Officers confirmed the worst fears on Monday about a quartet of missing friends in Oklahoma.
Billy Chastain, 30, his brother Mark Chastain, 32, Mike Sparks, 32, and Alex Stevens, 29, were the four men found dead on Friday in a local river, Okmulgee Police Chief Joe Prentice. Not only that, but the victims had been shot and dismembered before being tossed in the water.
Prentice identified local salvage yard owner Joe Kennedy as a person of interest in the case. He said Kennedy last spoke to investigators on Friday and appeared to be cooperative.
“He was not antagonistic,” Prentice said.
But Kennedy was reported missing on Saturday night and could be suicidal, the chief said. Authorities want to speak with him. Prentice noted no charges were filed. He did not release of a picture of Kennedy.
“I don’t have any evidence to indicate that Mr. Kennedy is a threat to anyone else,” he said, when a reporter asked if Kennedy is a threat to the community. “But I would use caution. If anyone sees Mr. Kennedy, please call the local authorities.”
Police said after the press conference that Kennedy’s blue PT Cruiser was discovered. It had been abandoned behind a business in Morris, Oklahoma.
The motive behind the murders is unclear. According to Prentice, a witness claimed to receive an invitation to join the victims on a planned crime: to “hit a lick big enough for all of them.” Prentice said this was common terminology for engaging in criminal behavior, but it was unclear what was specifically meant by “lick.” Officers do not know what the men planned or where they planned to do it.
“All four are close friends and are believed to have left Billy Chastain’s home on the west side of Okmulgee on Sunday at around 8PM,” police previously said. “All were reportedly on bicycles. Two of the men are believed to have cell phones with them, but attempts to call go straight to voicemail.”
That search took cops to one of Kennedy’s salvage yard. (He called it a scrap yard, Prentice later clarified.)
“Nothing remarkable was observed inside the salvage yard, but evidence of a violent event was discovered on an adjoining property,” the chief said on Monday. Kennedy did not own that adjoining property, he said. He said that three businesses surrounded the scrap yard.
Prentice told reporters that he was not aware of any evidence that the slain men knew Kennedy. He said that Kennedy denied knowing them.
Prentice estimated that the bodies would have been thrown in the river late Sunday, Oct. 9 or early Monday, Oct. 10.
“I believe this morning we recovered the last piece,” he said. “We recovered the majority of the remains Friday night. We made an additional recovery yesterday, and we recovered what I believe to be the last piece this morning.”
Prentice noted the complications that water brings to the investigation. In particular, it makes it more difficult to locate evidence.
“Water always affects decomposition and depending on temperature, depending on the current flow, there’s a lot of different factors that do that,” he said.
Prentice declined to release information on the kind of gun used in the murders, such as whether it was a handgun or rifle. He said that investigators would become more reserved with information because this is now a homicide case. Prentice did say that the victims’ family members voiced shock at the dismemberments.
“I did speak with the family members,” he said. “They were upset. I think that they had already resolved themselves that this was their loved ones, but the additional information about dismemberment was obviously a shock, and they were very distraught.”
The investigation continues.
“I’ve worked over 80 murders in my career,” Prentice said. “I have worked murders involving multiple victims. I have worked dismemberments, but this case involves the highest number of victims, and it’s a very violent event. So I can’t say that I’ve never worked anything like it, but it’s right up there at the top.”
Police ask that anyone with information — on the murder, the disposal of the bodies, or Kennedy’s whereabouts — call (918) 756-3511. You can also email them at [email protected].
Note: We added information that should have been in the original version of this article. Kennedy’s blue PT Cruiser was found in Morris, Oklahoma, police said.
[Images via Okmulgee Police Department]
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