Come Sept. 26, it will have been 40 years since a millionaire Osage County rancher named E.C. Mullendore III was found savagely beaten and shot through the head in the basement of his home. No one was ever charged with the crime, and though the case ranks as the state's most famous unsolved murder, it largely has been relegated to the dusty pages of history over the last four decades.
But prominent anniversaries have a way of renewing the public's interest in such events -- particularly when the sheriff's department and a multi-county grand jury start sifting through the ashes after all those years.
That's welcome news to longtime Tulsa private investigator Gary Glanz, for whom the case has remained somewhat of an obsession over the years. Glanz became involved in the investigation within a few hours of the murder, receiving a call from the attorney for the dead man's estranged wife, Linda Mullendore, and being asked to provide security for her and her children, who were living in Tulsa. The murdered rancher was deeply in debt and facing foreclosure, and reportedly had reached out to numerous underworld figures for a loan over the preceding several months, leading to rampant speculation that his death was a mob hit.
But he also carried a $15 million insurance policy -- a tidbit that makes the story all the more compelling. The entire tale was related in a 1974 book, "The Mullendore Murder Case," by Wall Street Journal reporter Jonathan Kwitny, who had covered the case for his newpaper.
Now, Glanz -- who has remained close with a central figure in the incident, a ranch hand named Damon "Chub" Anderson who claimed he was shot in the back by unknown assailants while leaning over to examine Mullendore's body that night -- is working with the Osage County Sheriff's Department as it investigates the case again. Significant new information has been developed that could result in the resolution of the case, he said.
"After 40 years, this needs to be brought to closure -- for the family and Chub Anderson," he said.
Glanz said he met with Sheriff Ty Koch and Deputy Bart Perrier for several hours on three occasions in February to reveal what he knows about the case. One of those meetings also included District Attorney Larry Stuart. That was after a multi-country grand jury was convened in January in Oklahoma City to hear evidence in the case. Glanz did not appear before the grand jury, but a Bartlesville newspaper columnist did. So far, Glanz said, it is his understanding that no indictments have been issued.
Urban Tulsa was unable to reach Koch to determine the status of the investigation.
Glanz said he has thought about the case countless times over the years, recalling how he was awakened by that phone call at 5am on Sept. 27, 1970, just hours after the murder took place. He wound up escorting Linda Mullendore and her attorney to the Mullendore family home on the Cross Bell Ranch, a sprawling, 40,000-acre spread in northern Osage County. Over time, his role would evolve from providing security into that of serving as an investigator trying to help the deceased man's estate make good on its insurance claim, which was denied several months later by the underwriters. Eventually, the case was settled for a record $8 million.
Glanz's recollections of the scene that day at the Cross Bell Ranch remain sharp, despite the intervening years -- along with his conviction that there was no reason for the investigation to remain open to this day.
"It was probably a case that should have been solved within the first 72 hours," he said. "To me, that is the frustration of this investigation. The crime scene was so totally destroyed and so many mistakes were made in the first few hours after the murder.
The twists and turns of the actual events need to be told to bring closure to the family and to everyone involved."
Glanz, a one-time Tulsa police officer, said critical decisions made before law enforcement officials arrived at the murder scene affected the outcome of the investigation, allowing the perpetrator or perpetrators to remain free 40 years later.
"To me, this was never about a contract killing," he said.
Over the years, much of the speculation about the case has centered on the role Anderson played in that night's events. Glanz befriended the young ranch hand in the days after the murder and the two became close, he said. At one point, Glanz even referred Anderson to Pat Williams, one of the state's most prominent criminal defense lawyers, and Anderson wound up retaining Williams.
A grand jury heard testimony in the Mullendore case in 1972, but Anderson never testified, moving to Kansas and refusing to respond to his subpoena. No indictments resulted before the grand jury was dismissed.
Glanz and Anderson went more than three decades without having any contact as the former ranch hand was later convicted in a marijuana-growing scheme in Kansas and jumped bail, eventually winding up working on a Ted Turner-owned ranch in Montana and living under an assumed name.
Anderson, now 69, became a victim of kidney failure a few years ago, and during the course of his treatment, his true identity was established. Montana authorities extradited him to Kansas, where he served a short sentence in prison before being released because of his poor health.
At that point, he re-established contact with Glanz, and the two renewed their friendship, with the private investigator traveling to Kansas to visit his pal.
"I've been up there as a friend," Glanz said. "I've enjoyed hearing about his life on the run when he left Oklahoma, living on Ted Turner's ranch and building bison pens, something he did early on at the Mullendore Ranch."
Many people believe Anderson knows far more about Mullendore's murder than he has told authorities, going so far as to label him the prime suspect. Glanz declines to say what he believes or whether Anderson has revealed anything to him, though Glanz indicates he has little doubt about the actual events of Sept. 26, 1970.
"In my mind, I know exactly what happened," he said. "I have felt all along that this case should be resolved through law enforcement channels and not in the media."
As his friend continues to struggle with his illness at an assisted living center in Independence, Kan., Glanz marvels at Anderson's will to survive after living a rugged lifestyle in Montana and surviving on the run, followed by years of dialysis.
"Chub, in my opinion, was born 100 years too late," Glanz said.
But he said his friendship with Anderson won't stop him from continuing to cooperate with Osage County authorities to bring the case to a successful conclusion.
"It's very hard to keep a secret in Osage County," he said, smiling. "The mere mention of the Mullendore name causes rumors to run rampant. But I have not given up hope of resolving this in the near future."
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