Prosecutors dismissed murder charges against two men because Bethany police investigators submitted unsubstantiated paperwork in their rush to make an arrest in the dismemberment killing of a 19-year-old Mustang woman, The Oklahoman has learned.
Probable cause affidavits used to arrest and charge Jimmy Lee Massey Jr. and Luis Enrique Ruiz with the killing of Carina Saunders contained conflicting witness statements that did not support evidence in the case, according to multiple sources close to the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Their information wasn't corroborated,” a source said. “They are trying to make it sound like they have enough probable cause to arrest (them).”
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater dismissed the case against both men Feb. 22 because of insufficient evidence.
Charges can be refiled after further investigation, according to a judge's order.
Prater and Bethany police officials declined to comment.
Ruiz, 38, has been released from jail; Massey, 34, remains incarcerated on a drug charge. Their attorneys declined to comment.
Bethany police are no longer investigating the homicide. The case has been turned over to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
“It was not a professional and unbiased investigation,” said Oklahoma City defense attorney Scott Adams, who represented a woman once thought to have a video of the killing and dismemberment. “That's why we're sitting here with the charges being dismissed.”
Adams' former client agreed to meet with Bethany police in July but never showed up because she “was scared to come forward.”
“She certainly said she saw a video,” Adams said this week. “But the problem with that is I never saw any proof of that and neither did police.”
To date, no video of the killing has surfaced.
Saunders was reported missing Sept. 28, 2011. Her body parts were found in a duffel bag behind a Homeland Store on NW 23 and Rockwell in Bethany on Oct. 13, 2011.
Bethany detectives interviewed dozens of witnesses and followed hundreds of leads over the next 15 months, court documents show.
Adams said the investigation was flawed from the start and produced conflicting affidavits based on the statements of less-than-credible witnesses.
“I think they took some people who are suspect at best at their word, and they rushed to judgment,” Adams said.
Bethany police Chief Phil Cole said Friday he is not going to make any statements about his department's investigation of the slaying.
“It wouldn't be appropriate now that OSBI is handling the case,” he said.
Bethany police detectives Jack Jencks and Austin Warfield did not return calls for comment.
Jencks wrote the affidavit filed with Ruiz's murder charge.
The document revealed that a witness named Michelle Hanshaw told investigators she accompanied Saunders to a home on South Harvey and watched 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.
Hanshaw said she then jumped out of a window to escape after witnessing the killing.
Jencks wrote in Massey's affidavit that a witness named Tia Downour said she was at the location before the killing occurred — a two-story house at 3500 S Harvey.
She said she left shortly after Saunders arrived with Hanshaw.
The locations on the affidavits differ.
“Neither one of them said it happened at the same house,” a source said. “If Michelle and Tia were there at the same time, why didn't they have the same address?”
Downour also told detectives 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 Ruiz's affidavit.
Lack of corroboration
The account of Saunders' torture, however, appears to contradict details in the state medical examiner's report, a source said.
Jencks writes in Ruiz's affidavit that “injuries to body found during autopsy match injuries described by Hanshaw,” including ligature marks across the shins.
“Nowhere does it talk about ligature marks, nowhere does it talk about tool marks, which would be left by a saw,” a source said. “It doesn't say that because nobody ever saw that.”
Massey is said to have shared details of the slaying with two detainees while jailed on drug charges, according to the affidavit 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.
“His story was never corroborated,” a source said. “These guys had nothing to do with it.”
Adams said getting to the bottom of what happened is going to be “extremely difficult” now that so much time has passed since Saunders' remains were discovered.
Having a fresh set of eyes take a look at the case will be beneficial, he said.