Late Edition: Crime Beat ChroniclesLate Edition: Crime Beat Chronicles

A deeper look at the crimes committed against the Osage during the Reign of Terror | Bonus episode

View descriptionShare

Late Edition: Crime Beat Chronicles

Late Edition: Crime Beat Chronicles, a product of Lee Enterprises, is a collection of limited anthology style episodes exploring true stories as told  
70 clip(s)
Loading playlist

The latest episode of Late Edition: Crime Beat Chronicles is in partnership with the Tulsa World to introduce the story of the Osage Reign of Terror and the feature film Killers of the Flower Moon. In this bonus episode, show producer Ambre Moton is joined by two writers from the Tulsa World, Randy Krehbiel and Tim Stanley to dig a little deeper into some of the crimes committed during the Reign of Terror.

More coverage

Episode transcript

Note: The following transcript was created by Slack and may contain misspellings and other inaccuracies as it was generated automatically:

Welcome to Late Edition Crime Beat Chronicles, a Lee Enterprises podcast. I'm Ambre Moton, the producer and editor of the show, filling in for Nat Cardona who is taking some well-deserved time off with the help of the reporters from the Tulsa World Crime Beat Chronicles spent the month of October telling the story of the Osage's and the reign of terror in the 1920s.

Here's a bonus episode with the paper's Tim Stanley and Randy Krehbiel going into a little more detail about some of the crimes that took place.

You know, one particular case that it's not mentioned in our story, but that I'm aware of and it was certainly mentioned in David Grann's book, was the the Case of William Stepson, a tribal member who died under mysterious circumstances and whose who's grandson is still alive in Osage County is a former Osage tribal court chief justice named Marvin Steps and William steps in.

Apparently from from what we know. I mean, he'd gone out with some friends, came in later that night and laid down in his bed and and died. And he'd been out. I think he'd probably been drinking. This is you know, this is another way that, you know, this could have happened is, again, considering the historical context and the era of prohibition.

Unregulated alcohol, bootleg whiskey, moonshine. I mean, everybody consumed this stuff. It was unregulated. Was not uncommon for someone to get, you know, a bad batch of alcohol, of moonshine and die from it. This was another way that you could potentially kill someone if you wanted to is just spike their whiskey. That may be what happened to William stepson is that he he got some bad whiskey.

And, you know, his his grandson, Marvin, who who believes based on what he knows, he believes that it was strychnine, which was a poison that was very common and easy to come by and very, very effective. But it just it made no sense. Still makes no sense to Marvin that, you know, this perfectly otherwise healthy young man. His you know, his grandfather, William, just went out for a night.

Everything was fine, comes home and does in bed in his sleep. Yeah. In a lot of the lists that you see, of the 24 victims, you will see William Stepson's name. I think it's been pretty commonly accepted among the people who've looked into this that we know enough in the case of William Steps and to to to declare him a victim, although again, like in other similar deaths, his was never investigated as a homicide that you know, that's you know, there's just so many so many opportunities to kill someone discretely.

I don't know if it's the right word, but you don't have to shoot somebody. Fact, if you're going to shoot him, maybe, you know, it's hard to say why. You know, Henry Roane and some of the others were were killed as violently as they were, which would draw attention. You know, the fact is something was amiss that the killer was afoot unless it was to inspire terror.

But so many of these other ones that were not are not necessarily connected to the two William Hale and his conspirators, maybe a marvin stepson, you know, or others. It's just hard to say. It could have been could always, always be a family member. And that's that's just one of the sad facts of this story, is is how quickly or how greed could could lead someone to kill a loved one, you know, to to get access to their to their wealth.

I mean, that could be what we're talking about here with stepson and any number of others who died under suspicious circumstances like that. David Grann's book and the movie, they they each pull out the figure or the character of Mollie Burkhart and make her kind of the central figure in the story, you know. But Molly ultimately survives an attempt on her life.

But that but her family was hit as hard as any. As far as we know. You know, in this in this story, she lost her wife. I'm sorry. Molly lost her a sister, potentially two sisters, and then her mother as well.

