David Wheeler’s Statement at Whitey Bulger Sentencing

By now I am sure that everyone knows James “Whitey” Bulger was convicted of the murder of Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler as well as many others. Last Wednesday his son David Wheeler gave a victim’s impact statement during the sentencing hearing for Bulger. Every person in the courtroom learned what the Wheeler family went through and David’s statement was so powerful it left many shocked and upset.

After I talked with David inside the federal courthouse in Boston, he agreed to give me a copy of his statement.

As he says, this is not the end of the story …

Remarks to the Court

U.S. District Judge Denise Casper United States v. James Bulger: Sentencing

Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013

Your Honor:

My name is David Wheeler. I am the son of Patricia Wheeler and the late Roger M. Wheeler, of Tulsa OK.

Here’s my father, right here: [Show enlarged photo to the entire courtroom].

My mother, I am pleased to say, is still alive; my father, Roger Wheeler, is long dead. He was murdered in cold blood, sitting in his automobile after a round of golf, more than a thousand miles from this courtroom. He was fifty four years old.

He was murdered on the orders of this man [point] James Bulger.

My sister, Pamela Norberg Wheeler, appeared in this Court last summer, to give testimony on behalf of the prosecution. My brothers, Roger Jr. and Larry, and I survive another brother, Mark. My wife, Laurie is in the next courtroom over. I cannot begin to describe how much I owe Laurie, for her love and support through this. Our son, Steven, is here also, with his wife, Meg, and his cousin — Roger, Jr.’s son — Clark.

Unable to join us today is Michael Huff, recently retired Tulsa Police Department Homicide Detective; Mike was the first detective to arrive at Tulsa’s Southern Hills Country Club, on a Wednesday afternoon, back in May, 1981. Mike’s dogged determination to find the truth over the years, has earned him my everlasting thanks and respect. What Mike saw there, in the parking lot next to the swimming pool, was unimaginable; horrifying, to everybody but this [point] man;

This man wanted my father dead.

What has been uncovered in the years since, about the utterly corrupt, insular world that was the Boston Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is — if possible — even more horrifying, more grotesque, particularly to those of us, such as my family and I, who once trusted federal law enforcement.

My father joined the Navy during WW II and later met my mother, then a student nurse from Kansas, at an ROTC tea dance. The jukebox had broken down, and my mother asked him to fix it. A year later, they were married.

After the war, my father found work in the Venezuelan oil fields, where he learned that pipelines can be kept free of rust and leaks by attaching an anode of magnesium metal. The magnesium anode rusts instead of the pipe. My dad came back to America and started a business melting down magnesium leftovers from the war to make magnesium anodes for oil pipelines.

My father wasn’t much for watching television; the time spent with us kids was mainly reserved for the out of doors: Hiking, water skiing; fishing — one day we caught the same fish, on separate hooks! — and working together, outside. But there was one television program we wouldn’t miss; we’d watch it together: it was called — “The FBI.”

One time, Dad’s magnesium plant caught fire. I was eight years old. I went with him as he raced to save his business, our livelihood. The firemen had just arrived, and were unraveling their hoses. Dad reminded the chief that spraying water on a magnesium fire is just like throwing gasoline on a paper fire. It’s the last thing you want to do.

I watched from across the street as Dad and some of his workers raced through the gates and into the plant. I watched as Dad came up to two firemen preparing to start spraying a big hose; they refused to listen to his loud, urgent warnings. Dad stole their firehose. That was my Dad; he was my hero.

He had unlimited energy, and with some luck and lots of determination, he became an extraordinarily successful businessman.

My father’s fatal mistake proved to be his faith in the FBI. He invested millions to buy World Jai Alai, a fast moving, indoor sport imported from the Basque region of Spain. Like horse racing, it featured wagering. He purchased World Jai Alai because he thought it was a growing sport, and a smart investment, but mostly because a team of retired FBI agents, led by former agent H. Paul Rico, assured him that they would protect his business and “keep it clean.”

I was working at World Jai Alai, in Florida, at the time of Dad’s murder. I was beginning to learn firsthand that the business was anything but clean. On the frantic flight home to Tulsa that terrible day, I concluded that Rico had to be involved in the killing. But, with my strong belief in American justice, I was confident that we would quickly catch Rico and his criminal associates. Sadly, my faith in the American government was misplaced. Even today’s proceedings do not mark the end of my odyssey.

Thirty-two years have passed since John Martorano, the hit man for FBI informants — one of them seated right here — came up to my father, seated in his car, and without a word, shot him between the eyes.

This man then shot and killed Brian Halloran.

Martorano — again at the direction of this man — then shot John Callahan, the former president of WJA, all to silence them from telling about my father’s murder.

