Nineteen-year-old Carina Saunders of Mustang, Oklahoma, was reported missing on September 28 of 2011 though investigators found reports of people seeing her alive and well in early October. On October 13, animal welfare workers looking for feral cats found the decapitated and mutilated body of Carina in a duffel bag behind a grocery store. It is believed the corpse was there several days before the gruesome discovery. Police had to initially look at her tattoos to determine an identity.
Authorities at first focused on a young “Juggalo” named Cody Perez, a violent ex-con who had recently pawned his set of chef’s knives and fled the area. After all, a brutal killing by a fan of the band Insane Clown Posse would just be another crime in a long list of sensational stories involving the group. But police cleared Perez after a nine week investigation with dozens of witnesses uncovered a crime that seemed to come straight out of a horror movie by a group of criminals most Americans thought were long extinct — slavers. We use the term “human traffickers” now, which sounds much more modern and urbane — as if the victims are willing cargo on some underground railroad. But the reality is that America’s modern day slave trade is as barbaric and brutal as slavery was before emancipation.
During the investigation into Carina’s death, a 20-year-old woman — who by some accounts may be a prostitute or a madam — came forward to tell a tale so horrific that most would discount it as fantasy if not for the confessions that followed. She related how a drug dealer named Jimmy Lee Massey with ties to a gang that sold both drugs and slaves kidnapped her from a residence and took her to an abandoned building. There he restrained her while a still undisclosed number of people, including a man named Francisco Gomez, tortured and murdered Carina Saunders. The witness, who police are not naming because of what they perceive as very real threats to her life, reported that Massey forced her to watch the entire murder as a message to her and other women of what would happen to those who didn’t cooperate with the gang.
A press conference held by Police Chief Phil Cole revealed even more disturbing details. The criminal organization Massey and Gomez were involved with has several Mexican nationals as members, indicating a transnational connection. The investigation led to multiple arrests for various crimes, but police have yet to apprehend everyone they know is involved in the gang. But most disturbing of all was the fact that Carina was simply a victim of opportunity.