On October 13th, 2011, a pair of bags were discovered behind an Oklahoma City-area grocery store. Police would search the bags, and later identity the remains of a young woman that lived in the area. To this day, investigators have yet to piece together her odd final days… and the mystery of her brutal, tragic end.
Bethany, Oklahoma is a small town in Oklahoma County - just outside of Oklahoma City. In fact, it is a part of the larger metropolitan area, sitting just about 10 miles northwest of downtown OKC.
On October 13th, 2011, an animal rescue group was trapping feral cats in a wooded area behind a Homeland grocery store. This store, which is now a Cash Saver, was part of a regional brand, located near the corners of Northwest 23rd and Rockwell Avenue.
As this animal rescue group attempted to lay traps, a group of them came across a large black Nike duffle bag - which was right next to a smaller laundry bag. Even from feet away, the two bags had a strong smell, and members of this animal rescue group - fearing the worst - decided to call the police.
Police responded to a report of a bad odor emanating from a mysterious pair of bags behind this Homeland grocery store. However, what they found was not what they had been expecting.
Inside each of the bags were human remains - remnants of a young woman whose life had been brutally and grotesquely ended. In her last days, she had come across the worst that humanity had to offer, and investigators were left with one of the most infuriating puzzles in recent memory.
This is the story of Carina Saunders.
Carina Brianne Saunders was born on July 17th, 1992. Her first name, Carina, was chosen specifically by her parents for its meaning: roughly translating to "dear little one."
Carina would become just one of nine children, but was always able to stand out from the crowd. In addition to being incredibly beautiful, Carina was an incredibly bright and funny young woman, who had a knack for putting a smile on anyone's face. Her father, Richard Saunders, later recalled:
"[Carina] was always full of smiles and joy. She was probably one of the most giddy kids you would have ever seen in your life."
Carina lived with her family in Mustang, Oklahoma, attending the town's lone high school: Mustang High. There, she became known for her constant singing, eventually being given a spot in Honors Choir and receiving operatic tutorial. She was also incredibly smart, winning the school's spelling bee three years in a row, and earning a reputation as the region's top mathlete. She won a state-wide tournament in accounting, and planned to become an accountant if she couldn't make it as a professional opera singer.
Carina had a knack for making friends everywhere she went, and her goofy sense of humor was able to make most anyone laugh at a moment's notice. Her mother, Margie Queen, stated that she rarely ever got into trouble while at school. Speaking to Lindsay Schraad of the website The Chrysalis Chapters, Margie stated:
In 2010, Carina graduated from Mustang High School a year early. And it was at this point - as she was just beginning to enter adulthood - that things started to derail for Carina Saunders.
By 2011, Carina had started to struggle with substance abuse, and had been engaging in a variety of illegal narcotics. That summer, she actually went to rehab to get herself back on the straight-and-narrow, and after her release, she seemed to be doing much better.
On September 18th, 2011, Carina was just 19 years old, and fresh out of rehab. Her mother, Margie, saw her and later said that Carina seemed to be doing much better. For the first time since graduating high school, she seemed to be on the right track once again. The two attended church that day - at Margie's local Nazarene Church - which Carina posted about on social media.
Social media was how Carina's family and loved ones often kept up with her. After all, she didn't have a cell phone or a vehicle of her own, so they often used social media to track her activity and whereabouts.
Later that day - September 18th, 2011 - Carina and her mother, Margie, said goodbye to one another.
A little more than a week later - on September 28th, 2011 - Carina would post on social media for the last time. In that Facebook post, she simply asked "Whats everybody doin tonight?" and received very few responses. That would be her last post on any social media, and about a week after that, her family began to grow incredibly concerned for Carina's safety.
For about a week prior to that social media post, Carina had been staying with her 22-year old cousin, Kathryn. The two were close friends, and sometimes felt more like sisters than cousins.
That day - September 28th, 2011 - the two went to a Taco Bell alongside Interstate 40; near an intersection along Rockwell Avenue. At the time, Carina was wearing a white muscle shirt and gray Victoria's Secret pants with the brand-name "PINK" along the back.
