video camera mounted on his house that captured the mysterious white van idling near the curb just two hours before the murder. The video didn’t show anyone getting in or out of the van…it was just parked for awhile and then eventually moved around the block a few times.
While some detectives were looking over the surveillance video of the van, others worked with scent dogs and crime scene techs in and around the Carlile’s house. The dogs picked up on a scent that they tracked out of the home’s back door, through an open gate of a fence behind the house and into a puddle of water that was shallow enough to have a bunch of mud in it.
Along that path, investigators found a large leather welding glove AND a perfect imprint of a shoe in some of the mud. Techs collected the glove and swabbed it for DNA and made an impression of the shoe print.
Just beyond where that stuff was found, police dogs tracked what was believed to be the suspect’s scent from the house to a wooded area… and a nearby street…but then it just abruptly ended.
Lucky for investigators, there was an elementary school directly across rom where the scent ended.
Authorities strongly suspected their killer had taken the path away from the Carlile’s home on foot and then gotten into a vehicle.
They quickly got in touch with the school and retrieved the security camera footage that showed the area they believed the perpetrator had to have walked through.
And sure enough, when detectives reviewed the tapes, they saw the figure of a tall muscular man wearing all black emerge from the wooded area they’d been searching and run in the direction of a nearby road that was out of view of the camera.
The video footage wasn’t super clear, but what you could see plain as day was that this person in all black had jogged away from the exact area police believed Doug Carlile’s killer had trampled through and left evidence behind.
Authorities quickly mobilized and brought in more detectives to help Brian Sesnick and Mark Burbridge work the investigation.
The more and more police studied the grainy surveillance video from the school, the less and less likely they felt Elberta Carlile could have been involved.
From speaking with Elberta so far, she’d seemed genuinely distraught over her husband’s death and had given great details to authorities about what she’d witnesses. Their thought was, if she was lying and in on some murder for hire plot, it didn’t make sense that she was being so cooperative and providing such good information.
Eventually, police focused their investigation more on the man in the video and less on the likelihood that he was somehow connected to Elberta.
Figuring out who he was, took time though…and the swabs they’d taken from the welding glove had to be sent off to the crime lab for further analysis.
In the meantime, detectives started looking more closely into Doug’s life and background.
Within a day of the murder, Elberta called all six of her and Doug’s grown children and let them know what was going on. All of them were devastated and quickly came to their mother’s side to help her cope.
In order to learn more about Doug, police interviewed all of his children trying to piece together the bigger picture of who he was… most importantly who would want him dead in such a horrific way.
What investigators learned was that Doug owned an excavation business and employed at least two of his adult sons…but it wasn’t always sunshine and roses for Doug when it came to financial success. Doug had a long history of ups and downs in his life when it came to making money.
According to his family’s interviews with Dateline, before his murder Doug had filed for bankruptcy twice, had ongoing issues with the IRS, and had operated several failed businesses as well as had business relationships deteriorate amidst accusations from partners that he was not an honest man in all areas of business.
The Carlile’s rejected those rumors though and supported their dad no matter what. They told Dateline that right before his murder, Doug was doing the best he’d ever done in business.
When authorities processed the inside of Doug’s office, they found a lot of proof that he was in fact doing alright when it came to the projects he’d been working on and the business dealings he was involved in.
Detectives found paperwork detailing that Doug’s net worth was anywhere from six to 12 million dollars.
Elberta drove a new Mercedes and Doug had a brand-new pickup truck. On top of that, authorities had found documents in his safe that were written in Arabic that they determined hinted to an upcoming or ongoing lucrative business deal with multiple partners overseas.
They found some other paperwork that related to Doug’s involvement in the oil industry in North Dakota.
The papers had several names written on them of men and women Doug had promised return on investments to…like extremely large return on investments to. According to Dateline’s reporting, one document stated that Doug had promised investors 100 percent return within 90 days which to police felt very over the top and risky.
The documents were interesting…but not extremely helpful clues in terms of figuring out who had killed Doug.
What the documents did provide was insight into how their victim’s business empire goals had put him in the path of some potentially unsavory people…with massive amounts of capital hanging in the balance.