And then and then did survive an attempt on her life. But one of her sisters, Anna Brown, is also sort of pivotal in the story because she is considered really to be the first victim. Now, again, it depends on where you start counting. Anna Brown was a she was clearly a homicide. Again, like Henry Rollins, she was shot in the head and found in the countryside outside of town.

But she yes, she she's generally recognized as the first victim of what you know, what would become known as the reign of terror. And she was a sister to Mollie Burkhart. And they also had a sister named Rita Smith. Rita would also be killed. She was killed later, that one family. I mean, so many of the graves in in the tribal cemetery there in Gray Horse, which is where it's located in in Osage County.

So many of the graves there are of family members of Molly's. And Molly's is there, too. She would die years later, not of suspicious circumstances, although undoubtedly the stress from this ordeal and she was already in poor health. Undoubtedly. I mean, you know, she it affected her and she she didn't live too much longer, too many more years after this.

But, yeah, Molly's family, just a traditional Osage family. Her mother, you know, still believed very much in the old ways. Molly and her sisters were more, I guess, assimilated, so to speak. You know, they they had taken up and I. Anna Brown. Yes. She was found fatally shot May 1921. She disappeared days earlier. So she's considered really the first, although, you know, again, we could go back and probably find some suspicious deaths.

With the Osage as they all when they started, they all had equal share. So any Osage was worth, you know, some some sort of money from their head. Right. Whereas with the Muskogee and the Cherokees, their mineral rights were tied to their individual allotment. So if you were if you were a member of one of those tribes that had a particularly valuable allotment, you could be targeted.

And and so in some cases, you know, 19 six, 19, 1908, there were people who were disappearing. Some of them turned up alive somewhere else. Some of them were never found. There's a story about a creek boy, for instance, who went missing and they all thought he had been killed. Well, it turned out when one of his some businessmen had sent him to England to get him out of the way, they got him to sign, signed a lease on his allotment, and they sent him to England to get him out of the way.

But he was still. Anyway, as far as the Osage, it really began to intensify. It seems like, you know, 19, probably around 1920. And that coincides with when the the the the height of the ban.

Now, your article mentions an Osage, a young woman being kidnaped, I believe. Is that the woman you were referencing when you were talking about how she held what, eight had rights or something?

Yeah, that's who I was thinking of. Yeah, this was and this was I think it was in the late twenties, but people would find a way to in this, especially white people would find a way to get power over, you know, get control of somebody. A lot had rights. In her case, there was some kind of a marriage or something set up with a with the local guy who apparently was just a front for some bigger group.

And he took her off to Colorado Springs and and kept her there. And in this case, you know, lots of times the Guardians are are portrayed in an unfavorable eye. But in this case, he may have had self-interest. I don't know. But in this case, The Guardian went and found her and and got her back. Got her back to Oklahoma.

And in the end, the ring was broken up. I think there were probably a lot of, you know, white people to who were not comfortable and in some cases were absolutely opposed to what was going on. But I didn't want to I don't want to make it sound like it's an equal thing. But the white people sometimes were affected by the reign of terror, too, because there were a couple of white guys tried to stand up for the hostages and they were murdered.

And so it was it really was a reign of terror. It was pretty much on everybody who lived there in one way or another. And again, I want to stress, I'm not equating everybody the same, but it trickled down to a lot of different people.

And as always, thanks for listening to Late Edition Crime Beat Chronicles. Don't forget to hit that subscribe button so you don't miss what's ahead.


  • Facebook
  • X (Twitter)
  • WhatsApp
  • Email
  • Download

In 2 playlist(s)

  1. Late Edition: Crime Beat Chronicles

    70 clip(s)

  2. Osage Reign of Terror from Late Edition: Crime Beat Chronicles

    5 clip(s)

Late Edition: Crime Beat Chronicles

Late Edition: Crime Beat Chronicles, a product of Lee Enterprises, is a collection of limited anthol 
Social links
Follow podcast
Recent clips
Browse 70 clip(s)