JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — The Ugliest Story Yet From North Dakota’s Oil Patch

According to the man who says he killed Kristopher “K.C.” Clarke, the young oilfield worker who disappeared more than three years ago is buried in one of North Dakota’s Bad Lands parks — likely Little Missouri State Park or the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

That’s one of the apparent confessions made by Timothy Suckow of Spokane, Wash., as he attempts to cut a deal to shorten his potential life sentence in prison, by implicating James Henrikson, the man who Suckow says hired him to kill Clarke and another Spokane man, Doug Carlile.

Suckow, who’s admitted in the past to being a “devil-worshiper,” spilled his guts— as former North Dakota U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon said, “He only had one card to play” — and the U.S. Attorney for Eastern Washington, where Henrikson is being held and is scheduled to stand trial in October, has outlined in detail how and when Clarke and Carlile were killed, in a sometimes gruesome 58-page document released this week by District Judge Salvador Mendoze Jr. of Spokane. Reading it is not for the faint of heart. These are some bad dudes.

There are four other defendants in the murder case, all associates of Henrikson or Suckow, and they‘ve also apparently told all, judging from the contents of the document. I first wrote about this case in January 2014, (there are links to those stories here, here and here) just a month after Carlile was killed in his home, allegedly in an ambush by Suckow, although it’s obvious the word “allegedly” can go away in this case now that Suckow has told all.

Suckow has pleaded not guilty to the two murders, but it is likely that plea will change as his court date nears, based on the fact he has pretty much admitted to two murders in the employ of Henrikson. The price: $20,000 each.

The Clarke murder has puzzled authorities for more than three years. Here’s how it happened, according to the court documents that are based on testimony from Suckow and the other witnesses and defendants in the case:

Henrikson was operating a trucking and oilfield business on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation under arrangement with then-Tribal Chairman Tex Hall. Henrikson suspected Clarke was about to leave his firm and start his own trucking business and take some customers with him, so he brought Suckow in from Washington to kill Clarke.

On the morning of February 22, 2012, Henrikson and two of his employees lured Clarke to the Henrikson’s shop, which may have been owned by Hall and leased to Henrikson — the documents are not clear on that, but they’re clear on the fact the shop was on the reservation — and, while two of Henrikson’s employees stood guard outside the door of the shop to make sure no one could get in, Henrikson distracted Clarke and Suckow bashed in Clarke’s head with the handle of a floor jack, hitting him four times in the head “until the last hit apparently crushed the skull (Suckow stated that Clark’s head got soft with the last hit).”

Then they put Clarke’s body in a large box, loaded the box in the back of a truck and, along with another Henrikson employee named George Dennis, who has not been indicted, they drove both the truck and Clarke’s pickup to Watford City, where they left Clarke’s vehicle. They went to a hardware store and bought two shovels, and drove to a place the document calls “Badlands State Park,” where Suckow says he spent about seven hours digging a grave, with Henrikson standing over him with a gun and Dennis waiting in the pickup, and they buried Clarke’s body.

Now, there’s no such place as “Badlands State Park,” but there are two parks in the Bad Lands reasonably close to Watford City — the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, about 15 miles south of town, and Little Missouri State Park, about 40 miles east.

I have asked the state and national parks people if they have been involved in any of the investigation, and both said no.

Wendy Ross, Theodore Roosevelt National Park Superintendent, said “I imagine that there would be something we would have heard about this officially if there were investigations occurring on park land.”

Jesse Hanson with North Dakota State Parks said there hasn’t been any digging — searching for a body — in Little Missouri State Park, that he’s aware of, and if there was, he’d surely know about it.

The document says the body was buried about 5 feet deep in a sitting position, and after that was done — by this time it was pretty late at night — they  all went back to Watford City, got Clarke’s pickup and drove it to Williston, where they abandoned it on a back street with the keys in the ignition, hoping someone would steal it.

Not long after that, Clarke’s family reported him missing. Speculation quickly turned to Henrikson, but no evidence surfaced, and Henrikson’s employees (who have not been charged as accomplices — yet) kept their silence about the events of Feb. 22. Publicly, it remained a mystery until the judge in Spokane released this document last week. Now, we know the story has apparently been told by witnesses. What remains is to find the grave.