How many others were involved, in these and other FBI informant murders? Who else at the Bureau knew about these secret relationships with these vicious criminals, but turned away, said nothing, as others were murdered? Did any Supervisors or other agents care to ask any questions, connect the few, simple dots between these murders and their own informants?

How could the FBI pretend to investigate itself, give itself a clean bill of health and then just a year later bring criminal charges against John Connolly, Whitey Bulger and Steve Flemmi?

Where was the Justice Department in all of this? Was there no oversight at all?

My family and the families of many other victims of this [point] man were victimized by the FBI — in at least three ways:

In our case, the first was, of course, my father’s cold-blooded, pointblank murder.

The second was when the FBI repeatedly abused its unchecked powers over the decades that followed. It did this by routinely denying the existence of any special relationship with this [point] man or his partner, Mr. Flemmi; and by routinely lying to the public, to family survivors, and other law enforcement officers — such as Detective Huff — all to conceal its own gross institutional misconduct.

It used its powers to plant, destroy, and withhold evidence. It stood by, watching, did nothing as three men were murdered to keep my father’s murder from being solved.

The third time my family was victimized, came at the hands of our own Department of Justice: How misleading is that — Department of Justice.

This third came in the course of my family’s federal legal case against the FBI for its role in my father’s wrongful death. When my family turned to the federal courts to compel formal answers to serious questions of institutional corruption, the FBI, counseled by its lawyers from the Justice Department in Washington D.C. — NOT the prosecutors who tried the case before your Honor — did not and could not deny the facts;

Rather, the lawyers from Washington argued that we were at fault: That we were late in bringing any claims for the FBI’s role in my father’s murder.

Our lives had been shattered, devastated — and we were to blame!

The FBI and the Justice Department believed that they could have it both ways: They believed FIRST that they could avoid any legal responsibility to my family by resorting to the technical defense of statute of limitations; and SECOND, that they could keep the public from ever learning its role in the murder of my father, the CEO of a public company and an American citizen.

To claim the statute of limitations had expired, however, the FBI had to first confess responsibility; that’s the way a statute of limitations defense operates. If a party says it did nothing wrong, it stands to reason, the limitations clock can’t start ticking!

The government also believed that it could keep the public from learning about their admission of guilt, or responsibility by burying it deep in some legal brief, where only a judge would read it.

As it turns out, the government was only half correct: As for the FIRST part, the FBI did win —

It did avoid having to answer to my family and the American public, in open court;

The Court did accept the government’s claim that my family was at fault, for moving too slow, and dismissed our case:

So, the FBI won the FIRST round …. But they won’t win the SECOND:

Everyone within the sound of my voice should understand this — That the FBI — entrusted with the greatest law enforcement powers and authority in the nation — is responsible for my father’s murder: They are as responsible for that murder as this defendant sitting here before you.

And that’s not just my opinion; that’s coming from the FBI itself! …

Here’s how the Justice Department confessed responsibility, in a court filing:

And I quote —

“The record establishes that by this date — a reasonable person would have had sufficient facts to form a belief that the FBI bore some responsibility for both the death of Roger Wheeler and the subsequent cover-up. “

Sadly, until right now — this moment — almost nobody knew that the FBI had admitted responsibility for its role in my father’s murder and the agency-wide cover-up that followed.

This official acknowledgment of responsibility appears in no FBI or Justice Department press release or any government website. No government official ever conveyed this to me or any member of my family, in person or by letter, much less made apology for it.

We tried for years for an opportunity to uncover the facts, to establish this responsibility, to call the government formally to answer, to account in a public forum.

It arrogantly refused; it sought only to protect itself and the names and all important careers of its agents and officials.


When the time came to stand up and answer for the many horrific crimes of its own making — including my father’s murder — the FBI, through its lawyers in the so-called Justice Department, didn’t hesitate to hide behind this technical dodge.

It whispered its responsibility, to a federal judge, only so it wouldn’t have to answer to me, my family, and the American public.

Shame on you, Mr. Bulger, but for all your notoriety, you are a punk and don’t even matter anymore: you have turned from government-sponsored assassin into a bag of jailhouse rags waiting to be stored on cold steel. Enjoy your retirement.

Greater shame on all of those who helped you — whether FBI or private citizens — while you were on the run; those who tried to protect you from seeing this day.

Greatest shame of all on the FBI, and in particular, those agents and officials who violated their sacred oaths, who defrauded the special trust of the American people.

My family and I have nothing but contempt for you.

Ocean Spray Cranberry: An American Classic

I have moved on to NYC but will be bringing you an exciting exclusive from my visit to Boston shortly. In the meantime I hope you enjoy my tour of Ocean Spray.