According to multiple news reports, in early 2013 Doug had seen the boom that was happening with oil fracking in North Dakota and had decided to round up some investors to see if they could capitalize on an extraction business together.
Doug and his partners took out a $2 million lease on 640 acres of land on the Fort Berthold Native American reservation in Western North Dakota. Doug had been the go-to man for business owners in the trucking and drilling industry to help make the operation happen.
The endeavor went bad pretty quickly though and eventually police determined that Doug had made a lot of enemies when it came to his investors.
Right away all of those people became potential suspects…and the investigation into his murder got a lot bigger.
Ten individuals stood out right off the bat to authorities as potentially ripe suspects. Most of them lived in Washington state and could have means and opportunity to commit the crime.
But after clearing those folks, two former business partners really caught investigators attention.
A young couple who’d poured a lot of money into Doug’s oil-fracking venture…and admitted to being pretty angry with the 63-year-old for not making good on his promises.
Spokane police identified James Henrikson and his wife Sarah as people who may have had an ax to grind with Doug.
It also didn’t help James’s cause that he had a felony criminal record for several violent offenses like burglary, theft, assault and other financial crimes.
He and his wife had built a bit of a budding business empire in North Dakota with their trucking company, Blackstone Trucking.
According to Dateline, Doug Carlile had initially invested in Blackstone before he even got really interested in leasing the oil field and rounding up investors in that deal.
Not long before Doug’s murder though, the relationship between James and Doug had soured…mostly over who would take control of the oil lease operation. James said he felt he had the right to run it…but Doug was not a fan of that happening.
By the time the relationship ended completely, Doug had expressed being fearful of James and according to news reports on this case, one of Doug’s sons said that on one occasion James had actually shown up at Doug’s office and demanded he be paid $400,000.
James reportedly told Doug that if payment wasn’t made quote– “Something bad could happen to him and his family”--end quote.
If was after that encounter that Doug repeatedly told his sons that if something happened to him everyone should first suspect James.
In fact, several news sources that published quotes about this case included an interview bite from one Doug’s sons that said Doug said quote– “If I disappear or wake up with bullets in my back, promise me you will let everyone know that James Henrikson did it.”— end quote.
Now—clearly that’s a pretty damning statement against James and police had to take it into consideration.
By the end of December 2013, detectives had completely cleared Elberta, Doug’s wife…and were more interested in exploring James and Doug’s history as much as they could.
Spokane detectives spoke with James over the phone within days of Doug’s murder but he denied having anything to do with the crime and provided a pretty solid alibi. He was more than 700 miles away from Spokane, in Watford City, North Dakota when Doug was murdered.
Detectives were able to verify James’s alibi after checking his cell phone records.
But for investigators, just because James was so far away, didn’t necessarily mean that he was not behind what had happened to Doug. In fact, because authorities were growing more and more sure Doug’s death was a result of a murder for hire scenario…James having an alibi really didn’t mean a whole lot to them.
By Christmas Day, authorities kept pushing forward and chasing down leads.
Spokane Police assigned 20 investigators to the case and sent them all in different directions. Some focused on the murder for hire angle, others kept digging into Doug’s finances and business dealings, a few more focused exclusively on James Henrikson and the rest dedicated all of their time to tracking down the mysterious white van that had been parked in the Carlile’s neighborhood on the night of the murder.
After two weeks of dogged searching, the detectives pinned down the specifics of that van.
They learned it was a certain make and model that had features on it designed for workers in specific trades…like welding or construction waste removal for example. They pulled information for all of the vans like that registered in the state of Washington and narrowed down their pool of potential vehicles to just 75 individual vans that fit the description of the one seen on the video.
But right when authorities were closing in on identifying the potential owner, a bizarre report showed up in their email inboxes.
The message was a flyer that someone had made and sent to thousands of people, including police.
The flyer announced that people should be cautious of James Henrikson and his wife and accused them of being frauds. The bulletin advertised that physical copies of the message would go up in businesses and storefronts all around Watford City, North Dakota and Williston, North Dakota.
At first when Washington investigators saw the flyer, they figured it was made by a former Blackstone Trucking employee who was just upset with the James and his wife over being fired or something—BUT—there was one thing on the bottom of the message that stood out to Spokane detectives.
