BETHANY — Cody Perez, who was called a person of interest in the killing of Carina Saunders, has been questioned by police and released. He is no longer a person of interest, police chief Phil Cole said.
Saunders, 19, was found dismembered and stuffed into a duffel bag that was found Oct. 13 behind a Homeland store at NW 23 and Rockwell Avenue. She had been beheaded.
Police said culinary arts student Perez, 21, of Oklahoma City was interviewed by Bethany police Sunday at police headquarters.
Perez told investigators that his family members had mistaken the victim for a girl he had brought to their residence. Investigators were able to verify Perez's story and Perez was released.
Cole said investigators think Perez left the state for reasons unrelated to the investigation.
“Perez is no longer being sought as a person of interest,” Cole said.
Monday police confirmed Perez pawned his knife collection at a Bethany pawn shop on Oct. 10, the day Saunders was reported missing to Oklahoma City police by her cousin and mother. But the knives have been tested at an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation laboratory and no links to the crime were found, Cole reports.
Authorities have not determined where Saunders was killed. But Cole said there is no evidence she was killed at the location where her remains were found in Bethany.
In a news release Monday Cole wrote: “Cody Perez became a person of interest based on a family member indicating that they had seen the victim with Perez at their home. The family member had seen the victim's pictures on the news and was positive that Cody had a relationship with her. Investigators developed information that Perez had pawned a set of culinary school knives and had left the Metro area.”
Anyone with information should call Bethany police at 789-2323.
The release states: “On October 18, investigators tracked down the pawn shop where the knives had been pawned and seized them. On October 19 these knives were taken to the OSBI laboratory where a presumptive test for human blood was conducted. That test result was negative. Additional testing on the knives is being conducted. On October 21, 2011 we received a call from a person identifying himself as Perez stating that he was in Arizona but was on his way back to Oklahoma to speak to investigators.”
Cole said investigators continue to receive information and all information is being investigated. Dozens of interviews have been conducted and dozens of items have been collected for evidentiary value, Cole said.
Anyone with information is asked to call 405-789-2323.