It has been two years now and in some ways it seems like it was just yesterday, while in others it feels as though it has been a century, or more.
Carina Saunders was reported missing on September 28th, 2011. Her body was found 15 days later in a field behind a grocery store in Bethany, Oklahoma. Bethany sits on the west side of Oklahoma City, almost lost on most metro area maps. It has a population of a little over 20,000 and a police force of 30 some odd officers. Saunders' body was dismembered and the assorted parts were stuffed into a duffel bag. It was discovered by animal control personnel who were trying to track down and capture feral cats in the area.
Instead of immediately turning the case over to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, which has far more manpower and resources, the Bethany Police Department began the investigation into the gruesome crime. This, despite the overwhelming probability the site where Ms. Saunders' was actually killed would not be within the Bethany city limits.
Wild rumors circulated and a number of different people, who can best be described as living on the frayed edges of society, were interviewed. Bethany detectives quickly proved they were in over their heads as they desperately tried to pin the killing on someone. Eventually the investigation centered on two men. One, Jimmy Lee Massey was already in the Oklahoma County jail on unrelated charges. He was being ratted out by fellow inmates. The other was Luis Ruiz, a former school teacher, who had been bouncing all over the south side of town and might, or might not have been dealing in drugs and hookers. A woman named Mindy Cottier, a stripper, who also worked for an escort service, claimed she had sneaked a peek at a cell phone Ruiz owned. She said it contained a video of him killing Saunders.
Ruiz was arrested and he and Massey were charged with committing the crime by the Oklahoma County DA. By February of this year the whole case was falling apart and the charges were dropped because of, "unsubstantiated paper work," filed by the Bethany police.
In early March the OSBI took over the case and in April the agency offered a $10,000 reward for any information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of whoever killed Carina Saunders. They haven't publicly said a word about their investigation since spokesperson, Jessica Brown told the media it would be a long time before any progress would be made in the search for who did it.
Massey was subsequently convicted on several drug trafficking charges and is currently serving ten years. Ruiz was picked up in Oklahoma City this spring driving a car that was reported stolen in Knoxville, TN. He was released on $2,000 bail. He was popped again last week at a south side apartment complex and charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance, which the press identified as meth. The reported video of the murder was never found and in fact, authorities don't know for sure if it ever even existed. The suspected murder scene shifted from a south side housing project known as Will Rogers Courts to an anonymous address just south of downtown, but the site has never been confirmed.
Later in October of 2011 Kelsey Bransby was found shot in the face in her south side apartment. By May of 2012 two friends were charged with shooting her, then leaving her to die so they could ditch the weapon and concoct alibis. Danielle Marie Cooley pleaded out in November of last year and in exchange for her testimony against Cole Dean Hopper she was given 25 years probation.
This summer Hopper went to trial and was sentenced to 9 years for manslaughter. Cooley couldn't keep the needle out of her arm and failed a drug test causing her probation to be revoked. In early August she skipped out on a court appearance prompting her lawyer to withdraw from the case and a warrant to be issued for her arrest. By early September she was back in custody. Bail was set at $50,000 and at last look she was sitting in the Cleveland County Detention Center. According to court records her next appearance before a judge is scheduled for November 13th, a little over a month from now.
Finally, on November 4th of 2011 Alina Fitzpatrick went missing. She was last seen near NW 23rd and Western Ave, about a mile, or so from the state capital building. Her nude body was discovered in a field in far eastern Oklahoma City on November 9th of that year. The medical examiner found enough drugs in her body to speculate her cause of death was due to an overdose. However, there has never been any explanation of how she got to that empty lot located in the middle of nowhere, naked, her body bruised in places and raw with abrasions in others. She also had a wad of paper like material stuffed in her mouth when her remains were recovered.
Obviously someone dumped her out there and something terrible had been happening to her. The person, or persons involved with her OD and the physical abuse she suffered remain a mystery. In an email, a member of the local media close to the case wrote, "The police haven't expressed much confidence in finding out who it was."
And there we have it--two autumns ago, in the span of a month, there were three deaths and right now only one of them has been resolved. It increasingly appears the perpetrators in both the Saunders murder and the Fitzpatrick death have made clean getaways.
In Saunder's case the OSBI continues to be its notorious tight lipped self. Even if they have something they aren't going to go public until they can make it stick. No one wants a repeat of the Ruiz-Massey debacle. Odds are though the Bethany PD screwed the pooch so badly, at this point it would take an outright confession to bring the investigation to any sort of successful conclusion.
The same is probably true with Alina Fitzpatrick. Someone is going to have take a big hit on a bong and then spill the beans to someone else in a moment of euphoric stupidity, because it is obvious the OKCPD hasn't a clue as to what happened. In fact it is debatable they even care. From day one her death was ruled as "suspicious" and not a homicide.
Donne wrote, Therefore send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.
Two years ago the words of the poet were never truer. They will continue to be that way as long as our kids keep dying like Carina Saunders, Kelsey Bransby, and Alina Fitzpatrick did.
sic vita est