New episodes come out every Tuesday for free, with 1-week early access for Wondery+ subscribers.
Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.
Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.
Tue, 22 Jun 2021 07:00
A woman's body is found at the bottom of a gorge. It belongs to a member of the Osage Nation, a tribe that's grown incredibly wealthy from oil. When the victim's sister goes looking for answers, she begins to uncover a shocking conspiracy, one that puts her life in danger.
This is a sneak preview of a Wondery+ exclusive season of American Scandal. To listen to the entire season, join Wondery+ in the Wondery app now. https://wondery.app.link/americanscandal
Support us by supporting our sponsors!
A listener note, this episode contains graphic descriptions and may not be suitable for younger listeners. It's May 24, 1921, in Osage County, Oklahoma. In a wide open prairie, a man with shaggy blonde hair stalks through the grass. In one hand, he carries a canteen, and the other is a rifle. The man is a hunter, and as he moves through the prairie, he scans the landscape looking for squirrels. In every direction, there's tall, golden grass and wildflowers. Metal marks chirp, and often the distance there's a faint banging of oil drills. The hunter glances over his shoulder. Two others, his friend and the hunter's teenage son are a few feet away. They're also holding rifles, and while they've been at it for hours, no one's hit a squirrel all morning. The hunter wipes a sweat from his forehead. It's a scorching hot day. Maybe it's time to stop, get some water down by the creek. The group walks down to the bank of the creek. It's mossy and lush. And as the hunter leans over to grabs some water, he hears a rustling in a nearby tree. Hunter snaps back up and nods at his son. It's his turn. With an eye on the tree, the boy raises his rifle, aims, and fires. A squirrel falls from the branches. It tumbles into a deep gorge, which slopes down far beneath ground level. The hunter turns to his son and grins. It was a perfect shot, and he can see the boy knows it. Right away, his son runs down the slope and goes to fetch the squirrel from the gorge. The hunter's friend sits down his rifle and chuckles. Oh, you're a boy. He's got a real eye. Can't say the same about you. Come off it. My problem is it's this gun. It's all rusted. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've heard it all before. The hunter's friend takes a sip from his flask and looks out over in the landscape. I don't reckon we have too much more time out here. Huh? What are you talking about? Are you still got plenty of sunlight? I'm not talking about what time it is. I'm talking about the Osage. Yeah, what about him? Come on, don't play dumb. Look around. We're on the Osage reservation. At some point, they're going to run us off. The question is, how much longer we got? Well, I don't know. Maybe an hour? Two hours? Yeah, maybe. You know, I'll tell you, I think it's unfair. What's unfair? What do you think? Look over there. The hunter's friend gestures to the horizon at a row of oil drills. The Osage tribe? They found all that oil. Now they got more money in God. While the rest of us wife folk can't afford a decent rifle. Buddy, your rifle ain't the reason you can't shoot straight. The hunter's just about had enough of this sort of talk. But suddenly, there's a worried shout in the distance. Oh, my... Paul! Come quick! Paul! It's his son. The hunter and his friend grabbed the rifles and start running. Two men scramble down into the gorge. It's steep and slippery, and the hunter nearly falls when his foot catches on a rock. He steadies himself and keeps moving. Soon the two reach the bottom of the gorge. The air is hot and thick, and the hunters filled with a feeling of dread. As he looks around, he sees small trees, boulders, dark shadows. But he doesn't see his son. Sweat drenches the hunter's body. He keeps pushing through, his eyes darting left and right. Then finally, he sees his son standing on a rock. The boy is holding up the squirrel, when he looks shaken and terrified. The boy's eyes are glassy, and when he steps aside, the hunter freezes. Lying on the ground is the body of a dead woman. It's split out among the rocks, wrapped in a blanket. The woman's dark hair is caked with mud. As the hunter steps forward, the stench hits his nose. His stomach lurches, but he keeps going. His leg's shaky until he sees the woman's face. She's no sage. The hunter exhales, shakes his head. He may be jealous of the native tribe and all the oil that lies beneath their land. He may wish he had their money, but no one deserves to end up like this. The hunter grabs his rifle. It's time to go back to town to tell the authorities. It's too late to save this woman, but he can only hope that they'll find whoever did this to her. And bring them to justice. American scandals sponsored by Sachi Art. I'm lucky. Not only is my wife beautiful, funny, and smart, she also has great taste that matches mine, which has made decorating our home together a delight. But how do we go about finding the art for our home? Well, we agree on that, too. Sachi Art. They have artworks from thousands of emerging artists around the globe in all styles, so you're guaranteed to find art that fits your style, space, and budget. Their view your room feature lets you visualize the art on your walls, and my advisor, Siting, was instrumental in finding our newest piece. Get 15% off your first order with promo code podcast. Just go to sachiart.com and enter code podcast at checkout. Find art you love today. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes, and conspiracy theories together, and we'd love for you to join us. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music or wherever you listen to podcasts. From Hungary, I'm Lindsey Graham, and this is American Scandal. In their early 1920s, Northern Oklahoma found itself at the center of a shocking series of crimes. Over the course of roughly three years, at least two dozen members of the Osage Nation died from violent or mysterious causes. This wasn't the first time the Osage had faced violence. In the 1870s, the native tribe was driven from their land in Kansas. They were up against white settlers in the US government, and eventually the Osage resettled in Northern Oklahoma. Their new home was a desolate landscape, land that had been deemed worthless by white homesteaders. But everything changed in the 1890s when oil was discovered in Osage territory. In just a short time, the tribal land became immensely valuable, and the Osage grew into some of the wealthiest people on earth. But the oil proved to be both a blessing and a curse. As the Osage grew richer, white Oklahoma became resentful. It wasn't long before predatory businessmen began exploiting the tribe and turning to violence. The problems for the Osage peaked with a period known as the Rain of Terror, in which countless members of the Osage Nation were killed or died unexpectedly. Members of the tribe grew fearful, and federal law enforcement stepped in. Agents investigated the lengths between oil, politics, and crime, and in the process helped define the modern FBI. But as the crimes unfolded, one Osage woman took matters into her own hands. She went looking for answers, even when it put her in danger. To help tell the story of the Osage murders, we've enlisted actor Rainbow Dickerson to voice the characters you'll hear throughout the series. This is episode 1, A Shrinking Family. It's May 24, 1921 in Osage, Kadi, Oklahoma. Molly Burkhard walks through a field of tall grass in an endless prairie. She looks up at the sky. It's a piercing bright blue, and looks bigger than the world itself. Normally, Molly loves this land and all of its beauty, but you can't focus on it right now, not with all these thoughts racing through her head. Just a few hours ago, Molly was at home and received an upsetting phone call. She was told that a dead woman had been found in ravine. As far as they could tell, the body belonged to Molly's sister, Anna, who'd been missing for days. When Molly hung up the phone, she couldn't believe it. She wouldn't allow herself to. Anna is her older sister, a kind and good person, even if sometimes she gets herself into a bit of trouble. When Molly looks in the mirror, she can see Anna's face, the same long black hair and the same high cheekbones. The two are both Osage women, and they're proud of it. But the idea that Anna is now dead, to Molly, that seems impossible. So Molly is heading toward the ravine to see the body, and to prove that it belongs to someone else, anyone but Anna. As Molly walks through the prairie, she knows she needs some sort of distraction. So she looks over at several family members who follow behind her. They include her husband, Ernest, a white man with a square jaw and a ten gallon hat. Ordinarily, he would look like a swaggering cowboy. But today, instead, he looks tired and worried. He catches up to Molly. Hey, you doing okay? I guess. Yeah, circumstances aren't exactly ideal. This is crazy. Maybe we should just turn around. Let's just get there, see whoever it is. It's not gonna be Anna, then we'll go home. But what if it is Anna? Molly, I promise you, it's not gonna be her. Soon, Molly and her group nears the gorge where the body was found. The mother is mill about, handkerchiefs pressed against their noses. Jesus! Let's do this quick, Molly. Molly pinches her eyes shut. She knew this part would be hard. But she just needs to take a look at the body and confirm it's not Anna. Then get out of here. Oh, oh god. Ernest steps forward and grabs her hand. The body is unrecognizable, bloated and baked in the sun. Oh, Lord, but that's not Anna. Come on, Molly. Ernest, that blanket. Those stripes, that's Anna's blanket. Molly, it's just a blanket. I've seen a million just like it. But she was wearing those exact clothes the last time I saw her. Molly's brother and mom pushes through the crowd, holding