Despite arriving at the Taco Bell together, Carina and Kathryn were not leaving together. Carina was going to be leaving with an acquaintance of hers: an older man named Kenny, whom Carina had told some family members and friends about.
According to some familiar with this mysterious Kenny - who was later identified as Kenny Richards - he was involved with Carina in some kind of sex worker scheme. Some have implied that he was her pimp, but Carina told others that he was going to make her a porn star. In the following months, Kenny would be accused of - at one point - making a nude video of Carina, and even soliciting her for prostitution.
Kenny Richards would later testify that he had picked up Carina that afternoon, and told police that the two had "hung out together" for a brief period of time, before he dropped her off at an apartment complex in Bethany. To his credit, he seems to have been telling the truth, but... more on him later in this episode.
After being dropped off at an apartment complex in Bethany - just outside of Oklahoma City - this began a period of more than a week in which Carina's whereabouts became a puzzle, which still isn't clear close to a decade later.
This friend, who has been referred to as Keegan in an article published by Lindsay Schraad of The Chrysalis Chapters, lived at the Studio 41 Apartments near N. Macarthur Blvd. and NW 41st Street. He said that on either October 6th or October 7th he saw Carina at the apartment complex, sweeping some gravel off of a staircase, and he said hello.
Keegan and Carina spoke briefly, and later that day, Keegan found out that Carina had not eaten in a few days. He offered to get her some food, and over the next hour or so, discovered that Carina was living out of a small bag, which held all of her clothing and personal belongings. He actually gave her a larger green duffle bag to store her things, and she seemed incredibly grateful for that.
Keegan saw Carina around the apartment complex a day or two later, but after that, he wouldn't see or hear from her again. At least, not until her name appeared on the news... and Keegan called the police, desperate to find out whether or not the green duffel bag he had given her was the one she was found in. Thankfully, it was not.
While the timeline of Keegan's encounters with Carina Saunders was pretty loose, we know that she was alive until at least October 8th, 2011.
That day - a Saturday - Carina would be spotted on CCTV footage from outside of the Newcastle Casino/Gaming Center, roughly 20 miles south of Bethany, Oklahoma.
In this footage, Carina is seen getting into a red truck, described as a large four-door Ford pickup with a brush guard and lights on the top. It looks like a group of men were inside the pickup truck, but only one could be described: a man that actually got out of the truck, and had both of his arms covered in sleeve tattoos.
According to descriptions of this footage, which shows Carina getting into the truck, a dark vehicle is parked nearby. In that car is a group of young women, who seem to be pleading with Carina not to get in the pickup truck.
To this day, it is unknown who any of these individuals were. The man - or men - from the red Ford pickup haven't been ID'd, and neither have the women from the dark vehicle.
The identities of these men and women would likely help fill in many of the missing gaps from Carina Saunders' story, as this is the last known place that police could track her activity.
The very next day - Sunday, October 9th, 2011 - Carina's cousin, Kathryn Jo Bloodworth, received a threatening text message that seemed to indicate something had happened to Carina.
Kathryn was texted a young man named Kyle Savage, who had known Carina for around two years. Police would later determine that Carina and Kyle had been exchanging text messages in the preceding weeks, but on this day in-question, Kyle seemed to be threatening physical violence against Carina and Kathryn. One text in particular read:
"I'm going to bury you next to Carina."
This young man, Kyle Savage, would later claim that the text messages were misconstrued and taken out-of-context. He stated that he had no idea he was texting Carina's cousin, but thought that she was another guy; perhaps a romantic rival, saying only that he had felt threatened and lashed out with a harsh-sounding text.
Later on, Kyle would be unable to fully answer questions about these texts, simply stating that they were poorly-timed but not incriminating.
Nonetheless, Kathryn shared these text messages with Margie Queen, Carina's 41-year old mother. The following day, October 10th - a day that Margie remembers distinctly, as it was Columbus Day and she was off-work from her job as a postal worker - Margie filed a missing persons report for Carina.
