Detective: The Whitey Bulger Capture Is Just The Beginning

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Updated: 6/23/2011 10:13 pm Published: 6/23/2011 10:08 pm

It's a murder case that’s haunted the family and friends of Tulsa Roger Wheeler since 1981.

Wheeler was the chairman of Telex Corporation and the owner of World Jai Alai.

He had reportedly come to suspect James “Whitey” Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang was skimming profits from the World Jai Alai and Wheeler was threatening to blow the whistle on Bulger.

May 27th, 1981, at the age of 55, Roger Wheeler was shot to death in his car outside Tulsa’s Southern Hills Country Club following his weekly game of golf.

On that night a Tulsa detective began his investigation into that killing and for decades he refused to let go.

FOX23’s Abbie Alford reports the story of a case that helped shaped retired Tulsa Police Homicide Sergeant Mike Huff.

A mob hitman named John Martorano wore a paper bag over his head in a parking lot inside the country club when he shot millionaire Roger Wheeler between the eyes.

The FBI says Bulger ordered that hit.

Huff says Bulger’s capture is just the beginning to a 30 year case.

When Huff received the call the man he’d been chasing for 30 years was captured he thought it was a joke.

"I resigned myself thinking he would die over anonymity overseas,” says Huff.

It wasn’t a joke. Huff was only a rookie in the Homicide unit when Wheeler was gunned down for being a possible whistleblower on Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang that was suspected of skimming money at Jai Alai Headquarters in Connecticut.

"I hope that he is a man and stands up and takes ownership for what he has done. But I haven't seen him as a respectable man in his life,” says Huff.

The detective had no idea the organizer for Wheeler’s murder, the Boston mobster tied to 19 murders would end up shaping his career and his life.

"I resent him for that, I just want him held accountable let alone not just the crap he has created for me over the years,” says Huff.

Huff and Wheeler’s son testified in front of Congress, Huff helped arrest the FBI agent H. Paul Rico, who tipped off Bulger before being indicted.

"That added stress to my life. There is no doubt they were tough days in my life,” says Huff.

The more Huff dug into the case, the more he knew Bulger was still alive and dangerous.

"The community needs to listen to the story and hear this tale of murder and corruption. You cannot imagine how deep it went,” says Huff.

The now-retired Sergeant warns people should not take Bulger as a gentle grandpa. He says the mobster is a serial killer.

"When they see him, they have separate the fact that he is going to look like an 81-year-old man, they have to realize that this man was a monster, if you had to cross ways with him, you wound up in a shallow grave or maybe having your teeth pulled out or buried underneath someone's house or gunned down in a parking lot. Every solution to any of his problems ended up with murder,” says Huff.

Sergeant Huff retired a month ago; his retirement date was 30 years to the day of Roger Wheeler’s murder.

Huff says this case will probably bring him out of retirement.

Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris says he wants to prosecute Bulger but he is first headed to Boston.

Bulger is charged in state court in connection to Wheeler’s murder.  

"As the lead investigator Huff’s knowledge of how to prosecute this case and the evidence it is a necessary component of our successful prosecution of the murder of Roger Wheeler,” says Harris.

As for the Wheeler murder, this is closure to a thirty year investigation that's had countless twists and turns.  Hitman John Martorano was released from prison in 2007.  The FBI says Bulger orchestrated the hit, along with associate Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, he continues to serve a life sentence.  An FBI agent, H. Paul Rico, who headed up security at World Jai Alai, was once fingered for tipping off the mobsters about Wheeler.  Rico was also indicted in the Wheeler murder but died before trial.

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