a long stick. When he approaches the body, Molly shoots him a confused look. What are you doing? Molly, I got a check. Oh, we can't be sure looking at the face. But you remember, she had those gold teeth. So here, I'll just take this stick and real quick, I'll lift up her mouth. See if we can see something gold. No, don't do that. Stop it. Listen to me. You stop it right now. But Molly is frozen in place, still hoping desperately that this is not Anna. Her brother and law steps closer to the body, waving away flies. Using the stick, he opens the woman's mouth. The body is under the shadow of a tree, but even there, Molly can see the glint of gold. All at once, Molly feels like she's about to collapse. She reaches out her hand and Ernest rushes to her side. She feels dizzy, confused. Nothing makes sense. This can't be true. It's not Anna. This can't be Anna. And yet as Molly looks again at the body, the truth hits her with a crushing force. Her sister is dead. That body is hers. There's no question about it. The only question is how did this happen? An hour later, Molly Burkard stands at the top of the gorge, leaning against her husband's shoulder. Her sister's body has been carried out from the gorge, and now people are arriving from town. There's a pair of doctors with neatly waxed mustaches here to perform an autopsy. Nearby are a group of local lawmen, and throughout the area are townspeople, whispering and pointing. Molly knows she should go home, get away from the spectacle, but she won't allow herself to leave until the autopsy is finished, and she finds the cause van his death. A moment later, a shiny black truck pulls up. The door opens and a short man wearing a bow tie steps out. It's Ernest Uncle William Hale, another white man. Hale is also wealthy, and while not as rich as the Osage, he's the most powerful man in the county. Hale approaches Molly and embraces her with a solemn hug. Hale is politically connected. If this was a murderer, he could help get some justice. And Molly knows it's not far fetched to think that someone killed Anna, that it wasn't some kind of accident. She loved her sister, but Anna often ran with a bad crowd. She would drink and dance until sunrise. So while it is possible that her death was an accident that maybe Anna got drunk and fell into the gorge, it's also possible that someone had a reason to hurt her. Hale releases Molly and steps back, giving her his condolences. He says he knows it's been a hard few years. Molly wipes at her eye and looks away. He doesn't have to spell it out. She knows what Hale is talking about. A few years back, her younger sister Mini died at the age of 27. She had a mysterious condition that people called a wasting disease. She kept getting thinner and thinner and terrible stomach pains until eventually she died. Molly nods. These last few eaters have taken a toll. Molly's only 33, but she feels like she's had enough pain the last of the lifetime. Hale gives a sympathetic nod and tells Molly she should go home, get some rest. She doesn't need to be here for the autopsy. She'll come visit her and tell her what they find. But Molly shakes her head. She's not going home. She'll stay here until she gets an answer. And if it turns out he was a murder, Molly wants to know, will Hale use his connections to help get to the bottom of it? Hale says, of course. If someone did this to Anna, they'll get justice. Right then, there's a shout. It's one of the doctors over near the body. He says he has an official finding. The crowd begins to murmur. Molly lets go of Hale and starts pushing through all the onlookers. When she reaches the front, she freezes. Once again, she's face to face with Anna's body. Molly looks over at the doctor who performed the autopsy. He wipes his forehead and says they've uncovered the cause of death. Anna was murdered. They found a small bullet hole in the back of her head. For a moment, everyone goes completely quiet. Molly shuts her eyes. The truth seems so impossible, so terrible. She can't get herself to believe it. She wonders if somehow this is a mistake. Maybe this still isn't Anna. Somehow she's imagining all this. When she opens her eyes once again, she knows she can't run from the truth. Her sister is dead. Somebody killed her. A week later, Molly Burkhart crosses a dirt road in Fairfax, Oklahoma. She approaches a Catholic church where the bells are ringing and crowds of people are entering. As Molly steps into the church, she breathes the old familiar smells. She's gone to this church for much of her life and it always feels like home. But she can't shake her sadness, especially as she looks to the front of the church and sees the closed white casket. Today is Anna's funeral. Molly knows that funerals can provide a sense of closure, but this one is far different. Anna's body was discovered a week ago, but in the time since, local law enforcement has done nothing to help solve the case, even though Molly has gotten support from her husband's uncle, William