A few sentences claimed that a young man who’d been a former employee of James’s had disappeared under mysterious circumstances in February of 2012—more than a year before Doug Carlile’s murder.
The former employee’s name was Kristopher Clarke, who everyone just called K.C.
This was the first time Spokane investigators had read or heard anything about a man in James’s company going missing.
The flyer got them so curious, that they started looking into K.C’s disappearance more and drove all the way to North Dakota to do some digging.
When they arrived, what they found was an entirely new mystery waiting for them that would throw a big curveball into the Doug Carlile murder case that they never saw coming.
When Spokane police detectives arrived in North Dakota they connected with the Williston Police Department which was the lead agency in charge of investigating the disappearance of 29-year-old K.C. Clarke…a man who’d worked as an operations manager for Blackstone Trucking.
K.C. had not been heard from or seen since the morning of February 22nd, 2012.
At the time of his disappearance, Williston police learned that K.C. had worked for Blackstone Trucking for just a few months in late 2011 and early 2012, before deciding to transfer to a different company called Running Horse Trucking.
According to Jenna Ebersole’s reporting, red flags initially went up regarding K.C. whereabouts when a landlord he’d been paying rent to at a former address in Texas had noticed that rent checks had stopped coming.
Around that same time, K.C.’s roommates at a house he was renting in New Town, North Dakota just a few miles from Blackstone Trucking’s headquarters, had also noticed the 29-year-old just stopped paying rent and coming home.
When local authorities called K.C.’s mother Jill Williams who lived in Washington state, where K.C. was originally from, she’d told them that in October of 2011 KC has left Texas to work for James Henrikson.
She said that prior to that, her son had gotten to know James at motorcycle racing events in Washington state.
Within just a few short months of taking the job with Blackstone trucking, Jill said K.C. had called back home and complained that the gig wasn’t really working out. He’d grown tired of working for James and felt he would be better off moving on to another trucking company.
Williston Police detectives learned from speaking with K.C.’s friends that right when he’d made the decision to leave Blackstone behind, he’d started to make odd statements about being fearful of his boss.
They’d started to take his concerns seriously after they noticed K.C. had started carrying a loaded Ruger pistol on him at all times.
The Williston Herald reported that K.C.’s buddies said that on more than one occasion K.C. mentioned he was worried something might happen to him and that he felt like he was in danger.
According to an episode of American Greed, in the first few days of Williston police’s investigation, they learned from a witness who worked with K.C. at Blackstone trucking that K.C had called him on the morning on February 22nd while on his way to the trucking headquarters. The two men had decided that they both wanted to leave Blackstone and join mutual friends that had started Running Horse Trucking.
The men agreed that the long hours and demanding schedule at Blackstone weren’t worth it and at the time K.C. had two weeks of vacation saved up that he told his coworker he planned to use. While on the phone on February 22nd, K.C. had mentioned that he was on his way to drop off his company credit card and final employment paperwork.
When police obtained K.C.’s cell phone records, they determined that that conversation he’d had with his coworker was the last cell phone call placed from the device.
After that, law enforcement in Williston sort of let the case fall to the back burner. I don’t know if they assumed K.C. had just left town or what, but based on the research material for this case…reporting about the law enforcement investigation into what happened to him just seemed to fade away after March of 2012.
During those months of radio silence, K.C’s family and friends took it upon themselves to search for him, make flyers and do their own investigation.
A segment on the TV show American Greed explained that on one occasion, K.C’s coworker returned to Blackstone Trucking and ran into James Henrikson, the owner. When asked if he’d seen K.C., James replied he hadn’t and assumed K.C. had taken off to work for a competing company.
According to the Williston Herald, a few months after K.C.’s disappearance—in June of 2012—police located the young man’s truck on a residential street outside of town.
When detectives examined the truck, they found it was unlocked and had all the telltale signs of having been rifled through. People who lived on the street it was parked on told police that it had been sitting abandoned in the same spot for months and never moved.
After the truck’s discovery, police and KC’s family upped their reward for information to $10,000 and continued assembling search parties to scour the grasslands around Williston and New Town.