Throughout that day, Margie would haul around Carina's baby brother - her youngest son, who was just three years old - and hang up posters around the region. She began reaching out to Carina's known friends and family members, hoping that some of them could shed light on her whereabouts, but Margie knew that something was wrong. Carina had not posted on social media in more than a week, and several of her best friends had been out of contact with her for close to a month.
When Margie had gone to report Carina missing, police officers would note that she was:
"... terrified that something has happened to her daughter."
On October 13th, 2011, a horrifying discovery was made behind a Homeland Grocery Store, not too far away from where Carina had said goodbye to her cousin at a Taco Bell.
An animal rescue group that had been attempting to trap feral cats had discovered a black duffle bag with a foul odor, and phoned police. When police got there, they discovered that the black duffle bag was resting beside another smaller laundry bag, and a foul odor was emanating from both.
An examination of the interior of the bags revealed a gruesome sight: the decapitated and dismembered remains of 19-year old Carina Saunders. Her body parts had been individually cut and then wrapped in plastic wrap, and then stored inside these bags. Her head and neck were inside the smaller laundry bag, while her other body parts were in the larger duffle bag.
It did not appear like the victim had been killed at the scene; rather, her remains had likely been disposed of at this location, which was probably chosen at-random. Investigators would later state that the remains had likely been there for 3-4 days, due to the decomposition that was already well underway.
The identity of the victim was not known at the time, and police would have to spend the next several days attempting to ID the remains. However, they had a good idea from the jump, and the following day - October 14th, 2011 - members of the Bethany Police Department met with Carina's family to ask for dental records. They did not allow the family to view the body, believing that this would not help anyone.
It was the following Monday - October 17th, 2011 - that police called Carina's family and asked to meet them at their home. They told Carina's parents not to go to work that day and to meet them immediately. That day, police officials and a chaplain informed Carina's loved ones that the remains had been positively identified as Carina Saunders, and that the rumors they had heard - about the gruesome nature of her remains - were true.
It was a parents worst nightmare, and Carina's family would be subjected to a type of anguish that no parent, sibling, relative, or friend deserves.
Margie, Carina's mother, later told Lindsay Schraad of the website The Chrystalis Chapters:
Over the next several days, vigils would be held by Carina's loved ones: not only her family members, but her friends. Some assembled in front of Bethany Police Department to console one another, while others stood alongside the interstate, holding up images of Carina in reverence.
A memorial service would be held that week in a local Nazarene Church - the same one that Carina had attended service with that September, alongside her mother. She was later buried in her hometown Mustang Cemetery, in a small plot near the back. Her headstone featured a large butterfly, which was one of Carina's favorite symbols. In fact, her family believes it represents Carina in more ways than one, with her mother telling Lindsay Schraad - curator of the website The Chrysalis Chapters:
Early on, the investigation focused in on a person-of-interest named Cody Perez.
Perez was an acquaintance of Carina's, who was going to a local culinary school and working at an Olive Garden at the time of Carina's murder.
On the same day that Carina was reported missing - October 10th, 2011 - Cody Perez had decided to skip town. He had pawned off his knife collection to a pawn shop in Bethany, Oklahoma, and decided to leave the area. Rumor was that he had begun hitchhiking, headed out to the Southwest - either Arizona or California.
Because of this poorly-timed escape from the region, Perez was labeled a person-of-interest by police. He was singled out for the numerous Juggalo tattoos he had all over his body, and local reporters were eager to link lyrics from the Juggalo-themed group Insane Clown Posse to the murder of Carina Saunders.
Rachel Hope Laraway, Perez's mother, refused to go into specifics with the media, but did state that Cody had gone missing, and police were eager to speak to him.
"He just dropped off the face of the earth."
Cody Perez was later located in Arizona, and he made contact with Bethany police about a week or so after Carina's remains were found, on October 21st. He claimed that his move out-of-state was purely coincidental, and was related to a dispute he had gotten into with another man (relationship squabble, which had nothing to do with Carina).
