William Hale (cattleman)

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William Hale, the so-called "King of the Osage Hills," was a U.S. cattleman and convicted murderer.

A power player in the Osage Indian Reservation in northern Oklahoma, Hale rose to local prominence in the late 19th century through years of bribery, intimidation, and extortion. In 1921, he ordered the murders of his nephew's wife and mother-in-law, followed by her cousin, sister and brother-in-law two years later, to gain control of their oil rights. Over the next few months, he had killed at least two dozen others who had threatened to testify against him.

William King Hale and his nephews Ernest and Byron Burkhart conspired to kill several Osage Indians for the oil headrights. Ernest married Mollie Kile (or Kyle) a native Osage. Through various permutations, William King Hale had Mollie's sister Anna Brown killed in 1921. Anna's head rights were inherited by her mother Lizzie Q and Mollie. The death of Lizzie Q and several cousins left Mollie Burkhart and therefore Ernest as heirs to the headrights worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars in 1920s. Mollie fell ill and was later discovered to have been poisoned. When she moved away from Fairfax she recovered.

The Osage Tribal Council suspected Hale early on, but couldn't solicit any testimony from the townspeople, many of whom Hale had bribed or threatened into silence. The council turned to the FBI, who sent four undercover agents to the Reservation who, over the next few years, gained the townspeople's trust enough that they began speaking out against Hale. Hale's nephew whom he had coerced into helping with the scheme confessed, and charges were finally brought against Hale, as well as the contract killer he had hired to perform the murders and his corrupt attorney. In 1929, Hale was convicted of ordering the murders, and imprisoned.

Hale was convicted after three trials under federal laws and sent to Leavenworth prison in Kansas. He was sentenced to life but was paroled in 1947. He spent some of his life in Montana working as a ranch hand for Benny Binion. He died in Arizona.

Byron turned state's evidence and never served time. His brother Ernest was sentenced to life in state court and was sent to Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma. He was released in 1959 and received a pardon in 1966.

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