The research material isn’t very clear on when this next detail was uncovered, but at some point, after K.C.’s truck was found, authorities got a tip about a pile of burned belongings left at an oil well about 80 miles away from Blackstone Trucking. The cops checked it out and found several pieces of burned clothing, a money clip and a boot in a container at the site. They did not release to the media at the time if they believed the items belonged to K.C., but they did say they took them as potential evidence.
Right after that, Williston police called in the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations to assist them.
They were technically working a missing persons investigation, but they also had strong suspicions based on circumstances and now potential physical evidence, that something really bad had happened to K.C…so they wanted all the help they could get to try and figure out what was going on.
Authorities put out a missing persons bulletin that described K.C. as a white male with brown hair and brown eyes, who stood five feet 10 inches tall and weighed about 140 pounds.
The one thing that authorities wanted the public to know that really stood out about him was the fact that he walked with a slight limp and had scars on his left wrist, torso and upper back. Those markings had come from pins and plates that doctors had put in him after he survived a nasty motorcycle accident years earlier.
Jill Williams, K.C.’s mom, launched a Facebook page for her son which quickly grew into a main hub of information on community searches and efforts underway to find K.C.
The only real information police had to work off as the summer of 2012 came to a close was the fact that K.C. has last been seen at the headquarters of Blackstone Trucking…then nothing. It was like he literally vanished from the face of the earth.
But based on everything investigators had learned about why K.C. wanted to leave that job, their next stop was to visit James Henrikson, the young man’s former boss.
Williston police detectives questioned James and even had him come in to take a polygraph and according to reporting by multiple news outlets, he passed.
The case as far as Williston PD was concerned had completely stalled after that and 2012 dragged on with no updates about what had happened to K.C.
Some people in town speculated that he’d done what so many oil field workers and truckers do, which was skip town and try their luck with a new business.
Jill Williams was unconvinced of this rumor. She felt strongly that her son had been harmed and his former employer was to blame for it.
She took to the Facebook page she’d created for K.C. to air her suspicions and grievances about James Henrikson and his wife, Sarah.
According to reporting by the Grand Fork Herald, in early 2013 things started to get really tense between Jill and James.
The Bismarck Tribune reported that James actually sued Jill for defamation. Court records in Pierce County, Washington state that James claimed Jill’s relentless posts online were hurting his business and ruining his name.
The newspaper reported that around that same time, James had a lawsuit pending in federal court regarding an anonymous online blogger who’d gone online posing as James. This blogger had started posting photos of him and his wife Sarah alongside claims that the couple, but mostly James, had scammed a ton of people. Probably most disturbing of all were that the anonymous posts also claimed James was directly involved in the disappearance of K.C Clarke.
When James found out about that online activity, he and his lawyers had quickly subpoenaed Google to hand over records and reveal the identity of the anonymous blogger. But before the legal filing made it anywhere in court, the online user who’d been posting about James…as James…took their content down.
Unfortunately, by the time Spokane Police detectives Brian Sesnick and Mark Burbridge who were working Doug Carlile’s murder showed up to James’s home in 2014 to discuss K.C.’s disappearance, James declined to cooperate with them and said they needed to speak to his lawyer.
The Washington detectives’ trip to North Dakota seemed to be a big bust but it wasn’t all in vain. Just based on James’ behavior and demeanor with them, they’d left with a growing suspicion that James was somehow connected to everything that had gone on in North Dakota and Washington between February 2012 and December 2013.
They just needed the evidence to prove it.
In late January of 2014, they got a huge break and the linkage they’d been hoping for between James…Doug Carlile’s murder…and K.C.’s disappearance materialized.
According to Dateline, a DNA profile from the swabbed welding glove investigators had found behind Doug’s home had come back from the lab. When detectives entered it into a national database of convicted felons, they got a match.
50-year-old Timothy Suckow Some news reports pronounced his last name Soo-Cow…others say Sue-Co… but the most common way I hear it said was Soo-Cow.
Timothy just so happened to be from Spokane, Washington and worked for an asbestos removal company. For his job, he drove a specific model white van that authorities realized matched the description of the same van seen in surveillance video casing the Carlile home two hours before Doug’s murder.
Detectives watched Timothy and followed him around Spokane taking pictures and comparing his body type to the muscular man wearing all black that they were sure was their hitman.
