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Detectives Still Seeking Closure From 1981 Murder

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A mafia hitman, who confessed to murdering a Tulsa businessman, came clean on national television.  John Martorano, the former triggerman for infamous mob boss Whitey Bulger, appeared on 60 Minutes Sunday evening.  The News On 6's Chris Wright reports Martorano was convicted of the 1981 murder of Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler.

Local detectives who worked the case certainly haven't forgotten about it.  One even says it changed his life.

Martorano was asked if he counted how many people he killed.  He responded, "Never, never, until in the end I didn't realize it was that many. I confessed to 20 in court."

One of those 20 murders happened in Tulsa in 1981.

Roger Wheeler was shot and killed after a round of golf at Southern Hills Country Club.  Police believe Wheeler had recently bought a business in Florida that was funneling money to the Boston Mafia.  When he objected to what was going on, police say mob boss Whitey Bulger ordered the hit.  Martorano pulled the trigger, but three others were also charged with the murder, including Bulger, as well as mobster Stephen Flemmi, and former FBI Agent Paul Rico.

It's a complicated case that took Tulsa police years to figure out.

"We knew it was an extraordinary thing.  Detectives and officers and staff at the police department knew that this was going to be quite a wild ride," said Tulsa Police Sergeant Mike Huff.

Sergeant Huff began the wild ride when he was a young detective in 1981.  It has continued to this day and Huff says the case will never leave him.

"I think about it often, it's definitely impacted my life, and changed who I am a bit.  It's become a part of me," said Sergeant Huff.

In fact, Huff sat down with Martorano long before 60 Minutes did.  He has had a number of conversations with the hitman over the years and says he is both reviled and fascinated by the killer.

"Our paths crossed, our lives changed because of each other.  He is an interesting guy to say the least," said Sergeant Huff.

Martorano was released from prison last year.  The man accused of plotting Wheeler's murder remains at large.  Whitey Bulger has been a fugitive for more than a decade, and remains on the FBI's most wanted list.

Huff says all the renewed attention is good for the case and hopes it will lead to Bulger's arrest.  Besides the 60 Minutes segment, the movie The Departed was based on Bulger.

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