How the FBI caught the real ‘Flower Moon killers’

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Go back to 1924. Prohibition was in full swing.

With the FBI, then known as the Bureau of Investigation, struggling to find its footing, 29-year-old J. Edgar Hoover was appointed acting director.

And in rural Oklahoma, members of the Osage Indian Tribe had more money per capita than any other population in the United States.

The Osage, who were moved from Kansas to 2,300 square miles of barren central Oklahoma, sat on oil slicks.

Black gold was mined from oil wells, Osage men fired the latest Pierce Arrows, women drilled diamonds and families employed white servants.

Now a new film from Martin Scorsese, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” tells the story of how the tribe’s astonishing wealth merged with jealousy, greed — and a mass murder plot involving shootings and poison injections.

Big bucks from oilmen meant there was no shortage of fancy whips on the Osage Reservation.
Courtesy of the Osage Nation Museum/From the collection of Raymond Red Corn
In “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Jayne Collins, Lily Gladstone, Carrie Jade Myers and Jillian Dion play the Ossange sisters at the center of a murder plot to obtain their family’s fortune.
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Scorsese’s film, which first premiered at Cannes in June and in theaters Friday night, will be on AppleTV+. It stars Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio.
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The film, which cost $200 million to release in theaters on Friday and will later stream on AppleTV+, stars Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons and John Lithgow.

It is based on the book, “Killer of flower moon,by David Grann, which describes how the Osage became victims of a series of murders.

One was killed with poisoned whiskey (there may have been more), others were shot, and the home of Bill and Rita Smith, a white man married to an Osage woman, was blown up.

Bill and Rita Smith’s house before it was blown up.
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And after that it was blown up. William King Hale was the mastermind who planned the deadly explosion.
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The pure greed of it all became evident when William King Hale (often referred to as King), a wealthy cattleman who had considerable influence over Native Americans and whites alike, bequeathed $25,000 to a man named Osage. Took a dollar life insurance policy. Henry Roan.

A doctor examining Roan for the policy asked Hale if he planned to kill Roan. “Hell, yes,” Hale replied.

To some people’s surprise, in February 1923, Roan was found shot in an automobile. This was the latest murder in a series of Osage people committed by Hale in what would become known as his Reign of Terror.

William King Hale was a crooked cattleman who conspired to kill members of the Osage tribe and reap huge profits in oil royalties.
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The new Scorsese film “Killers of the Flower Moon” stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone as married couple Ernest and Molly Burkhart. Based on real-life events, it chronicles Ernest’s attempts to slowly kill Mollie and seize her oil inheritance.
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To curb the massacre, in 1923, Barney McBride, a local oil businessman sympathetic to the Osage, was sent to Washington, DC.

“He met with the chief of Indian Affairs,” FBI historian John Fox told The Post. “The head of Indian Affairs turned to the Justice Department and said, ‘We need people to investigate.'”

This led to the establishment of the Bureau of Investigation, a crime fighting organization that was only 15 years old at the time.

J. Edgar Hoover, who had recently been appointed head of the Bureau of Investigation, needed to clear up the Osage murders. What if he fails? This could have ended his career.
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“It was a small, weak, ineffective branch of the Justice Department,” Tim Weiner, author ofEnemies: History of the FBI,” told The Post. “It was a collection of cheap spies.”

Raymond Butvinis, author of “Origins of FBI counterintelligence, Agree: It was a comfortable place to stay. “Your unknown cousin got the job because a Congressman wanted him there.”

This is a situation that Hoover was ordered to clean up by Attorney General Harlan Fiske Stone and, as Weiner recounts, “Hoover said, ‘Yes, sir.'”

The oil-rich Osage had no hesitation in flaunting their wealth. Such displays of ostentation enraged jealous white people.
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He had his work cut out for him. Hoover found himself overseeing a crime-fighting organization that was rife with patronage.

Due to laws not yet enforced, federal crime was very low and financial corruption was rampant.

This revealed when investigators were first sent to investigate the Osage killings and find out why the Indians were dying so rapidly.

Anna Brown, who stood to inherit her share of the oil wealth, was ousted on the instructions of William King Hale.

But this work was not easy. It was a messy place to investigate.

“There were several private detectives working on this case,” Fox said. “Some were hired by the Osage. Others were hired by William King Hale. Hale’s people muddied the waters and intimidated witnesses.”

Hale was a wealthy white cattleman from Texas who presented himself as a friend of the Osage, contributed money to the construction of paved roads, and communicated in the Osage language.

William King Hale, along with his daughter and wife, joined with the Osage and learned to speak their language. Besides, he was also beating them.
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Molly and Ernest Burkhart, played by Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio, have an uneasy home life in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” She is sick with diabetes and he is trying to kill her.