Within a matter of days, they’d brought Timothy in for an official interview and confronted him about his van, his DNA being on an item of evidence from Doug’s murder, and the fact that he matched the description of the killer.
Timothy denied being involved and basically told police he’d see them in court.
After that, police were able to make their case to a judge and get a search warrant for Timothy’s house and van.
Inside the van, authorities found a black full-coverage face mask that only had an opening for the eyes. Think of a ski mask with no mouth hole and like a merged hole for both eyes. Next to the mask police also found a piece of notebook paper that had a to-do list scribbled down on it.
Some of the handwritten entries said things like “practice with pistol”…and “wheel man”
Detectives knew without a doubt, Timothy was likely their killer. All they need to do was figure out how to get him to confess and tell them who’d put him up to committing cold-blooded murder.
When investigators got an additional search warrant and examined Timothy’s cell phone records, they found a list of names in his contacts…one of which was ‘James ND’…who they suspected stood for James Henrikson, from North Dakota.
That was a turning point in the case.
Here was the proof they’d needed to connect the prime suspect in the murder of Doug Carlile in Spokane, Washington…to James Henrikson.
The puzzle pieces were starting to fall into place…the last big one to click came from Sarah, James’s wife.
She told Dateline that after Doug’s murder, she began to suspect her husband was possibly involved in both Doug’s killing and K.C. Clarke’s disappearance…but she maintained that her suspicions about those two things didn’t emerge all at once.
Sarah’s doubts that her husband was not who he said he was or at least not as straight laced as she thought he was had actually started long before Doug’s death…back in October of 2012.
Around that time, she’d learned that James had cheated on her with the teenage daughter of the land owner who Blackstone and Doug Carlile were leasing the oil field acreage from on the Fort Berthhold Reservation.
That guy’s name was Tex Hill and he pretty much held power over everyone’s heads when it came to land development and oil fracking in North Dakota. Tex was a major political player and wealthy developer who owned a ton of land that was rich for mining and oil extraction. He was also the chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes on the Fort Berthold Reservation.
Tex wielded a lot of money, power and influence and according to multiple news reports, James had impregnated his 19-year-old daughter sometime in 2011.
When Tex found out about the baby and that affair, his personal and professional relationship with James went south fast and essentially Tex made it clear to James that he was not going to be making any money off his oil field land.
So, with all of that coming to ahead in the fall of 2013…police theorized that James had gotten desperate and that’s why he’d been so aggressive with Doug to gain control over the oil leasing operation.
Sarah told Dateline that around that same time, a lot of Blackstone’s successful facade had started crumbling too.
Neither James nor Sarah knew it, but a Department of Homeland Security investigator named Derek Trudel had started looking into the couple’s finances and business dealings and had discovered that they were doing a lot of fishy things…mostly fraud and money laundering to keep Blackstone trucking operations afloat.
Trudel had also been paying close attention to Williston PD’s ongoing investigation into the disappearance of K.C. Clarke.
By January of 2014, when Timothy Suckow was in custody and Spokane detectives made the link between him and James… Derek Trudel hooked up with the local agencies and things really started to kick into high gear.
For one, the case got picked up by the FBI.
Trudel compared his information to what Spokane PD’s investigators had gathered, including Timothy’s phone records and they discovered that not only did Timothy’s phone link him to James and had been in the vicinity of the Carlile home in December 2013…the device had also placed calls in Williston, North Dakota the day before and on the day K.C. Clarke had vanished.
It wasn’t a smoking gun, but it did bring investigators one step closer to tightening the net around James.
Unfortunately, by the time all the agencies connected and got on the same page, James was on the run…or at least not living at the home he shared with his wife in Watford City, North Dakota.
Sarah had filed for divorce from him and began cooperating with federal authorities. During an interview in early 2014, detectives revealed to her that James had taken out a hit on her and planned to have her killed. Sarah was shocked by this but it only fueled her more to cooperate with investigators.
She alerted them whenever James would try and harass her or her family and eventually agreed to let authorities search her and James’s former residence.
According to reporting by The Grand Forks Herald, on January 14th, 2014—almost two years after KC’s disappearance and just months after Doug Carlile’s murder—the FBI raided James’s house and found a safe that contained a bunch of ammunition and seven guns, including pistols, shotguns and rifles that belonged to him.