Welcome back. I am currently in Boston covering Whitey Bulger’s sentencing which I’ll get to in a bit but on the way I ran into another interesting story. The headquarters of Ocean Spray Cranberry is just outside of Boston and every autumn the bogs near their building are flooded with 8 inches of water and the next day the cranberries are harvested from the surface of the water.

I’m sure you’ve seen the TV commercial with the two Ocean Spray workers standing knee deep in cranberries. Well that’s where I was yesterday. So what is a bog you may ask. I learned from the company’s website that it is a soft marshy area with highly acidic peat soil. The cranberries grow on long runner vines and when the bog is flooded they float to the surface because they have small pockets of air in them. The growers use a tool called a water reel or eggbeater to loosen the berries from the vines. Then the berries are  corralled together and loaded into trucks which take them to factories where they are cleaned and packaged for grocery stores. This is called “wet harvesting.”

“Dry harvesting” is different because the growers use a mechanical picker that looks like a lawnmower to loosen the berries. The picker has metal teeth that comb the berries off the vines and deposits them in burlap sacks. This whole process from growing to harvest was quite interesting and totally new to me and after further research I found that the commercial cranberry business itself is not that old. Ocean Spray was founded in 1930 by three men who loved cranberries and wanted to sell them across the country. Now 83 years later there are over 700 growers all over North America providing cranberries to the company. But it’s not just about cranberries anymore. Beginning in 1963 with the introduction of Cran-Apple juice the company began branching out to include red grapefruit juices and dried cranberries for breakfast bars, cereals and snacks. The plant I visited was a lot of fun and they welcome visitors so if you’re in the area I recommend a visit and a healthy fresh made drink.

With that visit behind me, as you read today’s paper I’m sitting in the Boston federal courthouse just feet from James Whitey Bulger. I am sitting next to Steve Davis who Whitey basically referred to as a dead man in a letter sent from federal lock-up a couple of weeks ago. I caught up with Steve yesterday and he does not seem to be worried even though his brother Ronnie Davis was stabbed to death in 1981 and his sister Debbie was strangled by the gang and put in an unmarked grave where she was later discovered. Steve’s other sister Michelle also ran into trouble with the Winter Hill gang that Whitey ran when she was raped as a teenager by confessed multi murderer Stephen “the Rifleman” Flemmi.  Michelle later committed suicide. Flemmi and John Martorano were convicted of killing Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler who was shot in 1981.

Although the judge has ruled that a representative of each of the eleven murder victim’s families will have an opportunity to speak directly to Whitey today and tomorrow, Steve will not be one of them. However I anticipate that he will have his say one way or another. As for me, I have gone through official channels and have asked Whitey’s lawyer personally for the opportunity to interview Whitey but I won’t know what will happen until later today. Stay tuned for that!

I am also hoping to speak with John Martorano who after confessing to twenty murders in a plea deal and spending fourteen years in prison is a now a free man living in Boston .Sparks flew when Martorano testified against Whitey during the trial and I anticipate that he will be at the sentencing to see his old friend off.

Steve Davis, Whitey Bulger, John Martorano and more, then next week it’s on to New York City. Till then I’ll see ya down the road…..









Dale Kurht: When Will the Mystery Be Solved?

Another profile of a man I was lucky to know…

Welcome back. This week after all the comments I received about my story regarding the passing of Paul Kelly, I thought I’d start off with a profile of the man who was Paul’s boss and the overall all manager of both the farming operation and cattle production on the Cross Bell Ranch back in 1970.

I tracked Dale Kurht down in 2007 when he was living in retirement and training stock dogs in Arkansas. After I had visited with him several times, out of the blue he produced a large cardboard box filled with files and photographs documenting the time he had spent on the Mullendores’ ranch.

As we looked through all of these materials, Dale told me that he had been hired in 1969 by E.C. Mullendore to help run the ranch. From the way he described it he had plenty of experience for the job.  He came from four generations of farmers and ranchers and his great-grandfather had homesteaded the land Dale was born on. Dale was also a member of the American Hereford Association and a long time 4-H judge. He was managing the Codding Cattle Research Station near Foraker, Oklahoma when E.C. contacted him about the position. He said that when he was hired he thought nothing could touch the Cross Bell Ranch where he had heard the Mullendores themselves were not even sure how much land they controlled. Dale had been moving up the ladder, managing one large ranch after another, each one bigger than the one before. He had also worked at several big spreads outside of Oklahoma including the Milky Way Hereford Ranch in Phoenix,the Lucky Ranch in Loyalton, California and the Baca Grant Ranch in Moffat, Colorado.

In his line of work Dale told me this was the ultimate-the top of the heap- and he jumped at the chance to go to work for the Mullendores.

