Three men sentenced to prison for murder of Doug Carlile

SPOKANE, Wash.- On Friday three of the six men convicted in gunning down a Spokane Grandfather, in his own home as he returned from church, learned just how long they'll spend behind bars.

Sentencing Day

It happened the evening of a cold December Sunday. Prosecutors say Doug Carlile and his wife Elberta were returning to their home at 25th and Garfield on Spokane's South Hill. What they didn't know was that Timothy Suckow was hiding behind their kitchen door, and as they entered, Suckow fired.

Prosecutors say, and a jury agreed, that James Henrikson agreed to pay Suckow to murder Carlile.

Suckow was sentenced to 30 years in prison. In Federal Court Friday, he begged forgiveness from Carlile's widow. The Spokesman Review reporter Kip Hill was in court to witness the exchange. He says Suckow, sobbing, told Elberta "I remember that night."

"I know," Elberta responded. "I looked you in the eye."

Two more men were sentenced Friday. Getaway driver Robbie Wahrer got 10 years in federal prison, and Lazaro Pesina, who was prepared to break into the Carlile's home with Suckow, but ultimately didn't, got 12 years.

A Federal Judge rejected a plea deal Rob Delao reached with prosecutors when he agreed to testify against Henrikson. Ultimately, the judge said the sentence of 14-17 years in prison wasn't enough. He said he was mulling a 30-year sentence for Delao, based on his past criminal history. Delao's attorney asked for more time to consider whether to withdraw the plea-deal and go to trial.

James Henrikson and Todd Bates will be sentenced Tuesday, May 24. Henrikson, who was ruled guilty in both Doug Carlile's murder and a second murder in North Dakota, faces life in prison. Todd Bates' attorney has said that Henrikson's "enforcer" will go to trial, making him the lone standout. Henrikson's tight-knit group of friends and associates, not so tight after all, quickly turning government witness and agreeing to testify against their former "boss" to ease their own sentences. Now the question remains: how did we get here?

James Henrikson, aka "The Boss"

Doug Carlile's murder began unraveling in the middle of 2014. Prosecutors had always believed that Henrikson had something to do with it. In the weeks leading up to his death Carlile told friends and family that if something happened to him, if he got hurt or killed or disappeared, James Henrikson would be behind it. From the get-go prosecutors thought Henrikson masterminded the entire murder, but it took months to gather enough evidence to arrest him.

After his arrest, the dominoes began falling on other people that Henrikson had pulled into his chaos vortex. Henrikson's life was a strange one. He began as a small-time criminal, but with his good looks and easy charm, he quickly talked his way into bigger schemes. He started a contracting company but instead of paying his employees, he took the money and split.

As an example of Henrikson's life during this tumultuous time, look no further than his venture in a town on the Texas-Mexico border. Prosecutors say Henrikson, and several others, bought a pillmaking machine and planned to use heroin to make a oxycontin-like pill. Henrikson actually managed to get his hands on eight ounces of heroin, and made the pills, however, prosecutors say, the pills weren't bound correctly, and couldn't be used. Most of the pills were ultimately wasted. Then, prosecutors say, his pill-making machine was stolen and Henrikson planned to kill the person who stole that machine.

A decade of false identities, building criminal enterprises, and running away with stolen money, finally landed Henrikson in the oilfields of North Dakota, a place that attracted a certain kind of element. There were, and are, still many good, honest, hard-working people in North Dakota working the oilfields. But at that time, when the oil business was just starting to bloom there, many saw it as easy money for little work.It was the new Wild, Wild West, where money came fast and any rules that were in place were never enforced.

Henrikson met a Native American Chief, Tex Hall, who took Henrikson under his wing and helped him start a trucking company in North Dakota. Things were going well, but that was never enough for James Henrikson. Prosecutors say although his trucking company was flourishing and he was making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, Henrikson soon began withholding money from contract workers he hired. He developed a reputation as someone who wouldn't pay. For a while it looked like his time in North Dakota would end as quickly as it started, then the deal of a lifetime came along.

It came in the form of a 640 plot of land sitting on top of potentially billions of dollars worth of oil. A neighboring piece of property was turning a $250,000 profit per day. Carlile and Henrikson agreed to go in on the land together and for a very short time all was good in Henrikson's world. But things turned south very quickly.

The Tangled Web

It started with the mother of a man named K.C. Clarke, who vanished without a trace in early 2012. Jill Williams blamed Henrikson for her son's disappearance, an accusation Henrikson flatly denied. Clarke worked as a driver for one of Henrikson's trucking companies. Williams began a Facebook campaign and would tell anyone who asked that Henrikson was directly responsible for her son's disappearance. Henrikson went so far as to file a defamation lawsuit against Williams, saying her accusations were costing him business deals.

But prosecutors, and again, a jury, disagreed with Henrikson. Evidence would later show that Clarke and Henrikson had a falling out, and, prosecutors say, Clarke planned to open a competing trucking business. Suckow said, at the request of Henrikson, he murdered K.C. Clarke and buried his body in a nearby park, although Clarke's body has still not been found. The sum, once again, was $20,000 paid in two $10,000 transactions.

But by the summer of 2013, Henrikson's shady past was catching up with him. The IRS and Homeland Security were investigating wire fraud and money laundering accusations against Henrikson. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms would also join the investigation.

By the end of 2013, as his life and business dealings were falling apart, Henrikson turned his anger squarely on Doug Carlile. He visited Carlile's family and demanded $400,000, Henrikson said Doug Carlile owed him, although there was never any evidence that was the case. Both men began trying to cut the other out of the drilling deal, even as their finances threatened to disappear.

