Thursday, April 20, 2017

Carina Saunders: How We Got Here

Here is how we got here.

Depending on who you believe Carina Saunders was last seen getting into a vehicle with a man named Kenny Richards at a Taco Bell near I-40 and Rockwell Ave. in south Oklahoma City. That was at some point before her mother reported her missing on September 28th, 2011.

It's either there, or on October 8th as she was climbing into a large red pick up in the Newcastle Casino parking lot while a group of unnamed women begged her not to go. The guy who was allegedly driving the truck remains unidentified and is described only as having both arms covered with tat sleeves.

Most of her body was discovered behind a Homeland grocery store stuffed into a bag within a bag on October 13th. Her hands and feet were missing as were her clothes. Apparently the killer, or killers had tried to remove a large tattoo on her back which read, "Kween Spade." It has been speculated the murderer and or murderers were trying to conceal her identity. If they were they proved themselves to be as stupid as they were brutal. Her detached head was included in the remains and authorities simply used dental records to make an ID.

The first and most substantial mistake in the investigation came immediately. For reasons known only to themselves the Bethany Police took charge of the case. At the time the force consisted of 30 plus officers who patrolled a municipal enclave of less than 20,000 people. Up until then their main claim to fame was how ferociously they enforced the speed limits on the streets of their tiny bailiwick.

It took until July, 2012 for them to settle on two suspects. The first was Jimmy Lee Massey who was, at the time, residing in the Oklahoma County jail. According to the media Massey had been busy talking to other inmates about the Saunders killing. One alleged tidbit was he had kidnapped a woman and taken her to the scene of the murder in order to force her to witness the brutal torture and killing. The only problem was the people who claimed Massey was saying all this incriminating stuff were a bunch of convicted felons looking to get their time in the joint cut short by any means possible.

By then the scene of the crime had shifted from an apartment near the stockyards to a house on S. Harvey Avenue. Again, depending on who you believe a couple of different women were there. One claimed she left before the gruesome goings on began and another said once it started she jumped out of a window to escape.

On July 5th Luis Ruiz was also arrested in connection with the murder. Within a week the wildly lurid news a phone video of the torture and killing of Carina Saunders might exist became public knowledge. The local media went, what is usually called, ape shit. On the 23rd of July both Ruiz and Massey were charged with the crime.

Shortly afterward the Bethany cops intensified the hysteria when they claimed they had at least one confidential witness who had seen part of the video. Then, in a demonstration of their professional expertise, they leaked the woman's name to the press. It didn't take but a few minutes for alleged witnesses to start recanting their stories and, in some cases, head for parts unknown.

As of this moment the video has never been found, or verified beyond someone saying they know someone else who has seen it.

In early January 2013, as Ruiz and Massey sat in jail, a tipster told the Bethany cops he, or she overheard a conversation outside a store between unnamed people. According to the anonymous informant, Kenny Richards had supposedly driven Saunders to the scene of her death and after the awful deed was done buried her clothes and belongings. A second tip a few days later maintained Richards buried the evidence in a metal tank on his property at 504 1/2 Oakdale Dr.

Today, The Oklahoman reports a Bethany detective went to the house on Oakdale with a metal detector that month and conducted a visual search. Nothing was found and Richards name remained out of the press. He even managed to stay under the public radar when the body of a young woman was found in his living room a couple of months later. Her death was ruled a suicide.

On the 5th of February, 2013 the Bethany cops and Oklahoma County DA, David Prater had a Come to Jesus meeting. At the end of the day Bethany was off the case and it was handed to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Less than three weeks later the charges against Ruiz and Massey were dropped without prejudice.

Last week the OSBI began to dig in the back yard on Oakdale Dr. On Tuesday they announced they'd found a folding knife, a windbreaker jacket, two slip on sandals, and a shirt, all of which had been discovered underground. Lab results, they say, could take months.

Not unsurprisingly Richards is saying he is innocent of everything. He admits picking Saunders up at the Taco Bell. He also claims after the two of them, "hung out for a while," he drove her to an apartment complex at 2500 N. Rockwell and dropped her off. According to him, it was the last time he saw her. The complex is across the street and less than a block away from the field where the partial remains of Carina Saunders was found.

So there we have it. The saga of Carina Saunders is dark and twisted--a uniquely American tragedy where the bottom edge of the middle class melts into a gruesome underworld many of us would prefer to ignore. In this instance, however, the horror was so titillating we haven't been able to turn away.

Sadly, in the end, that's the only reason the OSBI is still working her case.

Think not? Just ask the parents of Alina Fitzpatrick. Their daughter's nude body was found a month after Carina Saunders' death hit the headlines. The only difference was her killers didn't display the grotesque panache Saunders' did. And, right now--six plus years later--there isn't anyone digging up back yards looking for her clothes.


1 comment:

  1. Truly a bizarre story, one you are documenting very well.