Roger Wheeler was a businessman, the former chairman of Telex Corp. and former owner of World Jai Alai. He was murdered at age 55 in his car in the car park of Southern Hills country club in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1981. John Martorano, Stevie Flemmi & Whitey Bulger would be indicted for the murder, two others former FBI agent Paul Rico and businessman John Callahan were suspected but dead before being indicted.
Roger Wheeler had purchased World Jai Alai in 1978 as an investment. Jai Alai is a fast sport that is often involved with gambling. Jai Alai is is the fastest game in the world, similar racket ball, but players use a long, funnel-like scoop to catch and then release a ball into play. The company World Jai Alai operated in Florida and Connecticut.
Roger Wheeler had uncovered a embezzlement or skimming scheme that going on in World Jai Alai. It is believed the Winter Hill Gang were thought to have skimmed $10,000 per week from World Jai Alai, but this was never proven. Roger even received a letter, telling him to leave the organization for his own safety. However, he ignored the warning which would prove fatal and would lead to five or six murders, two of which remain unsolved.
According to court documents prosecutors believed that in May 1981 Steve Flemmi and Whitey Bulger along with Pat Nee went to Pat Nee’s house to pick weapons to be used in the hit. The weapons were then to be given to John Martorano & Joe McDonald to be used. Around the same time Paul Rico and John Callahan provided Martorano and McDonald with a general description, home and office address, and also the make, model and number plate of Wheelers car.
John Martorano and Joe McDonald made their way to or were already in Florida but made their way to Oklahoma where they rented a car under a false name and drove to Tulsa, where they rented a room. From here they staked out Roger Wheeler’s home but decided that the hit could not be carried out at his home. They then staked out Wheelers office but decided that they couldnt do the hit there either as there was a security camera near where Roger Wheeler parked his car.
John Callahan then provided Martorano and McDonald with information that Roger Wheeler would be playing golf at the Southern Hills Country Club, Wheeler had played golf on Wednesday for the past twenty years with his partners. He had a regular four ball of Evans Dunn, who owned a drilling company, Robert Allen, who owned a charter bus company and Thomas Gail Clark, board chairman of a local distributorship.
On 27th of May 1981 John Martorano and Joe McDonald went to Southern Hills Country Club where they found a car matching the description given to them by John Callahan and parked near it.
From the official report and witness accounts of what happened next. Detective Huff and the other officers learned that their last game together on Wednesday, May 27, 1981, ended at about 4:30 p.m. After a quick shower, Wheeler walked down the hill and was getting into his car near a crowded swimming pool when the killer approached, holding a towel in a paper bag. He shot Wheeler once in the face at close range and dropped four unfired cartridges and walked calmly to this car.
A witness reported that Wheeler was found spread across the front seat of the Cadillac with his feet hanging outside. Flash burns later were found on his arm but not on his face, indicating that he was shot at close range. Witnesses reported that the shooter jumped into a late-model Pontiac or Ford, which some said had an Oklahoma tag with the initials ST or ZT followed by the number 510.
Police didn’t know which of the four Southern Hills exits the assailants took. One witness described the shooter as a Kenny Rogers “look-alike, but dark complexioned with hair over his ears and a full beard. His black hair is streaked with gray.” Witnesses to Wheeler’s murder remembered that as many as four men were in the car. The shooter was a white man about six feet tall weighing about 200 pounds. Wheeler’s business associates didn’t have a clue as to who might have killed him.
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. John Martorano was later identified as the man who had killed Roger Wheeler. The driver was identified as Joe McDonald. Joe McDonald died in 1997 without being charged.
John Martorano told investigators that Roger had been killed to prevent him from going to the police about links between World Jai Alai and the Winter Hill gang. In 2003, retired FBI Agent H. Paul Rico, one of the masterminds behind the Wheeler execution, was arrested for first-degree murder and died awaiting trial. James “Whitey” Bulger and Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi were also charged with Roger’s murder. Flemmi and Bulger were both convicted and sentenced to life in prison.