A man once suspected of planning and carrying out the torture killing of a 19-year-old Mustang woman was released Monday from the Oklahoma County jail after prosecutors dismissed murder charges against him and another man.
Luis E. Ruiz, 38, and Jimmy Lee Massey Jr., 34, both of Oklahoma City, faced first-degree murder charges in the October 2011 slaying of Carina Saunders, whose dismembered body was found in a duffel bag behind a Bethany grocery store.
District Attorney David Prater filed a motion late Friday to dismiss the charges. An order dismissing the case pending further investigation was signed by District Judge Ray Elliott.
The charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning they can be refiled against either man.
Prater has consistently declined to speak about the case and did not return calls and emails Monday seeking comment.
Ruiz was arrested July 5 on a murder complaint and held without bail for more than seven months.
He was released Monday from the Oklahoma County jail wearing shorts and a short-sleeve shirt, the same clothes he said he was wearing the day he was incarcerated.
He hugged and kissed his parents near the jail's front entrance.
His father raised both his arms and said, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Jesus Christ. Thank you.”
Ruiz's attorney, Derek Chance, declined to comment.
Massey is a defendant in a drug trafficking case and remained in custody Monday. His bail is set at $100,000, according to a jail detention officer.
“We are obviously very pleased about the district attorney's decision to dismiss the charges against Mr. Massey,” assistant public defender Mitch Solomon said in a written statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Saunders family as the investigation begins.”
Solomon added: “It is very sad how some of the television media has sensationalized this case without having all the facts, as opposed to reporting the facts accurately, which is their responsibility. Hopefully, they will learn from their embarrassment in the future.”
OSBI called in
Earlier this month, Bethany Police Chief Phil Cole, citing the need for a fresh perspective, asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to take over the death investigation.
“After meeting with District Attorney (David) Prater, we both feel that the investigation would be best served by allowing an agency with greater resources and a ‘fresh set of eyes' to take over this complex case,” Cole wrote in an email.
The announcement prompted speculation that Prater would drop the charges against Massey and Ruiz because of insufficient evidence.
A day after OSBI took over, Chance characterized the police investigation as “poor” and said he expected Ruiz to be exonerated.
Solomon also was previously critical of the police investigation, saying “we are confident when the investigation is done properly it will show who is actually responsible.”
OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown said Monday that the agency is gathering evidence in the case and is in the early stages of investigation.
“It's going to be a very long process,” Brown said.
In July, Prater's office filed first-degree murder charges against Massey and Ruiz, who prosecutors say planned and carried out the torture killing, according to a probable cause affidavit.
The affidavit revealed that a witness told police she saw Ruiz beat Saunders, tie her to a table and torture her by sawing off her left foot and then trying to cut off her right foot before the saw broke.
The woman told investigators she jumped out of a window to escape after witnessing the killing.
Another woman told police she saw a video of the killing on Ruiz's cellphone and recognized him “as the person in the video cutting off the foot of Saunders,” according to the affidavit.
Massey shared details of the slaying with two detainees while jailed on drug charges, according court documents filed with his murder charge.
Massey admitted to kidnapping a woman and making her watch as Saunders was tortured and killed. Massey also described how Saunders' body was dismembered and left in a field behind the Homeland grocery store at NW 23 and Rockwell Avenue, court records show.