Hale. Hale may be influential, but it seems even he can't get the authorities to care about a dead O's age woman. So it's Molly who carries the full weight of responsibility. It's up to her and maybe her alone to find Anna's killer. It's not her responsibility she ever wanted, and unfortunately the work has to start here at Anna's funeral. The person who killed her may be sitting in one of these pews. Molly takes a seat and looks across the church. She sees dozens of O's age men and women. Some are wearing modern clothing, but mose for dressed in traditional outfits, buck skin leggings and beaded moccasins. Molly has a hard time imagining that any of these people could be responsible for murder, but she can't say the same for Anna's so called friends. They sit together in the pews, laughing, talking too loudly. Molly wins this. These are low lives. They spend their nights in gambling dens and speak easy. It's only mid morning, but some of them already seem drunk. Molly stares at this group, when suddenly there's a thought of someone sitting down next to her. It's her mother, a short O's age woman with long silver hair. Molly smiles and reaches out her hand. Ever since Anna died, their mother has been shaky and frail. Soon the service begins. It's a Catholic service and Molly joins and singing the hymns. She learned these songs as a girl when the government had her attend a Catholic missionary school. The religion may have been forced down her throat, but still singing these songs gives Molly an old familiar comfort. The service moves on and soon people start singing traditional O's age songs. Songs of mourning. Molly looks over at her mother, who loves singing in her native tongue. It's a small, sweet moment amid so much suffering. Molly would love to lose herself in the ceremony, but she knows she has another more important task. She needs to keep a careful eye on everyone in the church to see if she can spot some sort of clue about Anna's murder. She tries to discreetly look at everyone, asking what are their connections, why are they here? She hears a loud sob a few rows back. She turns and sees one man she didn't expect to be here. Anna's ex husband, Oda Brown. He's a scrawny man with shifty grey eyes. Even though he's crying, just the sight of him gives Molly goosebumps. Brown beat Anna. He cheated on her. He was mean and seemed to like cigarettes and booze more than his own wife. It was a moment of celebration when they finally split up, at least for Molly and her family. She's unsure how Brown took the divorce. Maybe he's still bitter. Maybe he's still had a reason to be angry at Anna. Molly narrows her eyes and watches Brown as he continues to sob. The strike's Molly is almost theatrical. Then it hits her. This is exactly the kind of performance she'd expect from her murderer. This man is putting on an over the top show of grief. It's almost like he's trying to show everyone just how innocent he really is. Molly turns back her heart racing. This all makes sense. Brown could easily be the man who took her sister's life and left her body in a ditch. He has the temperament for it, but is he sick enough? Angry enough to actually have done it. Molly studies her breath. As soon as she leaves the church, she's going to start poking around, asking questions about Oda Brown. She won't stop until she gets the truth. What if your family was the victim of a home invasion? Or you woke up in the morgue? Or you were seriously injured miles from help? What would you do? This is actually happening. Ask our listeners this very question. While we bring you captivating real life stories of trauma and perseverance. This is actually happening brings listeners extraordinary true stories from the people who lived them. You'll hear stories about conflict, turmoil, or threats that dramatically alter the course of someone's life. Each episode is an exploration of the human spirit and how survivors manage to overcome hardship and move on with their lives. Even thriving afterward. The new season of this is actually happening is available ad free only with Wondry Plus. And if this new season isn't enough, you can listen to more than 120 exclusive episodes available only to Wondry Plus subscribers. Join Wondry Plus on Apple Podcasts or on the Wondry app. It's July 1921 in the Osage community of Greyhorses Oklahoma. Molly Burkhart sits in her living room staring at a newspaper story that's haunted her for months. The headline reads, Anna Brown Slayer confesses crime. Molly shakes her head as she thinks back on the tumultuous events of the past few months. Weeks after Anna was killed, it seemed like there was a breakthrough. Just as Molly suspected, Anna's ex husband, Oda Brown, emerged as a prime suspect. He looked too suspicious at the funeral. And soon, a man already in jail confessed to killing Anna and said that it was Brown who had paid him to do it. Brown was arrested and Molly and her family had a measure of relief. Anna may be gone, but the man responsible for