Soon, prosecutors say, Henrikson began to believe that Carlile was the only thing standing in the way of him and the billions of dollars of oil under that 640-acre plot of land.

The Murder-for-Hire Plot

On the night of December 15th Doug and his wife came home from church around 7pm. They walked through their back door, into their kitchen. Elberta went upstairs, then heard voices from the kitchen. She came back downstairs to see a man dressed in black, with a face mask, pointing a large handgun at her husband. She ran back upstairs, grabbed a phone and called 911. As she ran, she heard five or six shots ring out behind her.

The gunman, later identified as Timothy Suckow, ran from the home as Doug Carlile lay dying alone in kitchen. Elberta was upstairs, hiding in a closet, on the phone with 911. Neighbors would recall seeing a white van idling nearby, and police found a black glove in the Carlile's backyard, which would ultimately prove to undo Suckow's careful planning.

Prosecutors believe this was actually Suckow's second attempt to kill Doug Carlile. Several weeks before, prosecutors say Suckow went to Carlile's home with the intention of killing the man. But that weekend Doug Carlile was in Moses Lake watching his grandchildren. Prosecutors say Suckow never actually got the money for murdering Doug Carlile. They say he was arrested the day before the payment was supposed to come in. They say Suckow had been asking about the payment, as it was nearing Christmas and he said he needed cash to buy some gifts.

The Investigation

On January 14, federal agents, convinced Henrikson had something to do with Carlile's death, raided his home in North Dakota. They found a weapons cache inside and quickly arrested Henrikson on charges of possessing a weapons as a felon.

At the same time, Spokane police were closing in on Timothy Suckow. Using the glove left behind at the Carlile's they were able to get a DNA match with Suckow. At that time Suckow lived in Spokane Valley and worked at IRS Environmental, an asbestos and lead-removal company. During a search of Suckow's work truck they found a hand-written list with entries like "glove", "wheel man", "wipe tools down", and "practice with pistol." Suckow was arrested and charged with First-Degree-Murder

In April, Spokane police said Suckow wasn't alone the night he killed Carlile. They say Robbie Wahrer was driving the getaway vehicle, and they arrested Wahrer as well. Now three men were in jail, although any ties Henrikson had with Doug Carlile's murder were tenuous.

That changed with the arrest of three more men: Lazaro Pesina, Todd Bates, and Rob Delao. It's Delao who really tied the pieces together for prosecutors. Delao and Henrikson were longtime associates. In sworn testimony, Delao said his initial interactions with Henrikson were to get him heroin. Delao didn't come through, and put Henrikson in touch with a man named Todd Bates. More on him later. Despite Delao's failure to get the heroin, the two men stayed in touch. Delao is from Spokane and has a lengthy criminal history in the Lilac City, that includes manslaughter and drug charges.

Delao described himself in court as eventually becoming Henrikson's right-hand-man. Whatever Henrikson needed, Delao would either get it for him, or find someone who could. That kind of "good soldier" attitude, prosecutors say, is how they ultimately tied Henrikson to Carlile's murder.

Delao lived in North Dakota, but had a girlfriend and child in Spokane, so he visited regularly. Through his criminal connections, Delao became friendly with a man named Todd Bates. Delao introduced Bates to Henrikson and Bates would soon become Henrikson's "enforcer"; hired muscle that would beat up or intimidate people who were causing Henrikson problems. Bates is also from Spokane, and, once again, has an extensive criminal background. Detectives discovered that Todd Bates and Timothy Suckow spent time in prison together, and remained friendly.

And that was the connection they needed to tie Henrikson to Carlile's murder.

The Case Revealed

Prosecutors say the road to Doug Carlile's murder ran through K.C. Clarke. They say Henrikson needed Clarke to vanish. So he contacted his right-hand-man Rob Delao to make that happen. Delao then contacted Todd Bates, who in turn contacted Timothy Suckow. Suckow drove out to North Dakota and murdered Clarke, problem solved.

So when Henrikson's business relationship with Doug Carlile began deteriorating and he needed another vanish job, he knew just what to do. Henrikson reached out once again to Delao, Delao to Bates, and Bates again to Suckow. Suckow got $20,000 to murder K.C. Clarke and was promised the same to murder Doug Carlile. Suckow said Delao described the Carlile hit in text as "local and easy." But Suckow didn't want to do this one alone, so he promised some of that money to Lazaro Pisana and Robbie Wahrer for their help. Both Pisano and Wahrer say they didn't know murder was on the table. They say Suckow told them he needed Wahrer to drive them to the Carlile's South Hill home so that he and Pisano could commit a home invasion burglary. Wahrer waited in Suckow's borrowed work-van. Pisano, went with Suckow to the home, but didn't take part in Doug Carlile's murder. Still, after the murder he ran away with Suckow back to the van and the three men took off. Pisano may not have played an active role in Carlile's death, but he didn't try to stop it either.

The Aftermath

The trials took bizarre twists on the way to the convicted's sentencing dates: James Henrikson was moved from the Spokane County Jail to the Yakima County Jail because of an escape attempt, plea deals were reached and then backed away from, the trials for all the murder-for-hire arrestees was moved to the Tri-Cities because of concerns that Spokane jurors knew too much about the case and wouldn't be unbiased.

The murder-for-hire plot that captivated and terrified the country has now almost come to an end. And yet: while he widow Carlile has faced the man who pulled the trigger and killed her husband for a final time, she still has to face the man who built the gun.

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