Perez returned to Bethany and spoke to police. Likewise, the knives he had pawned off were tested by police for any sign of human blood. The tests came back negative, and nothing Perez had said seemed to incriminate him any which way. He was cleared as a suspect, and the investigation continued.
The FBI offered up their assistance in the investigation, which was headed by the Bethany Police Department.
Investigators would interview more than 80 witnesses over the next several months - many of whom were drug users and addicts. They were people related to Carina's known social circle, but slowly began to trickle out.
Cody Perez was one of the first persons-of-interest cleared by investigators, but he was quickly followed by Kyle Savage: the young man that had sent ominous text messages to Carina's cousin at around the same time she was murdered. Police stated that he had nothing new to offer them, and he was cleared after a single interview. He continued to state that the morbid, coincidental text message meant nothing.
Police stated that they were able to track Carina's last known whereabouts, to the apartment complex near NW 41st and Macarthur Blvd. Some time later, they would discover the CCTV footage of her outside the Newcastle Casino, which pegged her last known whereabouts as of October 8th, 2011 - five days before her remains were discovered. That gave investigators a tentative time table for her death, which they hoped would help whittle down the suspect pool.
The investigators would soon turn their attention to the address of 3500 S. Harvey street - which was now an empty lot where a house had once stood. Coincidentally, the house that had been there was demolished on the same day that Carina's body was found, and had a long and storied reputation for being a hot-spot of lowlifes and delinquents.
Neighbors had referred to 3500 S. Harvey as a "drug house," which was known to house not only drug activity, but a seemingly-endless parade of violence and sex workers. Police had been called to the home more than a dozen times, including at least once in 2010 (when a sex offender attempted to commit suicide inside) and in 2011 (when someone attempted to set fire to the home).
When the home was finally professional demolished in October of 2011, it was long-awaited by those in the community, who had had to endure its graffiti-covered facade for years. These neighbors were canvassed by police, and more than willing to provide all kinds of incriminating statements.
However, despite an exhaustive search of the now-empty lot, nothing could be found linking Carina Saunders to the home that had once stood there.
Results from Carina's autopsy would not be publicly released for several months after her death, as investigators viewed the details of her death as being intrinsically linked to their ongoing investigation.
Just a warning: details from this autopsy are not for the faint of heart.
The death of Carina Saunders was classified as a violent death, which was labeled a homicide in the official autopsy report.
The young woman's remains had been dismembered, but investigators were unable to recover some of her body parts. In particular, her hands and feet, as well as portions of her forearms, her left breast, the clothing she had been wearing at the time and other personal effects.
Investigators were able to find evidence of duct tape having been wrapped around her thighs before her death, and police later noted that there were "suspicious contusions over [her] right cheek and [on the] back of [her] right shoulder" - which they believe indicated some form of torture before her death.
According to the official autopsy report, it looked like whoever had committed this heinous crime had attempted to remove a tattoo from Carina's upper back. The tattoo, which was located directly between her shoulder blades, read "KWEEN SPADE," and was pretty unique in that regard. The autopsy revealed that there were rectangular cut marks around the tattoo, indicating an attempt to remove it.
Likewise, Carina's hair had been cut incredibly short, for an unknown reason. Likely to remove evidence, but it remains unknown why the culprits had cut her hair but not gone to further lengths to hide her identity.
The pathologists that conducted the autopsy theorized that Carina had been drugged before her death, due to postmortem toxicological studies from her liver, which came back positive for tramadol: a non-narcotic pain reliever that is most often used to treat pain after surgery. It is a prescription drug, so not something that one can easily obtain from a corner drug store. However, back in 2011 - before agencies started to crack down on opiate usage - it was fairly easy to obtain tramadol, but it is unknown how it ended up in Carina's system.
Because of the body's decomposition, pathologists were unable to obtain blood samples to confirm how much tramadol was in her system, but it was there to some degree.