her death would get justice. But the case soon fell apart. The authorities dug around and realized that the confession was likely false. They couldn't find any evidence that Anna's ex husband had paid for the killing. And so Brown was allowed to go free. Molly sets down the newspaper, a feeling of bitter disappointment still lingering with her. It's been months now. Not she or anyone else have figured out who killed Anna or even why she was killed. Molly knows she has to keep pushing for the truth. She can't give up. But as every day goes by, she's losing hope. Molly stands and walks to her office. It's time to get back to work. But as she makes her way through the house, she hears a cough from another room. She stops. There's another cough, sounding full of flem. Her mother must be awake. Molly finds her mother lying in bed. Ever since Anna's death, her health has been failing. Now she's no more than skin and bones. Molly walks over to her mother and gives her a kiss on the forehead. She says it's time for medicine, but the old woman shakes her head. Molly smiles pleadingly and says the medicine is for her own benefit. But her mother pinches her lip shut and turns away. Molly feels a renewed sense of grief as she looks at her mother. She's already lost two sisters. And now it looks like her mother's health is falling apart and rapidly. Molly begs and pleads and finally her mother gives in. She sighs and opens her mouth. Then Molly lays two big drops of medicine on her tongue. Her mother coughs, nearly spitting it out. She says it tastes awful. She doesn't want anymore. Molly can only chuckle. She says it's going to be all right. Then strokes her mother's long silver hair until she falls back asleep. Molly collapses into a chair and gazes at her mother's deeply lined face. It's incredible to think about the different lives they've led. Her mother grew up in a home made of logs and tree bark. She lived with traditional Osage customs. But here, outside town, Molly lives in a mansion. Like some Titan of industry. She has a white husband and she and her children have everything they could ever want. All because of the oil beneath her land which made Molly rich. And yet as she watches her mother drift into a nap, Molly knows she'd trade away the whole house, all the money, just to get back her sisters and her mother's health. Molly herself begins to feel tired and she watches her mother doze off. So she closes her eyes promising herself it'll just be for a minute. But before long, she feels a warmth creeping in and she nods off. An hour later, Molly wakes up and rubs her eyes. But when she glances at her mother, something immediately seems wrong. The old woman is just lying there. Still, Molly walks over and puts her hand on her mother's chest. She's not breathing. Molly's heart begins to race. She screams for her husband, Ernest, and begins shaking her mother trying to revive her. And her mother doesn't flinch. Molly picks up a cup of water, splashing it on her mother's face. But it too does nothing. Her mother remains lifeless. Molly collapses on the floor as the panic steals away her breath. A second later, her husband, Ernest rushes into the bedroom, looking panicked, asking what's wrong. Molly just begins sobbing. She points to her mother and says she's gone. Ernest moves to the bed, tries to find any signs of life, a shallow breath, a weak pulse. But he mutters a curse and joins Molly on the floor. For several minutes, the two sit in silence. Finally, Ernest tells Molly that it's okay. Her mother was an old woman. But Molly still shakes her head and disbelief. Her mother wasn't that old. Once ago, she'd been in perfect health, and then suddenly, she started to fall apart. Just like Molly's younger sister, years ago. And what seems like no time at all, Molly's lost two sisters and her mother. Something terrible is happening to her family. It's too much to be a coincidence. Someone is doing this to them. Ernest lays a hand on her shoulder. Molly pushes it away. She stands up. She's had enough. She wants answers. She's going to start by offering a reward. $2,000 for information about Anna's murder. Ernest looks shocked. That's an awful lot of money. Molly scals. She reminds him that it's her money. It doesn't matter if he, a white man, is her financial guardian. She doesn't care about federal law. Who are they to say that the Osage arc responsible enough to manage the money they made from their oil? The requirement for guardians isn't fair. It's not right, Molly says. The Osage don't need financial guardians. It's her money. She knows what she wants to do with it. Ernest tells Molly to calm down. He doesn't need a lecture. He's not just her guardian. He's her husband. He's not trying to swindle her. Molly takes a deep breath. Ernest is right. The Osage gets stuck with white guardians who lie and steal the money that came from the oil. Molly is lucky. Her husband is white. Still, she tells Ernest that she won't budge. She's going to offer the reward