Five years ago on this date animal control officers were prowling through a field behind a Homeland grocery store in the Oklahoma City suburb of Bethany. They were searching for feral cats. What they found was the dismembered body of 19 year old Carina Saunders stuffed in a duffel bag.
She had been reported missing by her family a little over two weeks earlier. News accounts at the time said she was last seen near I-40 and Rockwell Ave. climbing into a SUV driven by a gray haired man in his forties.
Yesterday, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation held a news conference to reassure everyone they were still trying to find out who perpetrated the crime. They made pleas to the public for help and announced they were offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of a phone video supposedly showing Saunders' murder.
Thanks to the brutality of her death and the possibility some accomplice decided to tape it, the case of Carina Saunders has both fascinated and horrified the OKC metro area for half a decade. Rumors and facts swirled wildly in the media following the discovery of her decapitated body. So much so they have become nearly impossible to separate.
Initially, the 31 member Bethany Police Department was running the show. Detectives, Jack Jencks and Austin Warfield were in charge of the investigation. To say they were in over their heads from the beginning is an understatement.
Within months at least 12 different names were connected in one way, or another to the murder. Among them was Tia Downour. It was initially reported Ms. Downour had seen part of the phone video. That morphed into hearsay. Downour quickly claimed she had been told by an acquaintance, Mindy Cottier she was the one who had actually seen the video.
When the investigation began to unravel an attorney, Scott Adams, who was representing one of the witnesses, was quoted as saying, "She certainly said she saw a video, but the problem with that is I never saw any proof of that and neither did police."
During the Wednesday news conference, OSBI director, Stan Florence said his agency, "...has a strong belief there is in existence a video of the murder. We have strong reason to believe that video still exists."
In July 2012 Luis Ruiz and Jimmy Lee Massey were charged with the crime. But, it didn't take long for everyone to realize the Bethany PD had utterly screwed the pooch. In March 2013 The Oklahoman reported, their, "Probable cause affidavits contained conflicting witness statements and did not support the evidence."
Ultimately the charges against both Ruiz and Massey were dropped and the Bethany cops turned the case over to the OSBI. Jencks and Warfield were fired, then reinstated, even though Jencks faced charges of stealing controlled substances from the Bethany property room.
Since then the only new information released by the OSBI came yesterday when they announced two tidbits. First, Florence told the media his agency was in possession of a security video tape from Newcastle Casino. He said it shows Saunders getting into a four door red Ford pick up truck with a brush guard and lights on the cab. That was October 8th, five days before her body was discovered. According to the story in The Oklahoman by, Matt Dinger, "The only description of anyone inside the pickup is a man with full tattoo sleeves on both arms."
Second, the Director said, "...there were girls nearby in a dark car who were pleading with Carina not to go with them. To this date we don't know who those girls were, but we'd like to know who they were. If they will come forward we'd like to talk to them, find out what they saw, what they witnessed, why they were concerned about Carina's safety and getting in this red pickup."
How the OSBI knows those unidentified girls were pleading with Carina Saunders not to get in the truck remains unclear, as does the mysterious reference to, "them," as opposed to a single tatted up guy. Perhaps Florence just misspoke about the number of people in the pickup. After all, it wouldn't be the first time someone fucked up during the investigation of this nightmare.
The only other oddity which emerged yesterday came not from the OSBI, but Saunders' cousin, Kati Bloodworth. She was quoted as saying, "I do feel guilty about dropping her off that night and I always will."
Think about it. Carina Saunders had been reported missing by her family on September 28th. Yet, her cousin just admitted she knew exactly where she was on October 8th.
Yes, as the Bard wrote, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio."
Indeed, more than any of us will ever know, much less understand.
Increasingly, it appears the death of Carina Saunders is one of them.