“I've worked over 80 murders in my career ... but this case involves the highest number of victims and it's a very violent event”
Police in the US have launched a murder investigation after the bodies of the four missing friends were discovered less than two weeks after they disappeared on the evening of Sunday, October 9.
After a massive search operation was launched, mortem-examinations confirmed the bodies were those of the missing including Mark (32) and Billy Chastain (30), Mike Sparks (32), and Alex Stevens (29).
Okmulgee Police Chief Joe Prentice said the close friends were killed in a "violent" shooting at a scrapyard, dismembered and thrown in a river.
The owner of the scrapyard, Joe Kennedy, is a person of interest in the quadruple murder, Police Chief Prentice told a news conference on Monday.
Prentice said authorities want to speak to Kennedy, who is missing, although he stressed that he has not been named a suspect.
"I've worked over 80 murders in my career ... but this case involves the highest number of victims and it's a very violent event," the chief said.
The medical examiner also identified traces of bullet wounds.
There's nothing to indicate any relationship between Kennedy and the victims, Prentice said. Kennedy has denied knowing them, he added.
According to chief Prentice, the four victims were planning "to commit some type of criminal act" at the time of their disappearance.
"That belief is based on information supplied by a witness who reports they were invited to go with them in to quote unquote, hit a lick big enough for all of them. We do not know what they planned or where they plan to do it," he said.
“That is common terminology for engaging in some type of criminal behaviour, but we do not know what they were planning or where they planned to do it,” Prentice added.
The men were reported missing, having left the house of one of them on bicycle, Police said they believed at least two of them had mobile phones.
Investigators traced the phones’ path, finding the devices went to two salvage yards – one about five miles from the river, and the other about 10 to 12 miles from the river, Prentice told CNN on Saturday.
Police later found “evidence of a violent event” on property adjoining one of those locations, the chief said without elaborating.
Police have not recovered any bicycles, nor the gun used in the killings.