After months of investigation Luis Enrique Ruiz and Jimmy Lee Massey Jr. have been charged with first degree murder in the torture, killing, and dismemberment of Carina Saunders. A front page story in The Oklahoman written by Tim Willert gives graphic details of the act and raises nearly as many questions regarding the murder as it answers.
Three new names were made public and two recently mentioned were conspicuously absent. According to the story Saunders went to a house on S. Harvey Ave. with a woman named Michelle Hanshaw. Willert's account says Hanshaw watched as Ruiz beat Saunders, tied her up, dragged her upstairs, and sawed off her left foot. As he tried to do the same thing to her right foot the blade broke. At some point, Ms. Hanshaw bailed out of out of a window to escape the nightmare in progress.
Willert writes that a woman named Stephanie Howard told police that on two occasions she and former boy friend, Ruiz had to "baby-sit" Saunders. There was no explanation of what she meant by "baby sitting," although given the gruesome nature of this business it probably wasn't a good thing. According to the story Ruiz told her that Saunders was going to be "dealt with."
Willert reports that a third woman, Tia Downour was at the house, but left soon after arriving. Ms. Downour also said she had been told there was a cell phone video of the murder and that the phone belonged to Ruiz.
Downour went on to say that while she was sharing a motel room with Ruiz she took a surreptitious peek at the video, but turned it off once Saunders began to scream..
The rest of the story involves unnamed sources and jailhouse detainees ratting Messrs Ruiz and Massey out. As always it appears they couldn't help but gab about what they'd done and as always everyone they told either wanted to do the right thing, or more realistically, wanted to cut a deal with the DA with their new found leverage.
Two names not mentioned in this latest article were Mindy Cottier, the self described dancer/escort who Bethany police believed had a copy of the odious video and Christopher Banschbach. Reports indicated that Cottier had backed out of a meeting with detectives and was tracked down at a south side motel. She was sharing a room there with Banschbach, a former felon, who was promptly popped on all manner of drug and illegal gun possession charges. The previous story did not offer a guess on the connection those two might have had with either Ruiz, or Massey.
So, as they say, the situation is fluid. Earlier leads and speculation seem to have been run to ground and debunked. The flat on Heyman Street where blood, a machete, and an abandoned Blackberry were found by authorities would appear, in this accounting of events, to not be related to the murder. There is no telling if witnesses will change their stories, or if further evidence will reveal others were involved either as participants, or horrified spectators. It also remains unclear why Ruiz believed Saunders had to be "dealt with."
One basic fact remains the same however. Something went terribly wrong in Carina Saunders' life. At some point she made a series of decisions that led her into a squalid world of drugs and people so detached from the rest of humanity they could reasonably be considered beings from another planet.
Her story is an American tragedy. In some of her photographs her eyes seemed to recognize it. In those shots the loneliness and sadness melded with what appeared to be the knowledge she was on a down hill slide that could not possibly end well.
And in the end the monsters took her. We can only hope we will now take the monsters.
I'm not sure it is justice, but it is all we can offer Carina Saunders and those who loved her. Cold harbor is, in the final analysis, better than none.