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What Happened To Ernest Burkhart After Killers Of The Flower Moon

ernest burkhart and the killers of the flower moon poster

Warning: Contains SPOILERS for Killers of the Flower Moon!



  • Ernest Burkhart, the main character in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” was paroled in 1937, 11 years after the events of the film.
  • After being granted parole, Burkhart went back to prison in 1941 for robbing his former sister-in-law. He was granted parole again in 1966 and was fully pardoned by the Governor of Oklahoma.
  • Ernest Burkhart attempted to reconnect with his family after his release from prison, but his actions were met with resentment due to his involvement in the murder of his own family members. He lived until 1986, dying at the age of 94.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Ernest Burkhart is the main character in Martin Scorsese’s new film Killers of the Flower Moon, and here’s what happened to the real-life person after the events of the film. Although Killers of the Flower Moon is incredibly long and features an in-depth look at the Osage murders case, the film is surprisingly light on details regarding what happened to the characters after their respective trials. Although the story of Killers of the Flower Moon is fantastic, it is about real people, and these people’s lives went on long after the credits rolled. Thus, there’s a lot to cover regarding Ernest Burkhart’s fate after Killers of the Flower Moon.

Killers of the Flower Moon is finally out, with the highly-anticipated Martin Scorsese film being one of the most acclaimed films of 2023 so far. Based on the book Killers of the Flower Moon, the film tells the story of the Osage Indian murders, in which sixty or more members of the Osage Native Americans were murdered in an attempt to funnel their wealth, wills, and deeds to several white families that also inhabited the land. Martin Scorsese’s recounting of the murders is fairly accurate, with heavy hitters like Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Lily Gladstone playing real-life figures who participated in the events.

Ernest Burkhart Was Paroled In 1937, 11 Years After Killers Of The Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon concludes with Ernest Burkhart being sent to prison even after testifying against his uncle, leading many to wonder how long he stayed there. Killers of the Flower Moon ends with a performance from a true crime radio show, with the various hosts recapping the conclusion of each character’s arc in a comedic way, aided by sound effects and props. The film does mention that Ernest Burkhart was paroled, but it doesn’t go too far into when or why. However, some more details regarding the fate of Ernest Burkhart can be found when looking beyond the events of Killers of the Flower Moon.

Ernest Burkhart was sentenced to life in prison in 1926 for his hand in the murder of Mollie’s sisters. However, only 11 years after being sentenced, Ernest Burkhart was paroled (via The Oklahoman). Although Burkhart may have thought that he lucked out, his parole status didn’t last long. Interestingly, Burkhart isn’t even the one who ended up the most unscathed from the trials and prison sentences. Burkhart’s uncle, William King Hale, was pardoned in 1947, although many members of the Osage protested this. Although both men served some prison time for the crimes they committed against the Osage, many argue that it wasn’t enough.

Related: How Much Killers Of The Flower Moon Cost To Make & What Box Office It Needs

Ernest Went Back To Prison After The Movie

Although Ernest Burkhard was initially granted parole for his hand in the Osage murders, the man ended up going back to prison after the events of Killers of the Flower Moon. Not long after being granted parole, Burkhart robbed his former sister-in-law Lillie Morrell Burkhart. Burkhart was sentenced to prison again for this robbery in 1941. Burkhart stayed in prison until he again applied for parole. To the surprise of many, the Oklahoma Parole Board granted Burkhart parole in 1966, with the group citing his hand in the Osage murder investigation as a reason for granting it to him.

Later, Ernest Burkhart was fully pardoned by the Governor of Oklahoma, shocking many individuals who had been following the cast (via Oklahoma Historical Society). Thus, Ernest Burkhart was a free man, with him no longer having to pay for his crimes after being released from prison. The paroles and pardons granted to Ernest Burkhart and William King Hale have been controversial ever since they were announced, with the debate surrounding them once again being stirred up in the wake of Killers of the Flower Moon‘s release. While many readers stop here, being released from prison is not the end of Ernest Burkhart’s story.

Ernest Attempted To Reconnect With His Family

After the events of Killers of the Flower Moon, Ernest Burkhart attempted to reconnect with his family. People was able to connect with Margie Burkhart, the granddaughter of Ernest and Mollie Burkhart, the main characters in Killers of the Flower Moon. Margie recounts the first time she met her grandfather, with an elderly Ernest coming to her house. Margie is one of the few living descendants of Ernest Burkhart, as the Osage murders killed off most of their family tree. However, the fact that Ernest Burkhart attempted to meet Margie shows that he still wanted to reconnect with his family after his time in prison.

Margie, who is now 61, is the son of the child that Ernest refers to as Cowboy in Killers of the Flower Moon. Margie explains that she heard about the terrible things her grandfather did as she was growing up, with her sharing an anecdote in which her father would point out various Oklahoman landmarks and make comments about how Ernest helped murder her ancestors. However, they still seemed to have some relationship, with Margie explaining that her father still asked Ernest to house-sit while they were on vacation. Margie clearly still harbors a lot of resentment towards her grandfather, with her concluding the interview by saying:

Margie Burkhart: “I have a lot of anger towards him… He took away my whole family. He took away potential cousins. I don’t have any relatives on my Osage side.”

When Ernest Burkhart Died & How Old He Was

Ernest Burkhart lived until December 1, 1986, when he died in Cleveland, Oklahoma. Burkhart was born on September 11, 1892, meaning that he lived until the age of 94. Burkhart managed to live over two decades as a free man after being pardoned by the Governor of Oklahoma, with him spending his last years attempting to reconnect with his family.

Related: How To Watch Killers Of The Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon paints Ernest Burkhart as a complicated man, with him doing horrible atrocities towards his own family as the broader Osage people. Still, he also seemed to truly love his wife throughout the film. It is impossible to know if Killers of the Flower Moon was truly able to capture the thoughts and motivations that were inside the real-life individual’s head. As has been seen, the film left out a lot of details about the aftermath of the case. The chilling and controversial film has brought the investigation back into the limelight, with many viewers first hearing about the Osage murders in Killers of the Flower Moon.

Sources: The Oklahoman, Oklahoma Historical Society, People.

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