money. She's also going to hire private detectives to investigate Anna's death. The authorities aren't taking the case seriously. So it's time to get some answers. Ernest gives a weak smile. He says, okay. They'll hire detectives and they'll put out a reward for information. He says Molly is right. It's time to get to the bottom of this. Molly hugs Ernest with all of her strength. He's a good man and he always has been. When she turns back to the bed, the painful truth hits her again. Her mother is dead. And now Molly has to plan yet another few. Six weeks later, Molly Burkhart opens the front door as a car pulls into her driveway. It comes to a stop and her brother and law Bill Smith steps out. Bill is a pasty white man wearing a suit. He reaches for a handshake, but Molly slips by and gives him a hug instead. When Molly steps back, she can see that he's blushing. She and Bill had never been especially close. But he's married to Molly's other sister Rita, and that makes them family. He was even there the day Anna's body was discovered. He was the one who used to stick to reveal Anna's gold teeth. Ever since that day, the two have grown closer. Bill even said he wanted to help find Anna's killer. And it sounds like he dug us some information. So as they enter the house, Molly is eager to hear what Bill learned. The two enter the living room and Molly takes a seat. Bill, I just wanted to thank you for talking to the detectives. They'd never taken Osage Woman seriously. Even if she was handing them a thousand dollars. Oh, of course, Molly, I was happy to have those conversations. Even though those guys weren't exactly the most savory bunch I've ever met. So tell me, what'd you learn? We'll get this. The detectives. They found that after Anna died, the sheriff never even bothered to search her home. Even though, and can you believe this, one of her servants found Anna's purse lying on the floor. Completely empty. What? So she went out and just left her purse at home? I don't know. But look, there's something else. The day Anna disappeared, she took a cab. Well, the guys you hired, they talked to the driver and apparently Anna told him that she was......that she was what? She was pregnant. Molly leans back, reeling from the news. Anna always wanted a child. This is devastating, but then something hits her. Bill, I'm her sister. Why would she tell some taxi driver, but she wouldn't tell me? I don't know, Molly. I'm just reporting back what I heard. But what does it mean? Well, my guess, maybe one idea is......the father is someone she didn't want you to know about. Maybe this guy, he decides he doesn't want to be a father, so he kills Anna. You think that's it? Well, no. I think it's more than that. What are you talking about? Come on, Molly. Think about your sister, Minnie. Right at the end, she lost all that weight, had stomach pains, the same exact symptoms as your mother. They call it wasting disease, but what the hell is that? You know what it really sounds like? Poison. So you also think there's a connection here between my sisters and my mom. Molly, I have no doubt. I don't know exactly what's going on, but it's all just too big a coincidence. Molly buries her face in her hands, takes deep breath. Thank you. Really. Thank you, Bill. You've been doing so much, and I know we're family, but why are you getting involved? Because, Molly. My wife Rita, she's your sister. If someone is killing off her family, well, I've got to look out for Rita. And listen, Molly. The authorities are not doing anything. We're on our own. And that scares me. It should scare you, too. And look, I can't imagine what kind of grief you're feeling right now. But you got a step back. If they're coming after your family, Molly, they might also come after you. A minute later, Bill picks up his hat and walks out the front door. Molly leans back in her leather couch, her mind spinning. On one hand, she feels optimistic. She can sense that she's getting closer to the truth. She may soon figure out who killed Anna. But she doesn't know what to make of that warning from her brother in law. He's often prone to far fetched theories. But if he's right, if someone is coming for the family, he isn't yet finished. And Molly may be in terrible danger. It's February 1923 in Greyhorse, Oklahoma. Molly burcards lying in bed, shivering. She's bone tired in her joint sac. For weeks now, it feels like she's had a mild flu. Any minute, a doctor is supposed to arrive. And hopefully, he'll have something that can help. But in the meantime, all Molly can do is lie in bed with her thoughts. Try to make sense of everything that's happened in the last year and a half. More than a year ago, Molly thought she was making progress with Anna's case. Her private detective seemed to be digging up new information. But then they hid a dead end. And even though Molly offered money as a reward for information, no new leads have turned up. Meanwhile, the deaths among the Osage haven't stopped. In the past year