Based on the circumstances, it was impossible to determine whether or not Carina had been alive when the brutal dismemberment took place. It remained a possibility, but experts could not rule definitively one way or another.
The findings from Carina's autopsy were not released for close to a year, as police wanted to build a case against their primary suspects. The findings from this autopsy would provide the framework for their pending investigation, which was building itself around two suspects... both of whom would be charged less than a year after Carina's remains were found.
In May of 2012, a woman named Tia was hanging out with a friend in a Bel-Aire Motel in Oklahoma City.
Tia claims that when her friend - named Luis - went into the bathroom, she began looking through his phone. In his videos, she claims she found a grainy video which showed the murder of Carina Saunders.
Tia knew Carina from prior run-ins, claiming that she had been forced to "baby sit" Carina on more than one occasion (to make sure she didn't do anything untoward). She says that on a later occasion, a mutual friend had recalled him making remarks that threatened violence against Carina.
According to Bethany Police Lieutenant J.R. Jencks, this video was incredibly graphic, and showed the brutal, prolonged butchery that went into the murder of Carina Saunders. It was Lieutentant Jencks that wrote in an affidavit:
"[Tia] said she watched for a few seconds until Saunders began to scream."
In his affidavit, Lieutenant JR Jencks would later write that Tia's friend, Luis, was:
"... the person in the video cutting off the foot of [Carina] Saunders."
On July 5th, 2012, two men were charged with the first-degree murder of Carina Saunders.
37-year old Luis Ruiz had been arrested a few days prior, charged with shoplifting. After entering custody, he found out that he was being charged alongside a friend of his: 33-year old Jimmy Massey, who had been arrested the prior December for drug trafficking.
Both men had a number of priors, mainly related to drug offenses. However, their criminal record stretched out of Oklahoma, and made them prime candidates for this unsolved murder.
According to statements gathered by Tia and others, investigators detailed an alleged criminal organization - headed by Ruiz and Massey - which dabbled in drug dealing, human trafficking, and potentially murder. The two men were linked to a number of other acquaintances, including a man named Francisco Gomez that was arrested on the same day. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing in this case, and was not charged with any crimes related to Carina Saunders.
In addition to Tia's testimony - that she had viewed a gruesome dismemberment video on a cell phone belonging to Luis Ruiz - another woman named Michelle came forward. She claimed that she had been kidnapped by Massey and Ruiz and forced to watch the murder of Carina Saunders, escaping only by jumping out of a window and later coming forward to police.
According to Michelle, her being forced to witness the brutal dismemberment and murder of Carina Saunders was a kind of power move - showing her and others what happened to women that didn't play ball. Presumably, they were all to become victims of human trafficking, and forced into some kind of prostitution scheme.
Michelle's testimony put the date of Carina's murder as October 11th, 2011, and stated that the murder happened in the now-demolished home at 3500 S. Harvey street.
Two inmates that had shared a cell with Jimmy Massey would later claim that he had confessed to involvement in the brutal crime. They seemed to validate the prior witness statements to a 'T,' and included details about how Massey had conspired with Ruiz to dismember the young woman.
Investigators finally seemed to be getting somewhere, close to a year after the remains of Carina Saunders were found. They now had multiple eyewitnesses providing incriminating statements about Jimmy Massey and Luis Ruiz, but would have to bolster their case with some real, tangible evidence... if any such evidence existed.
When Luis Ruiz and Jimmy Massey were charged with first-degree murder, it began spreading a panic throughout the region.
Many that lived in and around Oklahoma City had become familiar with the murder of Carina Saunders. It was one of the most brutal murders of the past several decades, and it had grabbed the region and refused to let go. Now, police were telling the public that a human trafficking ring had been operating in the region, which was potentially tied to some Mexican cartels - whose brutal reputation precedes them.
As you can imagine, this caused quite a stir in the area. Many were frightened by not only the murder of Carina Saunders, but the things that police and prosecutors were now telling them. Human trafficking, sex slavery, dismemberment... it was as-if the story was too terrifying to be real.
