John Stucke | Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.)
Wearing leg shackles and an orange jumpsuit, James T. Henrikson pleaded not guilty Friday to hiring a hit man to kill two people over business dealings in North Dakota’s booming oil patch.
Federal prosecutors may pursue a death penalty case against Henrikson, who is accused in an 11-count murder-for-hire case of ordering the contract killing of South Hill businessman Doug Carlile in December.
Five other men were indicted on similar charges Wednesday, including suspected triggerman Timothy Suckow, of Spokane Valley.
At the center of the case is Henrikson, an opportunist with plans to get rich in the wide-open Bakken oil fields using intimidation and murder, according to court records and police documents.
He came under immediate suspicion in Carlile’s murder, according to authorities, when family and business associates told investigators of their strained financial ties over oil drilling.
Spokane police called Henrikson within hours of the killing, according to documents. Henrikson told investigators he was angry with Carlile regarding a $2 million debt, but denied any role in the fatal shooting that rattled neighbors and sent dozens of police scouring the area for suspects and clues.
Surveillance video from a neighbor helped identify the getaway van, which turned out to be a work vehicle tied to Suckow, according to police.
The FBI arrested Henrikson in January 2013 on a felon in possession of firearms charge. Those charges were used to hold him while investigators built their murder case.
In addition to the Carlile hit, Henrikson is accused of paying Suckow to kill Kristopher “K.C.” Clarke, a 30-year-old employee of Henrikson in the Bakken oilfields.
Clarke’s body has not been found.
According to the indictment, Henrikson also hired men to kill Jay Wright and Tim Scott of Washington state, and Jed McClure in Illinois. None of those men was killed.
During Henrikson’s brief court appearance in U.S. District Court, he chatted with a defense attorney and averted eye contact with members of Carlile’s family, including his wife and two adult sons.
The family declined to comment on the case.