alone, three more members of the tribe have mysteriously died. Thankfully, no one has hurt Molly or anyone else from her family. But that doesn't mean Molly's life has been easy. With her diabetes, she's had ongoing health problems. She's been debilitated and unable to do just about anything. Which is why she hopes and prays that this doctor can help. Molly hears a noise and looks up to see a skinny man with a wax mustache. It takes a minute, but Molly remembers him. His name is James Schaun. The doctor who performed the autopsy on Anna, the one who had announced that she'd been murdered. Schaun sits down his black medical bag, kneels next to the bed. He asks Molly what's troubling her. Molly begins reciting all of her ailments. She's incredibly thirsty all the time. She's always exhausted. She doesn't do much, but still her body aches all over. The doctor nods and confirms that it sounds like a flare up of diabetes. But there's good news. A new drug has hit the market. It's called insulin. And for most people, it completely eliminates the symptoms. Schaun fishes in his black medical bag and pulls out a glass tube that's filled with a clear liquid. He asks Molly if she wants a shot right now. Molly hesitates. Like her mother, she has awareness of drugs and medicine. But she knows she has to do something. She can't lie around for the rest of her life. So Molly nods and the shoun pricks her arm with the kneel. Molly thanks the doctor as he picks up his bag. And as he steps out of the bedroom, Molly rolls over to fall back asleep. But right as she's nodding off, she hears Schaun talking with her husband Ernest. Their voices sound agitated as the doctor tells Ernest that another Osage tribe member has been murdered. When Molly hears the name, she sits up wide awake. The murder victim, the doctor says, was Henry Rohn. Hearing the name, Molly feels a chill go up her spine. She went to school with Henry. But they weren't just childhood friends. Later, when the two were just 15 years old, they were secretly married in a tribal ceremony. Her relationship wasn't serious, and they quietly parted ways. Molly never even told Ernest about the marriage. But now it seems that Molly's first husband and her old friend is gone. The doctor explains to Ernest that Ron's body was found inside his car. In a rocky valley several miles from town, shot in the back of the head. Soon, Schaun and Ernest end the conversation and the doctor leaves the house. Molly hears the creak of approaching footsteps, and instinctively she closes her eyes, and lies completely still. The footsteps grow closer, and she can smell the musk that belongs to Ernest. Normally, it sets her at ease. But underneath the blanket, Molly clutches her hands tight, for some reason waits for something bad to happen. But a moment later, she hears the footsteps walk away. The door closes and the room gets dark. Molly's eyes shoot open. She glances at the wall, looking at a row of family photos. Months ago, her brother in law warned that someone was coming after her family, one by one. Molly was worried, but she also knew the idea sounded too scary to be true. But now, she's lost two sisters, her mother, and the latest death, an old friend and her first husband. Molly knows that it's past the point of coincidence. She grows fearful, who's next. A month later, Bill Smith drives down a dirt road outside Fairfax, Oklahoma. His black car kicks up the trail of dust as it travels the path out of town. Smith glances at the farmhouses he passes by. It's the same everywhere. Everyone has left their lights on. The streets look like a row of bright white candles, and it's no surprise what's gotten people nervous. Word has spread about the murder of Henry Rome. Even the white residents are now scared. But that grizzly murder isn't the only thing keeping people on edge. In a strange development, several of the neighborhood dogs have died recently. By the looks of it, they were poisoned. All of that got Smith thinking. Maybe this is the missing connection. Some length that could explain all the death in Molly Burrhart's family. That's why Smith is driving out to a ranch in the country. He's about to visit some bootleggers, who make the only kind of booze you can find in this era of prohibition. Smith wants to take a look around. Maybe if he's lucky, he'll find something suspicious. Smith turns onto the long path leading to the ranch. He tries to keep himself calm. He knows that this plan is risky. The bootleggers have connections to the mob in Kansas City, and he doesn't want to earn himself any powerful enemies. Soon, he reaches a metal gate, and two guards armed with shotguns step out of the shadows. Smith tells a story he's been practicing for hours. He's here to refill his supply. He's in bad need, what with everything going on with the misses at home. One of the guards smiles and opens the gate. Smith drives through. And a few minutes later, he rides at the distillery. As Smith pulls up, he sees a gas generator and several