Some began to realize that the things investigators were saying seemed to be based more on hearsay than actual evidence. Almost all of the statements had been supplied by people making outlandish-sounding confessions. And, as we can now pinpoint, many of the witnesses themselves had issues of credibility; namely, police were leaning on convicts or felons - those with established criminal records - who testimony carried less weight in courtrooms than just about anyone.
Investigators continued reaching out, hoping to find evidence of a video. They began searching through phones, cameras, hard drives, SIM and SD cards, and other devices in the hopes of procuring footage of Carina Saunder's murder. This was footage that would cement their case, and provide validity to all of the rumors and witness statements.
Unfortunately, as weeks began to drag out into months - and the suspects continued to languish in jail, without receiving any bail - investigators began to learn that no such video existed. At least, no video that they could find.
To make matters worse, their most credible witness - Tia - changed her testimony. Instead of claiming that she had seen a video, she now claimed that she had heard about the video from a friends of hers.
As 2012 rolled into 2013, this continued to mount into an escalating problem for the Bethany Police Department and the Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office, who was in charge of prosecuting the case and had to prepare for a trial in the coming months.
In February of 2013, the case against Luis Ruiz and Jimmy Massey began to officially fall apart.
At the beginning of the month, the Bethany Police Department asked for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to begin overseeing the case. In public, Bethany Police Chief Phil Cole insisted that the case needed some new perspectives; while behind the scenes, Oklahoma County D.A. David Prater insisted that Chief Cole and his department relinquish control.
Later in February - following weeks of speculation - all charges against Luis Ruiz and Jimmy Massey were dismissed due to lack of evidence. The investigators had been unable to find anything linking the defendants to the murder of Carina Saunders beyond witness testimony - all of which was rather dubious at this point in time.
To the prosecution, it seemed like investigators had been trying to fit their evidence around their knowledge of the case, instead of the other way around. No cell phone video of Carina's murder was found, and the two main eyewitness reports - one of which had been recanted - gave conflicting details about where the murder had happened and how.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater filed a motion to dismiss all charges against Ruiz and Massey, but the charges were dismissed without prejudice (meaning that they could be charged again, if evidence were to ever surface). Attorneys and public defenders representing the defendants called the investigation very "poor," citing the lack of any real evidence.
Luis Ruiz was released from jail, having been held without bail for seven months. Jimmy Massey, on the other hand, would remain incarcerated pending a trial for drug trafficking. He would later be sentenced to 10 years in prison for possession and distribution of methamphetamine.
With the release of Luis Ruiz and Jimmy Massey from police custody, the investigation had to start over from the very beginning. Gone were the preconceived notions of the Bethany Police Department - who anonymous sources claimed had botched the investigation completely - and the case was taken up by investigators with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI).
It was rumored that Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater was the one who demanded Bethany P.D. to give up the case, losing all faith in their investigative abilities. That theory was given some credence when, just months later, one of the main investigators found himself in hot water.
Captain Jack Jencks - the man that had spearheaded the Carina Saunders investigation - was let go from the Bethany Police Department. It was discovered that evidence was missing from the police property room, and Jencks was identified as the most likely culprit. He would later be charged with eleven counts of larceny of a controlled dangerous substance, but just before the case went to trial, all charges would be dropped. More than a year later, Jencks was reinstated to the police force with back pay - causing him to immediately retire with benefits and pension - but the damage had already been done.
In 2014, just a few months after the dismissal of Jack Jencks, another Bethany police official was terminated. Lieutenant Austin Warfield, another one of the primary investigators, was let go following an internal investigation. He was the third officer let go in a very short period of time, and the second with active involvement in Carina Saunders' murder.
Like Jencks, Warfield would eventually be reinstated through arbitration, but the Bethany Police Department had taken a huge P.R. hit. Seizing the opportunity, the man that police had labeled one of their primary suspects - Luis Ruiz - decided to file a lawsuit against the city and the police department.
