Rex Duncan does not anticipate filing charges in the highest-profile case of his three-year tenure as District Attorney.
In a way, it represents business as usual for Osage County — at least as far as the Mullendore murder investigation is concerned.
More than four decades after Hulah-area rancher E.C. Mullendore III was slain in 1970, the case remains unsolved. According to Duncan, no charges are likely to be filed anytime soon.
Similar positions were assumed by the three prosecutors who preceded Duncan in the Pawhuska DA’s office: T.F. Dukes, the district attorney when Mullendore was killed; William Hall, who took over the troubled investigation, and Larry Stuart, the longtime DA who retired four years ago.
Recently, Duncan revealed that a pair of arrest affidavits were prepared in the Mullendore case four years ago and have been in his possession since he took office in January 2011.
“They were on my desk the day I arrived here,” said Duncan, a former Oklahoma legislator who is currently about half the way through his first six-year term as state’s prosecutor for Osage and Pawnee counties.
Duncan inherited the Mullendore case documents from his predecessor, Stuart, who held the Osage County post from 1978 through 2010. The current DA said the affidavits were legally sworn out in March 2010. Both have been officially notarized after being signed by an investigating officer who remains active in the law enforcement community, he added.
It’s unlikely that either of the arrest affidavits will ever be presented to a judge, Duncan said, because neither of the men identified as suspects in Mullendore’s killing can be prosecuted for the crimes they allegedly committed.
One document accuses Damon “Chub” Anderson of first-degree murder, according to the prosecutor. Anderson, a former Mullendore bodyguard, has long been suspected of involvement in the death of his 32-year-old boss. The murder charge was apparently considered against Anderson as he was dying from kidney ailments which claimed the life of the notorious cowboy outlaw in November 2010.
Anderson’s demise at the age of 69 rendered the murder charge moot.
The second affidavit names a one-time Mullendore ranch hand as being an accessory to Mullendore’s murder. Duncan identified that suspect as Lonnie Joe Brown — who still resides in northern Osage County. Reportedly, Brown was a brother-in-law of Anderson at the time of the slaying.
Duncan explained that Brown cannot be prosecuted on an accessory charge due to a three-year statute of limitations that was in effect in 1970 when the crime would have occurred.
“The statutes wouldn’t rule him out as a principal in the murder, but the evidence as presented is for an accessory,” the DA said.
Duncan said he has not discussed the affidavits with Stuart. Until recently, he said Brown does not appear to have been a person-of-interest in the Mullendore case.
“To my knowledge, he (Brown) had never been named publicly,” said Duncan.
The affidavits apparently came into being after the Mullendore homicide was made part of a multi-county grand jury investigation. As such, the former Osage County DA and the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office would have served as legal advisers to the grand jurors, Duncan said.
“At some point, he (Stuart) must have felt there were facts to substantiate the filing of a murder charge against Anderson,” Duncan added.
It is believed that Anderson admitted to killing Mullendore in a confession he made to Gary Glanz — a private investigator with long, deep ties to the case. According to the purported confession, Mullendore was killed by Anderson following an argument and Brown subsequently helped him to stage the murder scene so that it looked like intruders killed Mullendore and then fled.
A year after Anderson died, a story about his confession to Glanz was re-enacted in an Investigation Discovery cable-television show called “Behind Mansion Walls.” The documentary claimed that, soon after slaying Mullendore, Anderson had a ranch hand help him stage the crime scene. Also, Anderson supposedly had the man shoot him in the back of the arm to support the plausibility of a concocted story about armed intruders killing the rancher.
Duncan did not become the Osage County District Attorney until two months after Anderson died. He said he doesn’t know why the arrest affidavit in the murder was not filed during the eight months between when it was written and before Anderson died.
“I would have charged him (Anderson) if he had still been alive after I took office,” Duncan said.
The DA said current laws would let prosecutors file an accessory-to-murder charge against Brown — since accessory-to-murder now carries no statute of limitations. Duncan reiterated, however, that the 1970 law allows for no filing of charges after the three years passed.
Duncan said the Mullendore case will remain active and continue to be regarded as being unsolved. Brown now is now considered a person of interest, said Duncan, but he will probably never be charged “unless investigators determine he was involved in a greater degree” than they currently believe.