Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stating the Obvious: The ME Says It Was Violent

On Tuesday, February 28th the Oklahoma City daily paper, "The Oklahoman" ran a story by staff writer Andrew Knittle. The headline was. "Saunders' Death Ruled 'Violent'."

That bit of dry and ironic journalism simply reflected the latest release from the state medical examiner. After four plus months of work, the ME has finally, officially, declared the cause of death of nineteen year old Carina Saunders as "violent death". Criminal investigations are all about the details, but this one seemed a little obvious. When you get beheaded, dismembered and stuffed into a duffel bag violent death is pretty much a given. Knittle quotes spokesperson Amy Elliott as saying an autopsy report which would include details about the condition of Saunders' body, "may be completed in the next two weeks."  So much for the speed and science of forensics as depicted in TV shows such as "CSI". It would appear to the layman that the condition of her body was that it was in pieces.

But hey, that is just me.

An exhaustive search for chemical and DNA evidence takes time although four months does feel a bit excessive. Of course it has been a gruesome season and Carina Saunders isn't the only woman who has met an untimely and "violent death" in this town. The work load at the ME's office has been heavy this fall and winter. Kelsey Bransby's killer and those involved with Alina Fitzpatrick's death are still walking around, unless they too are sitting in the county lockup on other charges.

That is where Jimmy Lee Massey and Mike "Monster" Knight are right now. Massey is described as a suspect in the Saunders' case by Bethany police chief, Phil Cole. Knight, according to Cole, is not now a suspect even though authorities believe the killing took place in his south side apartment. Court documents show that they believe Knight ordered a woman known only as "Rachel" to clean the place after the horror. She apparently didn't do a very good job because police found blood, hair, and bugs in the freezer. They also detected blood in the living room and bedroom. That coupled with the discovery of a machete with a twenty inch blade, electrical tape and a blackberry pretty well sealed the deal that the apartment on Heyman Street was the scene of the nightmare.

An unnamed woman claims Massey kidnapped her and took her to witness Saunders' torture and killing so that she would understand perfectly what would happen to her if she didn't cooperate in the drug and human trafficking ring. Police suspect Saunders' was picked at random to be the example. Her addiction to drugs probably made her an easy mark. The promise of a quick great high would have been too hard for her to pass up.

Knight is described by police as "a violent member of the South Side Locos street gang." It explains why more people aren't willing to give him or anyone else up in this horrid affair. Even if Knight and Massey never see the light of day again, their pals are out there and they are some bad dudes. You can't spend any reward money if you too are found chopped up behind a grocery store.

It also appears the police must not have a high degree of confidence in their witness, either because of her background, or her reluctance to take the stand in open court. That leaves them with a circumstantial case with those two words that haunt all prosecutors looming large. The words are reasonable and doubt. If you charge either of these guys with the crime and a jury lets them walk you don't get a second chance.

There is no telling where this is heading in the near future. Obviously the police think they've got their man, or at least one of them. However everyone is innocent until proven guilty, no matter what their reputation. Just being one mean asshole doesn't get you sent away for life. At least not in theory.

The wheels of justice grind slowly. One can only hope they don't grind to a halt before somebody, anybody, can be charged in Carina Saunders' death. Until then all we can do is open the paper and every now and then see her picture and look into those sad and haunting eyes. She and Kelsey and Alina all died too young. Someone is responsible. Someone needs to pay.


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