In his 2014 lawsuit, Luis Ruiz specifically named Police Chief Phil Cole, Captain Jack Jencks, and Lieutenant Austin Warfield, claiming that - in addition to them failing "to uphold the law," they had:
"... employed deceptive, misleading, manipulative and illegal tactics to manipulate and fabricate the criminal case."
The lawsuit filed by Ruiz included claims of more than 10 civil rights violations, and critiqued the manner in which the entire investigation had played out.
In 2016, after getting into some more legal trouble due to driving infractions and continued drug issues, Ruiz settled his lawsuit with Bethany and its police department for approximately $50,000.
His lawsuit seemed to confirm what many had long suspected with Bethany's investigation into Carina Saunders murder: not only that it was misguided, but that it had perhaps damaged the very integrity of the case itself. The thoughts and biases it had injected into the public consciousness - rumors of human trafficking, of a snuff video, and much more - would be hard to separate from Carina's case in the months and years that followed.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation would continue to explore the murder of Carina Saunders more than five years after her death. However, in the process of starting the case over from the beginning, they had begun focusing in on the people that surrounded Carina in her final days. And one of the names that kept popping up on investigators' radar was none other than Kenny Richards.
If you recall, Kenny Richards was one of the last known people to see Carina. He was an older man that had a checkered relationship with Carina; some have claimed that the two were involved in some kind of sex work, with him operating as her pimp. On September 28th, 2011 - about two weeks before her death - Kenny had picked up Carina from a Taco Bell. He told police that Carina and he had "hung out together" before he dropped her off at an apartment complex along Rockwell Avenue later that day.
That, he said, was the last time that he had seen Carina. Police had had no reason to doubt him, originally, but in the months after Carina's murder, suspicions was cast on Kenny Richards once again.
In March of 2012, Kenny had reported the death of another young woman - a 22-year old exotic dancer, who worked at the Oklahoma City club Night Trips. Her death was viewed suspiciously by police, as it was believed she had endured trauma before her death - but Richards was not charged with any involvement.
That indirectly tied him to two dead young women in the span of one year - one of which Richards himself had reported to police. At that point, however, police were already neck-deep in the case against Luis Ruiz and Jimmy Massey, and likely did not want to disrupt that.
In January of 2013, a pair of anonymous tips were received by Bethany Police, which claimed that Kenny Ricards had killed Carina Saunders and then buried her clothing and personal items on his property. In particular, one tip alleged that he had buried these items in a metal tank on a piece of property he had owned from February of 1995 to June of 2012, having sold it less than a year after Carina's death.
These anonymous tips were filed by investigators, but seemed to collect dust for the next couple of years as the case file languished. It wasn't until November of 2016 - more than half a decade after Carina's murder - that official interest in Kenny Richards was revived by the OSBI.
That month, a cell phone belonging to Kenny Richards was confiscated during a methamphetamine arrest, and a digital search warrant yielded a photograph of Carina Saunders - a picture that investigators had not yet seen. Details of this photo were never released to the public, but it seemed to spark some re-interest in the investigation.
In April of 2017, police conducted several searches related to the tips they had received back in 2013, relating to Kenny Richards and his property. They ended up finding "several items of interest," as noted by an OSBI spokesperson, which included a woman's shirt, jacket, sandals, and some other junk/debris. These items were all found buried on Richards' property, inside an old septic tank.
A spokesperson for the OSBI cautioned eager reporters by stating that it could be several months to determine the validity of these items, and whether or not they pertained to the investigation. Police officials have yet to make a comment about these items, so it is likely that the items have since been ruled out.
Kenny Richards has not been charged with any crimes relating to Carina Saunders or any other murdered young women, as far as I am aware. It is unknown what his involvement with Carina was at the time of her murder, but if he hears this - or anyone he knows hears this - please tell him to contact me. I'd love to speak to him.
Over the past couple of years, police have begun turning their attention from previously-named persons-of-interest to the mysterious individuals she was actually last seen with.