The 34-year-old had a lot of previous felonies on his record …so, it was illegal for him to possess those firearms.
On January 18th, 2014– four days after the raid–officials tracked James down to an apartment in a nearby town and arrested him for the weapons charges.
Investigators and prosecutors’ suspicions at that point were that James was definitely connected to Doug Carlile’s murder via Timothy Suckow. The motive, means and opportunity were there considering the fact that James and Doug had been previous business partners who’d had a falling out.
What was less clear to everyone was why James would have wanted to put an end to K.C. Clarke.
While federal agents were inside James’s house collecting the guns he wasn’t supposed to have, they also found and seized lots of financial and medical records they hoped would provide even more linkage between all the characters involved in what they considered a massive murder for hire plot.
While the raid had been going on, authorities had housed Sarah in protective custody to ensure James couldn’t get to her and any potential hitman he’d hired to kill her would be thwarted.
The U.S. magistrate told James during his arraignment for the gun charges that the felon in possession of a firearm charge was solely intended to keep him in custody while a grand jury weighed evidence against him on additional crimes…. which would include conspiracy to commit murder.
While he waited for the grand jury’s decision, James agreed to talk to investigators about Doug Carlile’s murder. He denied any direct involvement and instead adamantly insisted that drug cartels from outside of North Dakota had set him up to take the fall…and that he was just a victim of greater criminals hiring out a hit on Doug.
Federal agents didn’t buy a word James said. They kept him in custody and built a strong circumstantial case against him related to not only Doug’s murder but also whatever had happened to K.C. Clarke. The problem was…neither case strong was enough to take to trial…
For one thing, they didn’t have K.C.’s body…and technically, James had not been THE PERSON to pull the trigger in Doug’s murder.
Investigators needed more hard evidence or a confession to keep the momentum of the case going.
And thankfully, the latter is exactly what they got.
A full confession…from a hitman, who’s conscience had been weighing on him.
Despite repeated denials and being uncooperative early on with Spokane Washington Police detectives, Timothy Suckow had had a change of heart…and decided to come clean.
In a series of interviews with federal investigators, he confessed to being the trigger man in Doug Carlile’s murder AND bludgeoning K.C. Clarke to death in a garage bay at Blackstone Trucking.
He said he’d done both crimes after being hired by James Henrikson. He agreed to plead guilty to his offenses and become a star witness for federal prosecutors in exchange for leniency when it came to his sentencing.
Timothy’s confession combined with hundreds of documents published in court filings in the spring of 2014 only made the case against James stronger and stronger.
Mike Nowatzki reported that records from the homicide investigation into Doug’s murder showed that at one point James had expressed interest in hiring contract killings on multiple men in North Dakota, including Tex Hill, the man whose daughter James had impregnated.
In September 2014, The Grand Forks Herald reported that a federal grand jury formally indicted James for a slew of crimes including charges for murder for hire and solicitation for murder in the deaths of Doug Carlile and K.C. Clarke.
The indictment detailed how prosecutors believed James had made plans to hire hitmen to kill even more business associates of his… but thankfully those murders had not happened.
After he was indicted, James faced the death penalty and was flown out of North Dakota back to Washington state to face trial in federal court there for his new charges.
Right after the indictment was announced, K.C.’s mom, Jill Williams, posted on Facebook writing quote– “We had expected the worst for some time now and I am devastated to have to share that our K.C. was brutally murdered. We cannot share all of the details at this time, so as not to compromise the case.” — end quote.
The government’s case revolved around Timothy Suckow’s testimony that he’d not only murdered both victims…but he did so at the behest of James in exchange for money.
According to Dateline, after learning Timothy was going to testify against him, James did not behave while awaiting trial. He attempted on more than one occasion to break out of jail by hiring people to attack the prison transport vans or shoot the drivers while they were in transit. At one point, he and one of his cell mates tied bedsheets together and busted out their cell window in an attempt to repel down…but those efforts failed.
Tex Hall’s reaction to James’s arrest and rumors of allegations that he himself was somehow involved with the unsavory people who’d been caught up in the murder for hire plot, was denial.
