Four Oklahoma men who disappeared on a bicycle ride were shot and their dismembered bodies were discarded into a river, police said Monday.
Mark Chastain, 32, Billy Chastain, 30, Mike Sparks, 32, and Alex Stevens, 29, were reported missing last week before human remains were found in a shallow part of the Deep Fork River, Okmulgee Police Chief Joe Prentice said.
The remains were found outside Okmulgee, which is about 40 miles south of Tulsa.
All four had been shot, and identifying them was slowed because their bodies had been dismembered, Prentice said.
"We believe the men planned to commit some type of criminal act," Prentice told reporters. “We do not know what they planned or where they planned to do it.”
Investigators base the belief on the word of a witness who had been invited to go along as the men planned to "hit a lick big enough for all of them,” Prentice said, using slang for a profitable criminal act.
The investigation led police to a scrap yard over the weekend.
"Nothing remarkable was observed inside the salvage yard, but evidence of a violent event was discovered on an adjoining property," Prentice said.
Prentice named the salvage yard owner, Joe Kennedy, as a "person of interest" whom detectives are seeking to interview.
Kennedy was reported missing Saturday night "and may be suicidal," Prentice said.
Kennedy's blue Chrysler PT Cruiser was found "abandoned behind a business" in Morris, police said later.
"Investigators are looking into how it came to be there," police said in a statement. "Currently we have no vehicle information for Kennedy."
Prentice stopped just short of calling Kennedy dangerous.
“I don’t have any evidence to indicate that Mr. Kennedy is a threat to anyone else," he said. "But I would use caution. If anyone sees Mr. Kennedy, please call the local authorities.”
A majority of the remains were found Friday, but some body parts weren't recovered until Sunday and Monday morning, police said. The men’s bikes haven't been recovered.
The victims' loved ones had already readied themselves for positive identifications, but the gruesome details of the men's deaths stunned them.
"The additional information about the dismemberment was obviously a shock," Prentice said. "They were very distraught."
Prentice promised loved ones that police will continue to press forward with the same dedication, even as the case has turned from a missing persons to a murder investigation.
"We have worked around the clock all week," he said. "We were out all weekend, and we will continue to work at the same pace that we’ve been working to try to find out exactly what happened to their lives and who did it.”