If you recall, the last known location that Carina was at was the Newcastle Casino and Gaming Center, which was about 20 miles south of the location her body was found. There, she was spotted on CCTV footage getting into a large red truck on October 8th, 2011 - shortly before police believe she was murdered.
Police have not been able to identify the only known man that was inside the truck - a man who had sleeve tattoos covering both of his arms. Investigators have also been unable to identify some young women that were sitting in a nearby vehicle, who apparently cautioned Carina from getting in the red truck.
It remains unknown how many details police have about these two parties, but it is now believed that the man - or men - inside the red truck might be responsible for Carina's death. If this sounds like a person you may know, you are cautioned to make contact with the OSBI.
Also, if you are one of the women from the nearby vehicle - or know who these people are - the OSBI would love your testimony. In a press release, a spokesperson for the Bureau stated:
"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. 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."
It has now been close to a decade since Carina Saunders was brutally murdered, but her legacy continues to loom large over the region of Oklahoma City.
On the one-year anniversary of Carina's death, back in 2012, her family donated $4,000 to the Make A Wish Foundation. The money was raised via fundraisers started in Carina's honor, and her loved ones have continued to make charitable contributions in her name ever since. Some have started scholarships for local high schools, and some have begun small organizations meant at bettering the lives for sex workers and those struggling with substance abuse issues.
Melissa Wagner, one of Carina's longtime friends, remembers Carina not as a murder victim... but rather, a real person whose wonderful, bright life was tragically ended much too early.
"She's not a random person who ended up in a duffel bag. She was enjoying life, and someone decided to cut that short. I don't want her to be remembered as what happened to her. All I want people to remember her as is Carina the fun-loving, beautiful person."
Carina's family and friends continue to hold out hope for answers regarding her still-unsolved cold case, hoping that justice can be found in the very near-future. Among the optimistic is Carina's mother, Margie Queen, who said just a short time ago:
"I know justice will be served, either here or in eternity. I just wish it would be here. I don't want any other family to go through what we've gone through."
On the five-year anniversary of the investigation, back in 2016, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to Carina's killer being ID'd. This was followed up just a few months ago, in September of 2018, when an anonymous donor announced a $50,000 reward.
This reward, which has since expired, gave a one-month deadline for someone - anyone - to forward the rumored video of Carina's murder to their email address: email@example.com. If no such video existed, then they would offer $30,000 for the identity of the killers.
The reason that this anonymous donor gave the deadline is because they were sick and tired of the case remaining unsolved. And if a reward wasn't going to inspire anyone, then an escalation in the investigation certainly would. The donor announced to the press about their reward and its Halloween deadline:
"If nothing comes from that, then we'll hire 10 P.I.'s. If nothing comes from that, then we'll hire 20. The people that did this should know that their days of being comfortable and their days of thinking they got away with it and that it's forgotten should end immediately."
The face of Carina Saunders continues to linger in the area, on several unsolved crimes posters and flyers. It also haunts prisoners in the state of Oklahoma, as Carina is the Queen of Spades in the Oklahoma Cold Case card deck, which hopes to inspire leads among convicts and other inmates.
If you - or anyone you know - has information about this case, please forward it to the OSBI. Tips can be called in to 1-800-522-8017, or emailed in to Tips@osbi.ok.gov.
Until the culprits that committed this crime are identified and convicted, the story of Carina Saunders remains unresolved.
Written, hosted, and produced by Micheal Whelan
Published on January 6th, 2018
Borrtex - "Atmosphere"
Kai Engel - "Soli"
Vitus Von Degen - "The Diesel People"
Rotten Bliss - "Lighthouse"
Alan Spiljak - "Forgotten"
Sergey Cheremisinov - "Sleepwalker IV"
ROZKOL - "Hell Slime"
Chris Zabriskie - "Last Night I Dreamt I Saw True Love in Your Eyes"
ROZKOL - "Burn It All Down"
ROZKOL - "Hoenikker"
Rest You Sleeping Giant - "Disconnect"
Other music created and composed by Ailsa Traves