Investigators, family plea for evidence in Carina Saunders slaying five years later
Five years ago, the dismembered body of missing 19-year-old Carina Saunders was found inside a duffel bag discarded behind a Bethany grocery store.
The gruesome killing has never been solved.
On Wednesday, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation announced a reward of up to $10,000 for a purported video of the killing and the device on which the video is stored.
“The OSBI has a strong belief that there is in existence a video of the murder. We have strong reason to believe that video still exists,” OSBI Director Stan Florence said.
Family members last saw Saunders on Sept. 28, 2011, and her body was found Oct. 13, 2011. Investigators have located surveillance video from Oct. 8, 2011, outside the Newcastle Casino. Saunders is seen getting into a red, four-door Ford pickup with a brush guard and lights on the top, Florence said.
The only description of anyone inside the pickup is a man with full tattoo sleeves on both arms, he said.
“Also worth making note of is that 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 would like to know who they were,” Florence said. “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.” Several members of Saunders' family joined investigators at a news conference pleading for witnesses to come forward.
“Five years is a long time to not be able to speak or hold or hug my daughter,” said Margie Queen, her mother. “It hurts physically at times. I have to be OK with just memories and with God. I've been surviving, but I don't want to just survive. I want to thrive.
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“So I appeal to those ... there when my daughter took her last breath or that were there when she got into that vehicle, to please come forth with that information.”
Florence said Bethany police, Oklahoma City police as well as the OSBI have generated “volumes of reports.” Investigators have interviewed nearly 100 people, he said.
OSBI Special Agent Jim Ely said “repeated sources” have mentioned a video of the slaying. “We feel confident there may be one out there. If there's not, then we've made this effort in vain, but if there is, then obviously, we have a very crucial piece of evidence. Anyone who saw that should feel compelled to turn this in. It's the right thing to do,” he said.
Piecing together a timeline of Saunders' last days is a priority for investigators. Since Saunders did not have a car or phone of her own, agents are looking for people who might be able to fill in those gaps.
“Anyone during this period of time especially who has information specific to what Carina was doing, who she was calling, who she was with, that bit of information could be very helpful,” Florence said.
Her mother, Queen, said: “It's time. It's been too long. Just have compassion, because we need to get these animals off the street so they don't do this to someone else.”
Saunders' grandfather, Gene Chesser, said Queen lives close enough to her daughter's grave site in Mustang that she can see the tombstone, adorned with butterflies, from her home.
“My youngest granddaughter, forever 19,” he said. “I know where she's at now. No more hurting, no more pain. I miss her terribly. I think of her really every day. She was a blessing. She might have known the wrong people, but they didn't have to do that.”
A cousin, Kati Bloodworth, said, “Carina ... was my very first best friend.
“I do feel guilty about dropping her off that night and I always will. But, if we can find out — get some closure on her case — then I know I'll be able to live with myself a little bit more.” Bloodworth said. “She was a lot more than what people say about her.”
Jimmy Lee Massey and Luis Enrique Ruiz were previously arrested in connection with the case, but prosecutors dropped charges against them due to a botched initial investigation by Bethany police, prosecutors said.