Fugitive's arrest rekindles murder mystery

Sunday, July 9th 2006, 12:07 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The arrest of a former bodyguard who had been missing for 16 years has given law enforcement authorities new hope they may finally solve the murder of the bodyguard's millionaire employer.

Shortly before midnight on Sept. 26, 1970, E.C. Mullendore III, a 32-year-old rancher, was shot once between the eyes at his Cross Bell Ranch near Hulah in Osage County. Mullendore and his bodyguard, Damon ``Chub'' Anderson, were in a spacious, multilevel house not far from the ranch headquarters.

The rancher had a bodyguard because of his life insurance policy and because he owned 90,000 acres of ranch land, former Osage County Sheriff George Wayman said. Mullendore's bankers were nervous because he constantly was drinking and were afraid the ranch's financial standing was wavering.

Anderson, then 29, told investigators at the time he was drawing a bath when he heard a shot in the basement. He said he ran downstairs and saw Mullendore seated near the couch, blood flowing from his face.

Anderson told authorities he was shot in the shoulder and then emptied his .25-caliber pistol at two fleeing men. Those men and a murder weapon never have been found.

Footprints never were found, either. Wayman said physical evidence was disturbed, destroyed or never collected.

Mullendore's body was removed from the scene before Wayman arrived. Wayman said the rancher obviously did not survive, and the body should not have been moved. The body was embalmed before an autopsy was performed.

Wayman, now 82, said a skull fragment found in one of Anderson's hats was lost during the trip from the ranch to the sheriff's office. No arrests ever were made in the case.

The case and any chance of solving it resurfaced in mid-June when Anderson, a fugitive from Kansas, was arrested in Montana.

Anderson, now 64, was wanted by Chautauqua County (Kan.) deputies and by the FBI for jumping bail in 1990 on charges of cultivation of marijuana valued at more than $500,000, and possession with the intent to distribute it.

The Montana arrest was on a complaint of attempting to file for Social Security benefits using a dead man's name. He was sentenced Wednesday on an old drug charge to one to five years in prison after pleading no contest, Wayman said.

Chautauqua County Attorney Larry Markle said Anderson could serve as little as eight months behind bars. He wasn't surprised that Anderson's attorney asked for a plea deal.

``It was a slam dunk. I mean come on. That's why he ran for 16 years,'' Markle said.

Investigators brought Wayman to Kansas from his Fairfax home because they said he has the most knowledge about the Oklahoma murder case and the best rapport with Anderson.

The former bodyguard has denied involvement in Mullendore's death.

Wayman, who retired in 1989 after more than 20 years as sheriff, said Anderson is the only witness to the homicide and calls him a man of interest. Wayman won't detail what the two discussed in Kansas but said he hasn't given up hope of solving the case.

``A quitter never wins,'' Wayman said. ``We're just plugging away at it. It's the best chance since about three or four days after it happened.''