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The search for four Oklahoma men who mysteriously vanished more than a week ago has reached a tragic end.
Four sets of human remains were discovered on Friday in Deep Fork River near Sharp Road, just miles southwest of where four men disappeared on Sunday, Oct. 9, according to the Okmulgee Police Department. Speaking to reporters at a live news conference on Monday, officials confirmed the bodies belonged to missing men Alex Stevens, 29, Mike Sparks, 32, and brothers Billy Chastain, 30, and Mark Chastain, 32, who mysteriously vanished from Okmulgee, Oklahoma, about 40 miles south of Tulsa.
Okmulgee Police Chief Joe Prentice confirmed all men sustained gunshot wounds and each one was found partially dismembered, according to multiple local outlets, including CBS Tulsa affiliate KOTV. Although each man was shot, officials have yet to release a cause of death, pending a postmortem examination.
Investigators believe the river was used as a dump site, as reported by NBC Oklahoma City affiliate KFOR-TV.
“This investigation is now a murder investigation,” Prentice declared.
The four men, previously described by police as “close friends,” were last seen on their bicycles, leaving Billy Chastain’s West 6th Street home on Oct. 9 at around 8:00 p.m. The men remained unaccounted for, despite numerous sightings and a trace of Mark Chastain’s mobile phone leading investigators to a salvage yard off Highway 75.
Chief Prentice told KOTV the location of the men’s remains was off course from where they previously searched.
“All the information we had up to this point indicated that our missing men, based on telephone data, had gone east, leaving town and then ultimately south on 75,” Prentice stated. “This is in the opposite direction. So, no, we never considered this as a search area.”
According to ABC Tulsa affiliate KTUL, a passerby found suspicious items in the river on Friday at around 1:49 p.m. Prentice said they found “body parts protruding from the water,” telling reporters he couldn’t divulge what was beneath the river’s surface, per NBC News.
The men’s bicycles have not been found, according to ABC Oklahoma City affiliate KOCO-TV.
On Monday, Prentice stated the four friends allegedly planned to commit a crime when they disappeared, according to KOTV. One alleged co-conspirator, who ended up backing out of the alleged crime, reportedly told police they planned to “hit a lick big enough for all of them,” though investigators are still looking into the witness’ claims.
Although no charges have been formally filed, Okmulgee police say they’re now looking for a man named Joe Kennedy, whom they've named “a person of interest” in the case. However, they emphasized Kennedy is not a suspect in the quadruple murder.
On Friday, police interviewed Kennedy, who reportedly owns a local scrapyard, according to Fox Tulsa affiliate KOKI-TV.
A search of Kennedy’s salvage yard did not produce evidence, though there was “evidence a violent crime had occurred” on a neighboring property, according to KOTV reporters. Investigators stated Kennedy was cooperative but hoped to speak with him for a second time.
However, according to Police Chief Prentice, Kennedy was reported missing on Saturday and is believed to be suicidal.
Police say Kennedy may be driving a blue PT Cruiser, license plate tag LSA 245, according to KOTV.
“I’ve worked over 80 murders in my career. I have worked murders involving multiple victims. I have worked dismemberments,” said Prentice, according to KFOR-TV. “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.”
Anyone with information about the murders and Kennedy’s whereabouts is urged to call 1-918-756-3511.
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