Four Oklahoma men who disappeared after going out on their bicycles last weekend were shot, dismembered, and their remains dumped in a river, police said Monday as they sought a person of interest in the killings.
Mark Chastain, 32; Billy Chastain, 30; Mike Sparks, 32; and Alex Stevens, 29, had been reported missing to the Okmulgee Police Department last week. The four men, whom police described as “close friends,” were last seen leaving Billy Chastain’s house on bicycles “pulling trailers” around 8 p.m. on Oct. 9, Police Chief Joe Prentice said.
During a press conference Monday, Prentice said that based on information provided by a witness who was invited to join them, police believe the victims planned to commit “some type of criminal act” when they left the house. The witness told investigators that the men were planning “to ‘hit a lick’ big enough for all of them,” the police chief said.
Prentice said police don’t know what the men were planning to do. But during the dayslong search for them, investigators were able to trace their movements to a salvage yard using data from an app on Mark Chastain’s wife’s phone. According to the data, Chastain's phone also traveled to a local gas station and then a second scrapyard south of Okmulgee, where the device turned off. It was on a property next to that first yard where police now believe a “violent event” occurred, resulting in the deaths of the four men.
The owner of the two salvage yards, identified by police as Joe Kennedy, has been named a person of interest in the killings. Investigators last spoke with Kennedy on Friday afternoon, when the men’s remains were discovered in a nearby river but not yet positively identified. Prentice said at the time that Kennedy “appeared to be cooperative” and “was not antagonistic.” He has since been reported missing and may be experiencing suicidal ideations.
“I don't have any evidence that Mr. Kennedy is a threat to anyone else, but I would use caution,” Prentice said. “If anyone sees Mr. Kennedy, please call the local authorities.”
A few hours later, the chief said in a statement emailed to BuzzFeed News that police located Kennedy's vehicle but not Kennedy himself. The blue PT Cruiser had been abandoned behind a business in Morris, Oklahoma, but it was unclear how it got there.
On Friday afternoon, a passerby alerted police to an area of the Deep Fork River southwest of town after noticing suspicious items partially submerged in the water. Authorities identified the objects as human remains and ultimately recovered the bodies of four men. Due to the condition of the remains, it wasn’t until late Sunday night that the bodies were confirmed to belong to the missing friends.
“Although the official cause and manner of death is still pending, each victim suffered gunshot wounds, [and] all four bodies were dismembered before being placed in the river,” Prentice said. “That is what caused difficulty in determining identity, and that's why it took so long.”
Earlier in the week, Prentice described the situation as “unusual,” saying that it was the first time in his career that he had seen four men go missing at the same time. On Monday, he said that while he had worked dozens of murders and had seen cases where bodies are dismembered, “this case involves the highest number of victims.”
“It’s a very violent event, so I can't say that I've never worked anything like it,” Prentice said, “but it's right up there at the top.”
For days, family members had been searching for answers about what happened to the men, making pleas on social media for any information that might lead them to their loved ones.
“If anybody in this town has a camera on their house or on their doorbell or anything review your footage just to be sure that you didn't catch them walking by or riding by please do it for our families,” Sparks’s fiancé, Chrystal Dawn Sparks, wrote on Facebook early Friday morning.
Mark Chastain's wife, Jessica Chastain, told Insider she felt like she was “trying to put a puzzle together with no pieces."
"None of this makes sense," she said.
Prentice said when he spoke with the victims’ family members earlier on Monday, they were upset and “very distraught.”
“I think that they had already resolved themselves that this was their loved ones, but the additional information about dismemberment was obviously a shock,” he said.
He declined to provide additional details about the scene where police believe the men were killed. Kennedy denied knowing the victims, Prentice said; the police chief added that he had no reason to believe there was a preexisting relationship.
Police are still collecting telephone records and additional surveillance footage and ask that anyone with information about the killings or the disposal of the bodies to contact the authorities.
“We still have a lot of leads to follow, and we will continue to bring those in, prioritize them, and send those out to investigators to be accomplished, and then report back,” Prentice said.
This post has been updated to clarify the location of the killings based on details laid out in an affidavit filed in court on Dec. 5, 2022.