(CNN) — The investigation into the disappearance of four men after cycling out of a home in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, last week is now a murder investigation, the local police chief said, after four dismembered bodies pulled from a river were positively identified as the missing men.
“Although the official cause and manner of death are still pending, each victim sustained gunshot wounds,” Okmulgee Police Chief Joe Prentice said at a Monday news conference. “The four bodies were dismembered before being placed in the river and that was what caused difficulty in determining the identities and that is why it took so long.”
The four men who lived in Okmulgee—Mark Chastain, age 32; Billy Chastain, 30; Mike Sparks, 32; and 29-year-old Alex Stevens — were reported missing by relatives last Monday night or early Tuesday, Okmulgee police previously said, after leaving Billy Chastain’s home on their bikes around 9 p.m. on 9 October
Investigators now believe the four men planned to “commit some type of criminal act,” Prentice said at Monday’s news conference, citing a witness who told investigators they had been invited to join in and “strike it up.” big enough for all of them.”
“That’s common terminology for engaging in some type of criminal behavior, but we don’t know what they were planning or where they were planning to do it,” Prentice said.
In addition, police searched a junkyard Saturday in Okmulgee, Prentice said. While “nothing of note was observed” inside, Prentice said “evidence of a violent event” was found at an adjoining property.
Prentice said there is a person of interest, but no charges have been filed. The person of interest went missing Saturday night and may be suicidal, Prentice said.
The four bodies were found on Friday after a passerby called the police because he saw something suspicious. Prentice was notified of the positive identifications Sunday night, he said Monday, and the families of the four men were also notified. They seemed resigned to the fact that the bodies were their loved ones, Prentice said, but the news that they had been dismembered was “obviously a shock.”
Police have not recovered any bicycles or the weapon used in the murders.
“I have worked on more than 80 murders in my career. I’ve worked murders with multiple victims. I have worked on dismemberment, but this case involves the largest number of victims and is a very violent event,” Prentice said. “So I can’t say I’ve never worked on something like this, but it’s on the strong side.”