It has been sixteen months since Carina Saunders' dismembered body was found in a duffel bag behind a grocery store in the Oklahoma City suburb of Bethany. During that time all manner of evidence has been released to the media. Much of it has proven to be either wrong, or even worse simply rumors that took on a life so lurid that they quickly evolved into what amounts to urban myths.
In today's "Oklahoman," Tim Willert is reporting that the Bethany Police Department has punted the entire investigation over to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. He quotes an email sent by Bethany Chief, Phil Cole that says, "After meeting with District Attorney David Prater, we both feel that the investigation would be better served by allowing an agency with greater resources and a fresh set of eyes take over this complex case."
In other words, we got in over our heads and screwed the pooch. Well it shouldn't be surprising. Bethany's force has less than forty officers and under normal circumstances the most serious offense they deal with, other than traffic citations, has to do with some kid shoplifting at a local 7-11. They were out of their league from the word go on this one.
Whether Prater fired them, or there was some sort of mutual agreement is moot. The major question now is, how badly mangled is the investigation and will the OSBI be able to salvage it and put whoever killed Saunders behind bars.
Luis Ruiz and Jimmy Massey sit in the county jail right now accused of the crime. Both men's lawyers are ecstatic at this latest turn of events. Willert quotes Ruiz's attorney, Derek Chance as saying, "From day one we have had serious questions and concerns about the poor investigation. We remain confident that Luis will be exonerated and this late investigative effort supports our contention." He then went on to sound a little O.J. Simpsonish when we told Willert, "Of equal concern is the fact the killer is still at large."
Massey's lawyer Mitch Solomon was quoted as saying, "We are confident when the investigation is done properly it will show who is actually responsible."
Gone are the stories about blood spattered south side apartments, machetes, witnesses who police claim saw the crime, and the infamous cell phone video that reportedly showed Ruiz sawing Saunders apart. Gone are nearly a half dozen names that have been connected to the case in one way or another.There is in fact, at this moment, not a thing that has been printed or said in the last year that can be trusted to be the actual truth. The brutal reality is the OSBI is going to need to start from ground zero, as if the crime happened yesterday and not over a year ago.
OSBI spokesperson Jessica Brown alluded to that much when Willert quoted her as saying, "We haven't opened the case officially. We're trying to gather all the information and reports that have been produced."
It has not been a good year for D.A. David Prater. Jaymie Adams was murdered a couple of months after Carina Saunders. Her husband was arrested and charged with the crime, but investigators have been doing to the back up two step ever since. Justin Adams is now out on bail and police are looking at a guy named Joseph Cyr. Prater's office maintains that Adams is still connected in some way with the case, but it certainly appears they are struggling with it. As of this writing Cyr has not been arrested, despite reports a Wal Mart security video shows him buying "items" found at the murder scene.
Now the whole Saunders' case appears to be falling apart and Prater's office is scrambling for answers and enough hard evidence to convict someone, anyone. For the time being there is no telling where the investigation will be headed. The only thing that seems certain at the moment is that we are a long way from getting to the end of it. We can only hope we aren't even further away than we were when her body was initially discovered in October, 2011.
We can only hope someone will finally lay this tragedy to rest.