massive copper stills. He sniffs the air, smelling the reek of fermenting whiskey. A worker with large muscles looks up from a ceramic jug. He notices Smith and takes off his gloves. Smith feels his forehead grow damp with sweat. This worker looks like he's been in more than a few fights. But even though he's scared, Smith sticks to the plan. He takes out a $20 bill and holds it up. He asks if he can walk around, check out some of the offerings. The worker shoots Smith a look of distrust, but he takes the bill and turns the other way. Smith steps out of his car and looks around the ranch. It's dark and hard to see anything. But he does spot a shed that looks like it's used for storage. That's as good a place as any to start. Smith makes his way inside the shed and squats down, looking at stacks of jugs. Most of them say that they're tonic, code word for moonshine, but there are also a dozen unmarked jugs, separate from the rest. Smith grabs one of those jugs and works open the court. He takes a sniff but quickly recoils. It's a harsh, metallic smell. There's something unnatural about it. Smith takes a sip when suddenly the door of the shed opens. Dust rises in the moonlight and one of the other workers enters the shed. He spots Smith and races forward grabbing the jug out of Smith's hands. The worker, who's white, says that this is the stuff they sell to Indians. It's bad liquor, nothing that Smith should ever drink. They've got a lot of other good stuff if he wants it. Smith smiles feeling relieved. He thought he was about to be in trouble, so he thanks the worker for the advice, returns to the clearing where the rest of the men are working. Over the next hour, Smith keeps drinking, trying to look like he's just another customer. He feels himself getting a bit woozy, so he finally decides to put an end to the ruse and go home. Smith gets in his car and drives away from the ranch. His mind is cloudy, but Smith can't stop thinking about everything he just learned. It's no surprise that white bootlegger sell bad liquor to the Osage, but it seems like there was something else going on, that that jug held more than just low quality moonshine. As he arrives at his house, Smith knows he's in for a terrible hangover tomorrow. But no matter what, he'll be up early. He has some news he has to share with Molly. As Smith drifts into a boozy sleep, Molly Burkhart lies away in bed. Next to her, her husband earn a snore softly. Molly doesn't sleep, as, not with everything on her mind. The deaths in her family, the murder of her ex husband, the fear that someone might be coming for her next. But still she has to try to fall asleep, to live a normal life. If that's even possible. Molly turns over and looks at Ernest. No matter what happens, at least she still has a good husband, the love of her life. But as she looks at him, suddenly there's a loud noise. Molly jolt's up, as a bright orange light floods their bedroom. Ernest, Ernest, get up, wake up! Ernest turns and rubs his eyes. What? What are you, what's going on? Ernest wake up, that sounded like an explosion. What sounded like an explosion? Molly bolts out of bed and runs to the window. Off in the distance she can see a tower of flames, smoke billowing into the sky, under the full moon. Oh God, Ernest, what happened? I'm sure it's nothing, maybe a gas tank or something. Come on, let's go back to sleep, I got a wrist. I'm going out. Molly, I'm going out and I'm going to see what that was. Molly, get back in bed. Come on now. But before Ernest can stop her, Molly races out of the bedroom and down the stairs. Her heart is pounding. When she throws open the front door, she sees plume to smoke and the orange flicker of something burning. She stops gazing out of the horizon. She knows Ernest might be right. It could have just been an accident. The whole county is dotted with wells and tanks of petroleum. But suddenly Molly's knees go weak because she realizes where she's looking. It's the neighborhood where her sister Rita and her husband Bill live. That's engulfed in flame. From Wondry, this is episode one of three of the Osage murders for American scandal. On the next episode, Molly Burkard suffers a setback as she searches for the truth about her sister's murder. And as more bodies pile up, a federal agent comes to town determined to get answers. If you'd like to learn more about the Osage murders, we recommend the book The Killers of the Flower Moon by David Graham. This episode contains reenactments and traumatized details. And while in most cases we can't know exactly what was said. All of the dramatizations are based on historical research. American scandal is hosted, edited, and executed produced by me Lindsey Graham for airship. Audio editing by Molly Burk, sound design by Derek Barons, music by Lindsey Graham. This episode is written by Sam Keane, edited by Christina Mallsberger. Our senior producer is Gabe Riven. Execute producers are Stephanie Jens, Jenny Lauer back then, and are nonlopes for Wondry.