Henrikson’s employee, George Dennis, who drove the truck to the park, has apparently told the story to investigators and should know at least which park they went to. It’s not clear in the document whether investigators have gone looking for the grave. I’m guessing they want to find the body to help with the case against Henrikson and Suckow.

Fast forward almost two years to December 2013. Somebody else pissed Henrikson off, a business partner named Doug Carlile in Spokane. According to the document, Suckow killed him, too. Shot him six times in his own home. But he bungled the job, left behind some evidence and didn’t count on surveillance cameras at neighbors’ houses and schools and convenience stores.  Police nailed him within a few days, based on DNA evidence found in a glove he left behind.

Carlile had been nervous about Henrikson, to the point he told family members, “If I disappear or wake up with bullets in my back, promise me you will let everyone know that James Henrikson did it.”

Good police work tied Henrikson to Suckow after he was arrested. They found Henrikson’s phone number in Suckow’s phone, and put two and two together. Henrikson denied any involvement, but everyone suspected a connection, to the point where, a few months later, North Dakota U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon saw to it that Henrikson was arrested in North Dakota on weapons charges — a felon in possession of firearms — to make sure he didn’t fly the coop.

Eventually, after Suckow and the others started talking, the charge was changed to murder. That was last October. Henrikson was moved from a jail in North Dakota to Washington, although news reports last week said that he had planned an elaborate escape, offering a fellow inmate $500,000 to put together a team to ambush on a van which was taking Henrikson to a courthouse for a hearing. The inmate ratted Henrikson out, and no escape attempt was made.

If you like reading legal documents, here’s a copy of the indictment of the six defendants.

So, here’s how it stands today.

Tex Hall is free, although he is no longer tribal chairman, having lost an election in the middle of all this. Apparently he is, or was, rich, though, because he has accused Henrikson and his former wife of bilking him out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. And he remains forever connected to Henrikson because his girlfriend’s daughter (it’s not clear whether she is Hall’s daughter as well) bore Henrikson’s child from an illicit affair during the two men’s business relationship.

Henrikson is in jail in Spokane and will probably never set foot free again, even though he never pulled a trigger. He paid people to do that for him.  In addition to the murder charges, he has been charged for his heroin distribution operation, a little (actually not so little) sideline business he ran in western North Dakota when the trucking business got slow. It looks like lots of people are going to testify against him. His trial is set for sometime in October.

Suckow and the other four defendants who helped him on one or the other of the murders are in jail. Suckow pulled the trigger. He’ll go to jail for a good long while, in spite of a probable plea deal. His assistants will likely do time as well.

K.C. Clarke is still missing. There’s a $10,000 reward for information leading to his discovery — dead or alive, I think. K.C.’s mom has maintained a Facebook page all these years, with not much to report. Yesterday, she was finally able to put the Spokesman-Review story on the page for her more than 7,500 followers to read. She’s hoping authorities will now be able to find her son.

At least six men, including Jed McClure of Chicago, Tim Scott and Jay Wright of Washington state, Ray Olness of Arizona and Tex Hall and Steven Kelly of the Fort Berthold Reservation, are alive, despite efforts by Henrikson to have them killed. Henrikson is charged with conspiracy to murder three of them.

The story has caught the attention of the news media in Spokane and New York, but not much in Bismarck or North Dakota. The Spokane Spokesman-Review has provided ongoing coverage of the whole affair, and their reporter, Kip Hill, has been kind enough to share some of the court documents with me. Hill’s lengthy story on Sunday prompted me to revisit this case. He also wrote this story about the planned jail escape Henrikson was planning, as well as a fascinating account of how detectives use cell phone tracking to put together a criminal case. The New York Times published the most comprehensive story to date, accompanied by a well-produced 18-minute documentary news story, last winter. The story is worth reading, and the video is worth watching, if you want to see what good journalism looks like.

Meanwhile, I’m going to try to track down the efforts to find Clarke’s grave in those Bad Lands parks.  I go to those parks and if there’s a body buried there, I want it out of there.

Leave a Reply