A Famous Unsolved Murder

Welcome back. As the 49th anniversary of the most famous unsolved murder in the southwest approaches for those of you too young to remember here is a summary of the events that occurred on September 26, 1970. According to the information I dug up at the library, the Mullendore’s Cross Bell brand was on land spread across the country totaling close to three hundred and seventy-five thousand acres. In the early days they were shipping cattle to the Kansas City stockyards by the trainload from their own shipping pens near Hulah Lake in northeast Oklahoma. This ranching empire had started with the Cherokee Strip Land Run of 1893 and by the late 1960s had grown to include not only the breeding of prize-winning cattle and horses but also investments in banks and oil, even an interest in the New Orleans Saints football team. Whenever they brought their cattle to the Kansas City market, the family’s headquarters was always at the famous Mulenbach Hotel. Frequented by Presidents and movie stars, the hotel was considered to be the premiere place to stay in the city. The Mullendores always stayed in the finest accommodations wherever they traveled and life was grand. In his later years however, the elder Mullendore Gene was in poor health and struggled with the responsibility of ruining the massive empire that the Tulsa Tribune had called the largest business run by one man in America. Failing eyesight and diabetes forced him to delegate more and more of the workload to his two children. Katsy Kay had married Houston oilman John Mecom and made her home there. Although they had interests around the world, their headquarters and the Mullendore family home were located on the Cross Bell Ranch outside of Bartlesville so the day to day running of the ranch was passed on to her brother E.C. Mullendore III. He had been brought up there, he knew cattle and also land management.

As a student at the University of Oklahoma, E.C. often brought his fraternity brothers home to the ranch to hunt and fish and he knew the entire property like the back of his hand. At the time of his tragic death E.C. had a wife and four children. Soon the ranch and many of the other businesses he was involved were in turmoil but he had been prepared for an emergency. He had taken out the largest life insurance policy ever written in the United States. Now 49 years later questions still linger about this case. Did the insurance company pay up and who got the money? What about the ranch? Is it still there and how big is it now?

Most of the characters are gone now. Gene died of gangrene poisoning three years after his son was killed. His wife Kathleen lived on but she, as well as most of the cowboys and other people who worked on the ranch at the time have also died. One of the last people to see E.C. alive, Rubyane Surritte lives in Bartlesville. Bill Hall who was the newly elected D.A. in 1970 is retired and runs an antique business just south of Ramona, Oklahoma. George Wayman, the sheriff in charge of the case, is in his 90s and lives in Fairfax, Oklahoma. Wayman claims he has always known what happened that cold, wet night in September but has never had enough proof.

Next week a forgotten crime in Osage County; a laundromat, a purse and a missing teenage girl. Till next time I’ll see ya down the road……