RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) — Jury selection started Monday in the trial of a man accused of hiring a hit man to kill a Washington state businessman in a dispute over business dealings in the North Dakota oil patch.
James Henrikson's federal trial was moved from Spokane to Richland because of extensive publicity over the 2013 shooting death of Doug Carlile at his upscale home.
Henrikson, 36, faces charges that include murder for hire and has pleaded not guilty after withdrawing a guilty plea in November in the wake of a certain life sentence. The trial is expected to be lengthy, with prosecutors planning to call 58 witnesses.
Henrikson had acknowledged in September in federal court that he ordered the deaths of Carlile and Kristopher Clarke, associates tied to North Dakota's oil-field business. Henrikson said he employed Timothy Suckow as the hit man both times.
Suckow has pleaded guilty to two counts of murder-for-hire in exchange for a sentence of 30 years in prison, and he was expected to testify against Henrikson.
Henrikson acknowledged in court that Clarke was killed in February 2012, bludgeoned to death by Suckow in Henrikson's North Dakota truck shop. His body has never been found.
Carlile was shot and killed while his wife hid in an upstairs bedroom closet on Dec. 15, 2013. Spokane detectives called Henrikson that night and questioned him, based on statements by Carlile's sons that Carlile feared his business partner might turn violent.
Henrikson initially denied involvement, but he told police that Carlile, a self-employed contractor, owed him nearly $2 million.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aine Ahmed has said that the investigation revealed no evidence that Carlile had taken money from Henrikson.
Mark Vovos, an attorney for Henrikson, did not return a telephone call seeking comment Monday. Vovos has complained about the extensive publicity in the case, much of which described Henrikson as the "mastermind" of the murder-for-hire scheme.