MIAMI – The tale twists and turns like an Oklahoma tornado. The true story of the 1970 unsolved murder of a multimillionaire Oklahoma rancher, E.C. Mullendore, intrigued Oklahoma author and newspaper columnist Dale R. Lewis.

Lewis became fixated with telling the story of the lead suspect, ranch hand Damon 'Chub' Anderson when encountering him in a Kansas courtroom after Anderson had been a fugitive on the run for 16 years.

“I knew this was the most famous unsolved murder in state history and I just stumbled into it just by luck,” Lewis said. “I just felt like I needed to follow it.”

In his nonfiction book, “Footprints in the Dew,” Lewis details his years of interviews with Anderson and others and his research of Anderson's life and possible involvement in the rancher's unsolved death.

The author spent hours and hours pouring over records, researching and writing.

“I was getting along well with the guy and he started calling me from Lansing Prison," Lewis said. "He could only have one visitor and he didn’t put down a priest, or a relative, or a kid, he put me down.

"And he stayed in contact with me when he got out of prison and I just stayed after it.”

Lewis’ book has consistently stayed at the top of the Oklahoman’s “Best Selling” list and is rated as one of the best selling nonfiction books in Oklahoma.

Mullendore was shot and killed on Sept. 26, 1970, on his Osage County ranch in Oklahoma, one of the largest in the state at the time, the Cross Bell Ranch.

The Mullendore ranch had been in the family for more than 100 years and at the time covered 300,000 acres near Bartlesville.

The author has also completed a documentary, “Footprints in the Dew: The Last Ten Tapes,” based on his extensive interviews conducted for the book.

The film will be screened at the historic Coleman Theatre at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14. Tickets are $10 per person. Lewis is donating 50 percent of the ticket sales proceeds to the Coleman Theatre.

Mullendore’s murder remained a mystery for more than 45 years as law enforcement and others worked to solve the case.

The story drew interest and became a much-talked-about case as one of the great, unsolved mysteries in Oklahoma history.

Several theories buzzed coffee shop debates including rumors Anderson may have been having an affair with the rancher’s wife and killed him to help her get life insurance money. Mafia ties and other conjecture were all posed and investigated as well.

Lewis' book is written as a narrative of his fact-finding mission and gives details of Anderson’s and others accounts of the night of the murder and does provide a conclusion to the long-unresolved whodunit.

“He put it out there, and I didn’t have a clue he was going to tell me what happened," Lewis said. "I just thought I’d write a few stories about the guy and it just started developing.

“I stayed with it. I just never tried to be somebody I wasn’t and I think he saw that in me and at the end there he just kind of wanted it out.”

At times Lewis said he even felt he might have been in danger for seeking the truth. Lewis was even called to testify about what he had learned about the case and in his interviews in a grand jury proceeding, but he felt the story needed to be told.

“There’s three people in the book who would probably like to see me dead,” he said. “The only time I thought about it was when I got subpoenaed, but I never really felt like stopping. Plus when I started writing I just had to go on.

"After he died in 2010, there was a lot of rewriting. I have two suitcases full of rewrites.”

Anderson died in 2010 from kidney failure. Lewis said he believes Anderson’s account of the murder, and that he meticulously scrutinized and sought corroboration of Anderson’s stories.

Up until his death, Anderson continued to fight extradition to Oklahoma where there were still outstanding warrants for his arrest.

“It’s all the things that were happening there at the end when they were trying to arrest him, and they were going after the accomplice. Chub was starting to loosen up – he knew that the end was near I think,” Lewis said. “He told me many stories, and if I couldn’t prove something, I didn’t put it in the book. Some people didn’t want to talk until Chub was dead.”

Lewis described Anderson’s personality and how he was able to remain a fugitive.

“Keith Atkins says it best in the film, ‘He was a guy that most of the time you meet a person you get to like them more and more the longer you get to know them, Chub was the opposite. You liked him at first and the longer you got to know him, the more you didn’t,” Lewis said. “That’s not all people, but most, the more you got to know him the more you didn’t like him, and some people regretted knowing him.

"That’s kind of how I feel, but he was such a colorful character, and he had such a colorful past.”

The case remains unprosecuted, although the statute of limitations never runs out on murder or accessory to murder in Oklahoma.

“It will never end for the prosecutors. They will always be looking at it I think,” Lewis said. “These are the last 10 tapes they asked to see.”

Lewis said Mullendore’s remaining family members are appreciative of his efforts to find the truth and reveal it in his book.

“There’s only E.C.’s sister Katsy, and she has thanked me for what I’ve done for her and her family,” he said.

The documentary includes footage of interviews with Anderson and other key characters in his book.

“I will be there and autograph books,” Lewis said. “I talk just a little bit at the start, but then I have a little question and answer session after the film.”

Lewis’ book, “Footprints in the Dew” may be found at Chapters Book Store in Miami, or Sissy's Place in Grove, at the event at the Coleman, or online at www.originalbuffalodale.com

To purchase tickets or for more information, persons interested may contact the Coleman Theatre Box Office, at 918-540- 2425 or stop by the box office window at 103 North Main in Miami. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.colemantheatre.org/events.

 

If You Go

Dale R. Lewis has completed a documentary, “Footprints in the Dew: The Last Ten Tapes,” based on extensive interviews conducted for the book about the Mullendore murder.

He will screen the film at the historic Coleman Theatre in Miami at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14. Tickets are $10 per person. Lewis is donating 50 percent of the ticket sales proceeds to the Coleman Theatre.

To purchase tickets or for more information, persons interested may contact the Coleman Theatre Box Office, at 918-540- 2425 or stop by the box office window at 103 North Main in Miami. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.colemantheatre.org/events.

 

Showing in Langley

The documentary, Footprints in the Dew: The Last Ten Tapes" will be screened at 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 23, at First Christian Church in Langley.

Tickets are $12. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Friends of the Langley Public Library's programing.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, persons interested may call 91-782-4461.