Tex told reporters that he did not affiliate with gangs or any organized criminal activity. He said he was working fully with federal investigators and had nothing to hide. He said he wanted to quote– “make sure justice is swiftly and fully served in this case and that the victims’ families see the justice they deserve.”–end quote.
The Associated Press reported that in February of 2015, the government had decided not to seek the death penalty against any defendants, including James. The article also reported that a few months after that, in September, James opted to take a plea deal in exchange for a 40-year prison sentence. The prosecution would only agree to the deal though if James promised to lead authorities to K.C. Clarke’s remains.
That deal stayed on the table for two months, but eventually James reverted back to a not guilty plea and the case continued to trial.
By the time it got front of a jury in January 2016…prosecutors felt confident in their arguments, but there was just one small problem.
Well, two actually.
They still had not found K.C. Clarke’s body…AND… Timothy Suckow was reaching his mental breaking point.
According to the lead prosecutor on the case, the weight of what Timothy had done and the pressure he knew he’d be under while testifying as the government’s star witness had sent him into a bit of a mental health crisis.
Two days before he was scheduled to testify, prosecutors had to go to Timothy in prison and make sure he would be mentally capable to take the stand.
According to Dateline’s reporting, Timothy had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and for several days leading up to the trial, he’d spent hours lying on his prison cell floor curled up in the fetal position. He was receiving medication in order for him to be able to testify but things were far from ideal.
Thankfully, when it was time for him to take the stand though…he came through.
Timothy told jurors that in January of 2012 a guy he worked with at the asbestos removal company had come to him with an offer from James Henrikson.
This middle man was one of five others who had also struck guilty pleas with federal prosecutors and had spilled their stories to the government in exchange for leniency. Timothy said the middle man explained that James wanted one of his employees to be beaten up for having the audacity to leave Blackstone Trucking for another company.
Timothy said he was told the guy’s name was K.C. Clarke and he’d been shown a picture of what he looked like. Timothy agreed to do the job, but right before it was supposed to go down, James had changed his mind and said he actually wanted Timothy to kill the young man instead of just rough him up.
During his testimony Timothy identified K.C. as the employee James had ordered him to kill. He detailed how K.C. had arrived at Blackstone Trucking around mid-morning on February 22nd and went into the office to drop off his company credit card and notify staff that he was going to use his two weeks of vacation.
As K.C. was leaving, Timothy said James lured the young man over to a motorcycle in one of the garage bays under the false pretense that he wanted to show him something cool. Timothy told the court that when K.C. was next to the bike, he’d jumped out from behind a door with a heavy truck jack and hit him over the head with it.
He said K.C. had not died right away and attempted to stumble away… but Timothy confessed to hitting him at least four more times with the jack, at which point it became clear K.C. was dead.
Timothy said that as K.C laid in a pool of blood; James remarked that he wasn’t concerned about the body…he just wanted all the blood on his floor cleaned up.
A few minutes after the murder, Timothy said he and James had wrapped K.C.’s body in a black garbage bag and locked his remains in one of the shop’s restrooms. Not long after that they’d decided to transport the body in a large cardboard box using another employee’s pickup truck.
After that, Timothy, the other employee, and James drove K.C’s truck and the vehicle the body was in to buy shovels.
Eventually Timothy said he and the other employee drove K.C.’s truck into Williston and ditched it on a residential street. Then they drove about 20 miles into the grasslands to a random spot near Theodore Roosevelt National Park and buried K.C.’s body. Before putting him in the ground, they’d undressed him and packed his clothing and boots back into the garbage bag his body had been in.
Timothy testified that James had offered to pay him $20,000 for the murder and after getting the cash, he’d taken the bloody clothes and burned them in a container in a random oil well. That was the evidence Williston authorities had already found years earlier but had been unsure at the time how it related to K.C’s case.
Despite countless volunteer searches and authorities even escorting Timothy out to the areas he believed he’d buried K.C’s body…no trace of K.C. was found.
Timothy said the reason he couldn’t remember where he’d buried K.C. was because everything about that morning was a blur. The landscape in the North Dakota prairie all looked the same and when he was digging the grave, Timothy said he’d been worried that James would shoot and kill him while he was digging the actual hole.
Basically, Timothy just said he had no clue where the spot was and wished he could help investigators more.