Dale’s records indicated that there were thousands of head of cattle, hundreds of pigs and over fourteen hundred horses, a herd of Texas longhorns and several dozen free roaming bison on the Cross Bell. Another twenty-three race horses were stables in Louisiana. It took sixteen feed trucks, eighteen full time men and a string of day laborers to work on all the different parts of the ranch. There were ongoing improvements being made to all areas of the operation including the construction of two Honegger houses for birthing pigs. Each house could hold 480 pigs, tripling the size of the hog operation. New shipping pens were being built along with fifteen miles of new fencing each year, a new fed lot, six new barns and an irrigation system that took care of four hundred and fifty acres where alfalfa would be planted. With over a thousand miles of fencing and cross fencing to be maintained and constant repairs to ranch vehicles, dozens of tractors and other ranch equipment I was surprised to find out how big the operation really was even though I had heard about the Cross Bell Ranch my whole life.

Paul Kelly and Dale had stayed in contact in the years following the tragic murder of E.C. Mullendore in 1970. Although they lived in different states I would often drive to both places in the same day to visit with both men to confirm details about their time on the Cross Bell while fresh in my mind.

I mentioned in last week’s column that Paul had recently been questioned about E.C.’s murder and Dale was also interviewed by Osage County investigators the same week.

During a phone conversation which he allowed me to record as usual, Dale told me that the investigators had driven to his home in Arkansas twice and conducted several phone interviews as well. The questions they asked him were similar to the ones they had asked Paul and they indicated to Dale that the Mullendore murder was indeed solved. Unfortunately Dale died of heart failure not long after this conversation. Will this mystery ever be solved and why has it taken so long?  The answers to these questions rest with Osage County District Attorney Rex Duncan, a man with a reputation for seeing justice served.

Till next week I’ll see you down the road…..











1970Paul Kelly’s Tie To The Muellendore Ranch

Since this story appeared in the Examiner Enterprise I have had many inquiries from readers both locally and from around the country.

Welcome back. Over the past ten years I have included many biographies in this column, some of famous people that many of you may have heard of and just as many about people I have known personally and think have special stories. This is about a person who falls into the second category and who recently passed away.100_1320

I first met Paul Kelly in the summer of 2006. At just over 6 feet tall and about 180 pounds he was in excellent shape.  Easy going and frequently smiling, Paul had a disposition that reminded me of Andy Taylor from Mayberry in the old Andy Griffith TV show and from the beginning I found him extremely likeable. Paul had grown up in the small Osage County town of Grainola, Oklahoma which is northeast of Ponca City on the Kansas border. When he was a kid his mother worked as a cook on Boots Adams’ Foraker ranch which later became the Oklahoma Land and Cattle Company.

In 1969 Paul was 26 years old and had earned a degree in Animal Science from Oklahoma State University. In addition, growing up on a farm had given him plenty of practical experience in farming and livestock management. He had worked for several years at the Coddington Livestock Research Station before taking a position as a County Agent in Emporia and Chace counties in Kansas. This is where he was working when E.C. Mullendore III contacted him about running the farming operation on his massive Cross Bell Ranch. According to Paul “It was a good job and the Mullendores were good people to work for but it only lasted a year and a half.”

I knew from prior research that Paul had managed thousands of acres of farm land on the Cross Bell and had been responsible for all the men and machines required to make it productive. Over the course of several taped interviews Paul confirmed the details of his work on the ranch and what he thought was his small role in the dramatic events that took place there in 1970.

As an employee of the ranch he had been questioned in the initial investigation but heard nothing from law enforcement until 2010 when Osage County investigators asked him to come into the Sheriff’s office.  Paul told me that during this meeting he was questioned for over an hour regarding the murder of E.C. Mullendore. At the time the investigators told him that the case was solved and arrest warrants had been written which were awaiting a judge’s signature.

Paul had a good memory and gave me a thorough account of this meeting with investigators which was confirmed during my subsequent visit the next day to the sheriff’s office.

It was after that when I told Paul that I had been subpoenaed by the Attorney General to appear before a multi county Grand Jury looking into the murder. I had also received an unauthorized visit from one of the grand jury members who told me that they had never received any of the documents or tape recording that I had been ordered to release to them. This gentleman wanted to review my information hoping that the case could be finally closed and justice done. This contact between a jury member and a witness was way out of bounds but soon after Paul and I discussed it, he discovered he had cancer. Although we stayed in touch his health became far more important than the unsolved murder from decades before.

All of this makes interesting reading but this small piece of history about a good man’s departure from life certainly does not tell the whole story of Paul Kelly, a man who I wish I’d more time with.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road………