No one suspected that he was the primary person behind the wave of murders and the engineer of a lengthy fraud that promised to make him rich beyond belief.

But the Bureau was so messed up at the time that they had no chance of beating people like Hale. According to Grann’s book, in an outrageous twist, investigators convinced the governor of Oklahoma to arrange for the early release of a bank-robbing bandit known as “Blackie” Thomas.

The idea for Blackie was to work as a Bureau spy, toiling in the oil fields among white roughnecks. The goal: to get details about who was behind the reign of terror.

During the terrible Reign of Terror, Mollie Burkhart (second from right) lost all three of her sisters, shown in this photo, due to the vile machinations of William King Hale and his cronies. Molly narrowly escaped death at the hands of King’s nephew.
Image courtesy of the Osage Nation Museum/From the collection of Raymond Red Corn
Lily Gladstone and Martin Scorsese prepare for a scene on the set of “Killers of the Flower Moon”.
©Apple TV/Courtesy Everett Collection

The plan worked for a while, until Blackie disappeared right under the noses of the agents who were charged with tracking him, drove to the Black Hills, robbed a bank and killed himself. First killed a policeman.

Such wavering conditions increased the pressure on Hoover. “He was feeling pressure to do something with Indian Affairs,” Fox said. “So he turned on his agents.”

Then he looked at an agent who wouldn’t need any pressure. He was Tom White, a Bureau loyalist who had disguised himself as a Texas Ranger.

He proved his worth during a Bureau assignment, in which he had to serve as the warden of the Atlanta prison, while his real job was to uncover details of the previous warden’s bribery. White was successful, and the former warden was found guilty of the crimes.

Members of the Osage tribe had enough money and influence that they traveled to Washington DC and met President Calvin Coolidge (fourth from right).
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Fox said, “Hoover liked the idea of ​​having Tom White among the Osage.” “White was born in Texas, had experience working with cattlemen and Native Americans, and was considered a successful leader and explorer. He supervised a 4-person team at Osage.

What if White fails? Fox said, “It would have been a black mark on Hoover.” “Would this have ended his career? Perhaps.”

White did not disappoint Hoover. He stalks the city and slowly uncovers the crime that is the centerpiece of “Killers of the Flower Moon”.

Performing what Fox characterizes as “old-fashioned police work”, White uncovers a nefarious plot in which Hale arranges the marriage of his pliable nephew, Ernest Burkhart (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), to Molly Kyle (Lily Gladstone). Played by), who was a full-blooded Osage.

As part of Hale’s conspiracy, Mollie Burkhart (above) was being slowly poisoned to death at the hands of her husband Ernest.
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That ranking entitled him to a valuable share of the tribe’s oil fortune.

If her mother and siblings had died before her, the amount would have increased much more if they had passed all the rights to each other before she ended up with Molly.

Then all Hal had to do was watch it be destroyed and his nephew take the entire fortune – with Hal actually in control.

The plan would have worked—Mollie’s mother and sisters had died under mysterious circumstances, and Ernest had given his diabetic wife small, daily doses of poison while giving her life-saving injections of a new, miracle drug called insulin—if White doesn’t solve this by following money trails.

Despite their wealth and the devastation going on around them, the Osage retained traditional elements of their life. Here a member of a tribe can be seen cooking food over a wood fire.
getty images

Their investigation resulted in Hale, Burkhart and others being sentenced to life imprisonment in 1929.

Uncle and nephew negotiated early release. But life outside was no picnic. Burkhart’s wife left him as soon as he was found guilty.

After being released on parole in 1937, he was back behind bars in 1941 for robbing his former sister-in-law. According to Fox, after being paroled in 1959, he lived modestly with his brother in a residence a short distance from Osage land.

As for Hale, Fox said, “The court declared that Hale cannot return to the area. Just before his death, in 1962, Hale was found working in a restaurant in Phoenix and living with a former employee. He may be earning room and board. But not more than that. His money is gone.”

When everything came out in the open, thanks to Tom White, Earl Burkhart turned in his conspiracy uncle and testified against him. Nevertheless, Earl was still sentenced to prison. With him and King behind bars, the Osage murders came to a halt – although many of the murders are said to remain unsolved.
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Hoover and his crime-fighting organization, catchily renamed the FBI in 1935, fared much better.

“In the early 1930s, the Bureau was contacted by a radio company that wanted to do a dramatic broadcast about the crime and investigation of the Osage; It was built around Tom White, who was the whole package,” Fox said.

“The show was produced and the Bureau got its first opportunity to tell its story in an entertaining way. Osage made the right test at the right time and other shows followed.

“This was the beginning of them learning to tell the public about what they do. Soon after, the G-Man became iconic.

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