Joseph Kennedy, 67, was charged Monday with killing four cyclists whose bodies were found dismembered last month in an Oklahoma river. Photo courtesy of Okmulgee County Detention Center/Website
Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Prosecutors in Oklahoma on Monday formally charged a man accused of brutally killing and dismembering four cyclists in the state early last month.
District Attorney Carol Iski for the county of Okmulgee, home to some 36,800 people south of Tulsa, announced during a press conference Monday that Joseph Kennedy, 67, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Mark Chastain, 32; Billy Chastain, 30; Mike Sparks, 32; and Alex Stevens, 29.
The four men were last seen Oct. 9 when they left an Okmulgee residence on bicycles and traveled to a scrap yard owned by Kennedy.
The men were reported missing the next day after they failed to return to their homes, sparking a mass search, which led officers to find their dismembered bodies in the Deep Fork River on Oct. 14.
"All four victims had suffered gunshot wounds and had been transected at the waist," Iski said Monday. "Additionally, Michael Sparks had both arms removed."
Kennedy was arrested days later in Daytona Beach Shores, Fla., some 1,200 miles from the original crime scene, in possession of a stolen vehicle.
Iski said location data retrieved from Mark Chastain's phone showed that the device was at the scrap yard Oct. 9 but left the site at around 8 p.m. and traveled to a local gas station by vehicle. Surveillance footage retrieved from the gas station at the time Mark Chastain's phone is believed to have been in the vicinity shows Kennedy standing next to his PT Cruiser at a fuel pump.
From the gas station, the phone is believed to have traveled to a second scrap yard owned by the suspect, Iski said, where it stopped transmitting location data.
After the four bodies were discovered, police executed a search warrant for the first scrap yard and located blood, a broken set of dentures and some personal items as well as a tree that had recently be struck by a 7.62 caliber bullet that was recovered.
During an undated, voluntary interview with police, Kennedy told investigators he had been experiencing a series of thefts on his property and that he had surveyed his lot Oct. 9 in an effort to catch those responsible.
"During the time the defendant admits he was present in the scrap yard, it is believed that the victim or victims were also present" based on Mark Chastain's phone records, Iski said, adding that Kennedy states he didn't not see anyone at that time.
Isaki also said Kennedy confessed to a woman he was romantically involved in.
The woman informed police on Oct. 18 that Kennedy came to her residence the morning after the murders are believed to have occurred.
"She said [Kennedy] was acting very strangely," Isaki said. "She stated that he had brought to her a bicycle that he had left for her son."
Kennedy's second visit to the woman's house occurred at 3 a.m. Oct. 15, the district attorney said.
"She reported that he was very agitated and told her that he was leaving and she would never see him again," Isaki said. "She reported that when she asked him what was wrong he told her that they were all against him and he lost it and he just started shooting. She told him that after he shot them he cut them up."
The bicycle Kennedy gave to the woman is believed to be the one Billy Chastain rode to the scrap yard the day he went missing.
Isaki said DNA evidence from the blood also ties him to the murders.
Asked if they intend to seek the death penalty for Kennedy, Isaki said they have not yet decided on what punishment they will request.
"Typically, we make that after we've had a chance to sit down with the families so at this point we haven't made that decision," she said.