Jill Williams told a reporter with The Bismarck Tribune that Timothy’s testimony confirmed everything she’d believed for so long… that her son had been killed because he’d learned too much about James and he’d decided to get away from that kind of lifestyle. Unfortunately, his decision to break away from Blackstone Trucking had come with the ultimate price. His life.
During the second day of Timothy’s explosive testimony in court, he detailed the events that surrounded Doug Carlile’s murder.
He said that leading up to the murder he’d exchanged several text messages with the middle man who was connected to James.
Those messages along with ones between the middle man’s phone and James’s phone were read aloud in court. They contained information about Doug’s comings and goings, where he lived, if he and Elberta’s house had an alarm system, where they attended church…basically everything Timothy needed to know in order to be in the right place at the right time to kill Doug.
Timothy confessed to bringing the welding glove with him in the event he needed to break a window of the Carlile home. He said he got freaked out when he saw Elberta at the house with Doug and in his panic just fired as many rounds as he could at Doug.
After fleeing the scene, Timothy said he threw the murder weapon he’d used to kill Doug into a nearby river and it was at that point he’d realized he’d left his welding glove behind…which he knew had been a big mistake.
In the end, that glove proved to be his undoing. It was the one piece of physical evidence that got the whole investigation rolling and was the thing that had led investigators to Timothy in the first place.
After four long weeks of trial, it took jurors just one day to deliberate before finding James guilty on all of the 11 federal counts he was facing.
The middle man who’d been James’s go between was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Other men who’d contributed to concealing evidence in both cases and helping Timothy plan the two murders were all sentence to decades of prison time.
For his cooperation with the government, Timothy was sentenced to 30 years behind bars.
The mastermind behind it all, James, was given two consecutive life sentences. According to multiple news reports, he chose not to appeal his case.
Sarah, his wife was eventually cleared of anything related to the murders. She did however end up pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud charges. A crime for which she received a $340,000 fine and was ordered to be on probation for three years.
To this day, she claims that she did not know the true depth of her husband’s depravity and feels she was just as duped as everyone else when it came to James’s sociopathic ambitions.
Tex Hill faced scrutiny and consequences in the aftermath of the murders trial too.
According to an article published by the Associated Press, a law firm headed up by a former United States Attorney published a scathing report that Tex’s connection to James was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to Tex’s personal misuse of power as the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation chief.
The Three Tribes council took the allegations of misconduct that were spelled out in this report seriously. They learned that Tex and James’s families had vacationed together frequently, which many speculated was what contributed to James carrying on an affair with Tex’s teenage daughter.
The report suggested that Tex used his connections with James to ensure James’s company would secure trucking contracts with the Three Tribes Nation.
The Associated Press reported that on two separate occasions the Three Tribes council had paid Blackstone trucking two large invoices that totaled close to $200,000. A few months after that, Tex had gone behind the tribal council’s back and signed off on an additional $390,000 in invoices to Blackstone…something members of the council had not approved.
In response to the damning report, Tex told reporters that allegations he was doing back door deals to make sure his business partners got tribal money, were flat out lies. He said that the whole thing had been blown out of proportion because he had opponents on the council who wanted his chairman seat.
In the end, Tex told the New York Times that he should have checked up more on James and his company before going into business together. Tex Hill had never been named in relation to anything with K.C. Clarke and Doug Carlile’s murders.
The wild thing about this story…other than it just feeling ripped straight from a movie…is that K.C. Clarke’s remains have never been found. Despite more than a dozen intensive searches by law enforcement.
For years, his mom Jill has longed to return her son home to Washington and give him a proper burial.
News reports on this case suggest that prosecutors are not completely convinced K.C.’s body stayed where Timothy Suckow initially buried it.
The government has speculated that James may have returned to the original burial site at some point in 2012 and moved K.C’s remains as a way to have leverage over Timothy and the other men involved in the murder for hire plot.
The fact that K.C.’s young life was ripped away from him in such a brutal way and for no other reason than pure greed and vindictiveness on James’s part…is truly tragic.
Even though we know what happened to K.C… I guess the only mystery left to solve is where the North Dakota grasslands and outskirts of Theodore Roosevelt National Park are holding him.
Park Predators is an audiochuck original show.
So, what do you think chuck…do you approve? *howl*