One of the great mysteries of Osage county is the 1972 death of EC Mullendore, a 32-year-old rancher near Hulah. EC was found beaten and shot to death, his bodyguard wounded by a shot in the shoulder. The perpetrators seemed to have vanished and gotten away with the murder.
I am no fan of court cases and crimes. The scientist in me always begs for further experimentation and evidence to make a firmer conclusion than what crime evidence sometimes allows. But in the nineties, I held elderhostels for NOC and had a teacher who grew up in Osage who had followed the weird ‘wild west’ events of the area from his youth—which was in the 1930’s. And he knew all about Osage history as well, plus he was a delightful speaker. I listened to him expound about the Osage Reign of Terror and it matched what I had researched. But still I had reservations because when you talked to him about current events, he was full of conspiracy theories. Do you trust such a guy’s stories?
He would tell about EC Mullendore’s murder and whip the crowd into a great sympathy. It was a good show. Evidently, Mullendore’s Cross Bell Ranch was a huge spread of thousands of acres he inherited. 1972 was good times for agriculture, the first really bountiful markets and production for over 20 years. When that happens, people do dumb things, especially young farmers. Young Mullendore spent money on things that didn’t pay, like aerial herbicide spraying of pastures. As a result he fell heavily in debt and was near bankruptcy. His wife filed for divorce. Desperate guys do desperate and crazy things, and some of his dealings were with the Kansas City Mafia, including taking out $8 million of life insurance written by crooked insurance guys. Everybody was after him for money owed, and as a result he made one of the ranch hands into a bodyguard. Chub Anderson was a rough and tumble guy who could whip anybody in a fight, could shoot well, and was loyal as an old dog to the Mullendore family. The night of the shooting, he reportedly tried to save Mullendore, got shot himself and the bad guys got away. Nobody was buying this story, our Elderhostel teacher avowed. Why would Mullendore take out $8 million worth of insurance he couldn’t pay for? The local sheriff, George Wayman, suspected Chub was in on the crime, but couldn’t prove it. The conclusion of our teacher was that a depressed Mullendore had hired a mafia hit man to kill him(self) to avoid the shame of losing the family ranch. And had taken out all that life insurance to pay the creditors. Would a man do that? Yes, our teacher avowed. A rancher loves his ranch so much (lots of emotion inserted here) that he could order his own death in order to pass it along to an heir rather than give it to the banks. The elderhostel participants were all so saddened by this melodrama.
But was it true? I had no inclination to investigate, but was curious to know the historic facts. The $8 million insurance settlement was fought in court for several years, but turned out to be the largest life insurance payout in history. The widow (they weren’t divorced quite yet) saved the ranch and I think married her lawyer. Then just a few weeks ago, Discovery Chanel ran a review of the case on “Behind Mansion Walls”. The story advanced was that Chub Anderson was the killer and had vanished from the area eluding capture. And that his story about being in the back of the house and upstairs running bath water at the time of the murder—thus could not hear the beating but heard a shot and investigated—was untrue. But there were huge problems with the Discovery Network story. A Tulsa area private investigator, Gary Glanz, was involved in the case from the beginning and was the source of the storyline. Glanz claimed that Anderson had confessed to him personally, the beating and killing just before he died. Trouble was, Anderson was the target of Glanz’s investigations from the start, and it is hard to believe he would have called Glanz to admit anything ever. And then Glanz’s story was in error. The telephones at the ranch had been disconnected in 1972 because of unpaid bills, but Discovery’s story says they were used to relay information about the death. You can hear a gunshot quite plainly in the mansion, even from the back upstairs. And Anderson didn’t flee prosecution. He lived in the area for another 10 years before moving to Kansas—to avoid prosecution for growing marijuana. Nobody around here believes Glanz.
But the posthumous television script has evidently prompted further evidence to surface. Yesterday’s Pawhuska Journal-Capital had a front-page story on new information about the case. Kent Tibbets, a friend of Chub’s says that Chub gave a deathbed confession of what really happened that night at the ranch. He asked that Tibbets relay his strange-but-true story to his brother Dewayne Anderson. If true, it explains why Chub wouldn’t tell authorities the truth. He told Tibbets to tell Dewayne, “I killed the men who killed EC.” Apparently what had happened was that the murderers killed Mullendore and shot Anderson when he appeared on the scene. That’s what he originally told Sheriff investigators. But he gave pursuit and shot them dead in the backs as they tried to escape down a gravel driveway. Then the question about what to do with the bodies occurred to Chub. He was extremely fearful that with EC’s mafia dealings and the death of these two hit men, and the remoteness of law enforcement, there would be further violent repercussions against him and the ranch. And he distrusted the Law, suspecting that they might implicate him as a conspirator. So he loaded up the bodies and dumped them in a place where they were digging a pond. He started up the bulldozer and buried the bodies in the pond dam. So the bad guys disappeared, the sheriff was only notified quite later (what with the phones being out), and the mystery was compounded.
True? Even so, we still don’t know who ordered Mullendore killed and why. But the list of creditors and bad debts was evidently as long as your arm. Did a couple of Kansas City organized crime hoodlums disappear in 1972? Chub Anderson was also in and out of trouble with law and he distrusted sheriffs. Maybe this case will unfold and we will all know what happened in the future. Fascinating.