Real Name: Roger Milton Wheeler Sr.
Nicknames: No Known Nicknames
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Date: May 27, 1981
Details: Fifty-five-year-old Roger Wheeler was the President of Telex Corporation and had purchased World Jai Alai in 1978 as a side investment. Jai Alai is a fast-paced sport that is often involved with gambling. The company World Jai Alai operated arenas in Florida and Connecticut. It was believed that some members of organized crime were involved in the gambling. Roger even received a letter, telling him to leave the organization for his own safety. However, he ignored the warning.
On May 27, 1981, Roger went to Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma to play a round of golf. He did this routinely, every Wednesday. At 3:30pm, two unidentified men drove into the country club, parked seventy feet from Roger's Cadillac, and waited for him to finish his golf game. As he entered his car, one of the men came up and shot him to death. The two men then disappeared into the afternoon traffic.
By 5pm, the crime scene had been cordoned off. Witnesses said that the shooter had concealed his weapon in a towel and paper bag as he calmly walked across the parking lot. Investigators found no evidence of robbery at the scene. They soon ruled out that the murder was related to hate, jealousy, or a personal matter. They believe that Roger's murder was a contract hit, related to Jai Alai.
Four unspent bullets from the killer's gun were found near Roger's body. It is believed that they were left behind as either a signature or a warning from the killers. The FBI had one promising lead from a reported underworld figure named Brian Halloran. He told them that he had turned down the hit on Wheeler. He also said that the person who ordered the hit was John Callahan, the former President of World Jai Alai.
However, before this information could be confirmed, Brian and John were both murdered in separate incidents. The police believe the murders are all connected and are related to Jai Alai and the mob.
Suspects: The killers were both white males. The triggerman was forty to forty-five years old (in 1981), 6'0", with a large build, graying hair, and a salt-and-pepper beard. The driver also had a graying beard. He was darkly tanned and had a salt-and-pepper hair. Their vehicle was described as a copper or cream-colored Ford LTD. The partial license plate was: S T 5 1.
Police believe that John Callahan may have hired the hitmen to commit the murder. This information came from Brian Halloran, who said that he turned down the hit. Unfortunately, both men were murdered before more information could be discovered.
Police believe a man named John Vincent Martorano may have information that could be helpful to the investigation. He is currently wanted only for sports tampering.
Extra Notes: This segment originally aired on the original January 20, 1987 special of Unsolved Mysteries hosted by Raymond Burr.
Results: Solved. When the case was re-aired in August 1987, thirty-nine-year-old Luis Villageliu was watching the segment with a friend. He said that the police would never be able to pin the murder on him. Ironically, his "friend" turned out to be a police informant. Viagellau had previously served time for a 1975 murder. Shortly after his alleged confession, he skipped bail on drug smuggling charges and vanished. In January 1988, police officially named him a suspect in Roger's murder. However, it is not known if he had any actual connection to the case.
Martorano, a mob hit man, was later identified as the man who had assassinated Roger. The getaway driver was identified as Joe McDonald. In 1995, Martorano, then fifty-five, was arrested and charged with racketeering. In 1999, he turned state’s evidence and confessed to more than twenty murders, including Roger's and John Callahan's. As part of his plea deal, he was sentenced to just twelve years in prison. He was released on parole in 2007. McDonald died in 1997 without being charged.
Martorano told investigators that Roger had been killed to prevent him from going to the police about a skimming operation perpetrated by the Winter Hill Gang which was occurring at World Jai Alai. He was apparently investigating the operation when he was killed. In March 2001, former FBI informants and Winter Hill Gang members James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi were indicted on murder charges in Roger's case. They were both allegedly involved in the skimming operation and helped plan and/or order the murder.
In October 2003, retired FBI Agent H. Paul Rico was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in Roger's case. He was the head of security at World Jai Alai at the time of the murder. He allegedly set up the skimming operation there with his former confidential informants Bulger and Flemmi. He was also one of the masterminds of the murder, giving Martorano a written description of Roger, along with his home and business addresses. In 2004, Rico died while awaiting trial.
Bulger remained a fugitive until his arrest in 2011. He and Flemmi were both convicted and sentenced to life in prison. In 2018, Bulger was killed in prison.
- Roger Wheeler on Wikipedia
- Slain Telex Chief's Vast Empire - May 29, 1981
- Police say a paid assassin may have killed executive - May 29, 1981
- Florida Man Suspect in Wheeler Slaying - January 20, 1988
- Game Fixing Plan Cited in Death - January 22, 1988
- Slaying blamed on plot to fix jai-alai games - January 22, 1988
- Probe enters ninth year - Wheeler telephone tapes may be clue - May 26, 1989
- World Jai Alai, Mob Hits, And The FBI: A Chronology - November 9, 1997
- Corruption allegations surface in 'unsolved' killing - November 21, 1999
- Sons await charges in 20-year-old slaying of Tulsa millionaire Roger Wheeler - January 22, 2001
- Prosecutors file charges in 20-year-old Tulsa killing - March 15, 2001
- Wheeler family praises Rico arrest - October 10, 2003
- Mobster Connected To Infamous 1981 Tulsa Murder Arrested - June 23, 2011
- Son Of Murdered Tulsa Businessman Reacts To Mobster's Arrest - June 23, 2011
- Daughter of Roger Wheeler says her father wanted to sell business before he was killed - July 17, 2013
- Daughter of slain Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler testifies at Bulger trial - July 18, 2013
- Throwback Tulsa: Mob-style murder at posh golf course shocked Tulsa in 1981 - September 10, 2015
- Roger Wheeler at Find a Grave