The neighborhood is littered with Chinese Elms and in places heavy brush partially obscures the fronts of small aged houses--places built before 1950. The buildings are set back from a curb-less asphalt road which is barely wide enough for two vehicles. To gaze down Oakdale Drive and around the surrounding neighborhood is to realize the area was originally part of a small rural town where back lots were large, stretching into tangled tree lines. These were yards where vegetable gardens could be planted and possibly a few animals would roam.
That was before urban sprawl stretched out, engulfed the area, then quickly deserted it as the march westward from Oklahoma City continued unabated. Apartment complexes were built nearby and then left to decay. There is one at the southeast corner of Oakdale Drive and 10th St. and another just to the east and south of 8th St.. Both are unoccupied and rotting slowly into oblivion. The grounds are fenced off, windows broken out, and breezeways poorly sealed with large pieces of plywood.
This is where the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation came yesterday. What appears to be a mobile crime lab sits on the dirt driveway of the property listed as 504 Oakdale Dr. OSBI spokesperson Jessica Brown announced to the media the bureau was there to search for evidence in the murder of Carina Saunders. Her body was found dismembered and stuffed into a duffel bag on October 13, 2011 a mile and a half away.
Along with the large black and white converted RV, Brown said investigators would employ ground penetrating radar and a back-hoe. In addition a team has been assembled which includes members of the Medical Examiner's office and archaeologists recruited from the University of Oklahoma.
Neighbors told the local media the property, which includes two small side by side homes and a stand alone garage, has been unoccupied for some time. Before then it was the residence of what authorities like to call, a person of interest. The man, Kenny Richards, reportedly was an "associate" of Saunders who was 19 at the time of her death. He is also believed to be the last person to see her alive.
It turns out the cops have searched the property before, but never with all the hardware they deployed yesterday. According to Brown, the bureau has received, "a number of tips," regarding the place.
Yeah, well a lot of people have received a number of tips when it comes to the death of Carina Saunders. One was the murder took place in a dingy flat located in an apartment complex near the stockyards. Like almost everything else connected with the grotesque crime it didn't pan out. Yesterday, Brown seemed to acknowledge the long odds the bureau faces. During an interview she said the OSBI was hoping to find some sort of evidence, but wouldn't be surprised if they came away disappointed.
Today the local CBS affiliate is reporting the OSBI has collected several items. They've been taken away for, "further processing and analysis." When questioned, Brown refused to describe any of them as, "significant."
No, significant would be the hands and feet of Carina Saunders. They weren't in the duffel bag along with the rest of her body and have never been found. Significant would also be the phone video allegedly taken of her torture and death. The rumor that such an obscenity exists has become an Oklahoma City urban legend.
The OSBI is utterly convinced the video is, indeed, out there. Last October they held a news conference offering a reward for its recovery. That would be in addition to the one already in place for information leading to the identification of the killer, or killers.
The brutal murder of Carina Saunders was so long ago it is easy to think investigators are doing nothing more than chasing ghosts with their search on Oakdale Dr. By now many of the names connected to the case have been nearly forgotten. Only a couple, like Luis Ruiz and Jimmy Massey remain recognizable to most.
Ruiz sat in the county lockup for seven months, before being released because of a lack of evidence. He sued the Bethany cops over the deal and settled out of court. Massey was already inside on other charges when the Saunders accusations came and went. Other suspected witnesses and players, such as Tia Downour, Michelle Hanshaw, Mindy Cottier, and Stephanie Howard have, for all practical purposes, disappeared in the fog of time and the never ending parade of new horrors which have come to pass.
Yes, the years move on. Carina Saunders' body was found in a field behind a Homeland Grocery store at NW 23rd and Rockwell. The building has been remodeled and the business is now known as Cash Savers. A self storage facility has been built on what was an empty sliver of land immediately west of the grocery. The makeshift cross, memorializing Carina Saunders which had been there is gone. The area behind the store where animal control officers ran across the duffel bag containing her body is inaccessible because of a large retaining wall and cyclone fence.
Perhaps the OSBI will find something in the next few days. If they do it would certainly be a refreshing change in this nearly six year cluster fuck. If they don't, as Jessica Brown said yesterday, it won't be surprising.
At this point, nothing is.
sic vita est