Updated at: 02/25/2013 6:08 PM
By TIM TALLEY
(AP) OKLAHOMA CITY - First-degree murder charges have been dismissed against two men accused of killing a 19-year-old Oklahoma woman whose dismembered body was found stuffed in a duffel bag.
Oklahoma County prosecutors filed a motion Friday to dismiss the charges and recall arrest warrants for Jimmy Lee Massey Jr., 34, and Luis Ruiz, 38, pending further investigation into the death of Carina Saunders, whose body was found Oct. 13, 2011, behind a grocery store in the Oklahoma City suburb of Bethany.
The motion, signed by District Judge Ray Elliott, said charges can be re-filed pending the outcome of the investigation. The prosecutor in the case, Assistant District Attorney Jimmy Harmon, declined comment Monday. District Attorney David Prater said the investigation is continuing but he declined to discuss details.
Prosecutors filed the motion less than a month after Bethany police asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to take over the case. A spokeswoman for OSBI, Jessica Brown, said the agency is in the process of gathering and studying reports from various law enforcement agencies that have worked on the case.
"It’s in the very beginning stages," Brown said. "It will take a long time."
Massey was already in custody on a drug-related charge when murder charges were filed again him and Ruiz in July. Massey’s defense attorney, Mitch Solomon, said he and Massey are "obviously very pleased" that the charges have been dismissed.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Saunders family as this investigation begins," he said. Solomon also was critical of some media outlets who he said had sensationalized the case.
Ruiz’ defense attorney, Derek Chance, did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment.
An autopsy report conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner found that the victim’s body had been decapitated and was missing hands and feet. It also indicated there were cut marks around Saunders’ neck and that a tattoo on her upper back of the words "Kween Spade" showed rectangular cut marks that appeared to be an attempt to remove it. It also said that limbs had been severed and separated.
The report found that Saunders’ body contained traces of Tramadol, a prescription pain reliever, but that analysts couldn’t determine the amount due to decomposition.
Bethany Police Chief Phil Cole has said Saunders’ killing was linked with human trafficking, prostitution and a drug ring.
An affidavit filed in the case says a witness told Bethany police she and Saunders went to a south Oklahoma City house where Ruiz beat Saunders and tied her up. The witness said Ruiz dragged Saunders to an upstairs room, tied her to a table and cut off her left foot. The witness said he also tried to cut off her right foot, but his saw broke. The witness said she escaped through a window.
Another witness told police she had been told the killing was recorded on Ruiz’s cellphone. She said she was with Ruiz in a hotel in May, looked at his phone while he was in the bathroom, saw the video of the killing and recognized Ruiz as the person who was cutting off Saunders’ foot, an affidavit says.
Court records state that Massey told police he witnessed Saunders’ death but claimed he wasn’t involved. But police said he told a jail inmate he was involved in the killing and provided details that only investigators and the Medical Examiner’s Office would know.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)