Killers Of The Flower Moon: What Happened To The Real Mollie Kyle?

Long-suffering Mollie Kyle was the focus of a terrible plot to steal the Osage Indian community's newfound oil wealth. Played by Lily Gladstone (pictured) in "Killers of the Flower Moon," Kyle takes center stage in an epic three-and-a-half-hour-long flick that details the total annihilation of her family in the name of greed. Caution — spoilers to follow.

The real Kyle was a member of the Osage Indian Nation, who were subject to a surprising upturn in their fortunes in the early 20th century. Having been forced onto a reservation in Oklahoma in the 1870s, the tribe unexpectedly made heaps of cash after oil was discovered on their land. They were eventually awarded a payout in 1923 of $30 million — the equivalent of nearly $540 million today — becoming some of the richest people in the entire world, per capita, according to PBS

Unfortunately, that's where the heartwarming part of their story ends. Before long the Osage Nation were watched like hawks, and even appointed white guardians to ensure they spent their wealth "appropriately."

Many people tried to steal money from the Osage, but some went even further and began systematically murdering tribe members. Unsuspecting Kyle became the target of one such plot thanks to her marriage to conman Ernest Burkhart. Before long, Kyle's family began to die in various grisly ways — shot, poisoned, and blown up — until finally she too, became a target.

The Massacre

Mollie Kyle married Ernest Burkhart in 1917. According to The New Yorker, Kyle seems to have genuinely loved her new husband, who was a little rough around the edges but had taken pains to learn the Osage language in order to speak to her. The following year, 1918, Kyle lost her younger sister Minnie Kyle, whose strangely rapid deterioration may or may not have been the first family murder.

In the years that followed, oil money continually arrived thanks to leases with oil companies, the first of which was signed in 1896, per The Osage Nation. Then the money came in a flood, culminating in the enormous final payout that made the tribe incredibly wealthy — and Kyle's family members began to die under suspicious circumstances. Kyle's sister Anna Brown — was brutally shot and left in a ravine, and their cousin was also found dead on the same day, per National Geographic. Additionally, their mother, Lizzie Kyle wasted away due to poisoning, and many of her relatives were killed as well. Kyle's younger sister, Rita Smith (pictured), grew rightfully paranoid about the mounting murders, and she and her husband eventually became victims when a bomb was planted under their house.

Before long a now very wealthy Kyle was the last woman standing — but she too would get sick when her husband began feeding her whiskey laced with poison. Thankfully, the terrible truth about the origins of the murders would soon be revealed when the fledgling FBI got involved in the case.

Mollie Kyle's brush with death

When Mollie Kyle (pictured) grew steadily more ill, she was sure that she was being poisoned. David Grann writes in "Killers of the Flower Moon," that in her hour of need, Kyle turned to her local priest, sending him a secret message pleading that somebody was trying to kill her.

It turned out that Kyle's would-be assassins had found the perfect cover for her murder. Kyle was diabetic and he switched from giving her the poison-laced whisky to administering phony "insulin" injections that only made her sicker. Thankfully the authorities suspected she was in danger and had her removed to a hospital.

Around the same time, the net began to close on her husband Ernest Burkhart. In the ensuing investigation and trial, it was discovered that Burkhart's uncle, ranching baron William Hale, had pressured him into marrying Kyle for her money and had helped to orchestrate the murder of her family members with the help of a laundry list of accomplices. Kyle's oil wealth was passed down via "headright," meaning it could only be inherited by other Osage family members, or an immediate legal heir — in this case Burkhart. Only by bumping off Kyle's relatives one by one — and finishing with Kyle herself — could they acquire the fortune.

Mollie's fortunate reprieve

When those responsible for the murders of Mollie Kyle's family were investigated, many details came flooding out. Kyle told the authorities that she could not believe her husband would hurt her under any circumstances — however, Ernest Burkhart cracked under the pressure and freely confessed to his role in the murders. The case went to trial, and Kyle, unsurprisingly, asked for a divorce.

Kyle's husband, along with his many accomplices were sent to prison although Burkhart was eventually released on parole in 1937. According to National Geographic, it is believed that 60 members of the Osage tribe had been murdered by the group for their oil money.

In the aftermath, Kyle seems to have gone on to live a relatively normal life, following a decade of tragedy. According to "Killers of the Flower Moon," she fell in love with a man named John Cobb, and the pair married in 1928. She was also released from the unjust guardianship system that had caused so many problems for her and other members of the Osage Nation, becoming a full American citizen. Kyle died a few years later, aged just 50, in 1937.