Body pulled from Oklahoma River as police search for missing bikers



CNN

The bodies of four men were found Friday in a river outside an Oklahoma town where authorities have been searching for four missing men — though it was not clear whether the remains are those of the missing, police said.

Friday’s discovery outside the town of Okmulgee came as police search for four local men who went missing after investigators believe they left an Okmulgee home on bicycles Sunday night.

Still, the city’s police chief told the missing men’s families about the discovery of the remains as a courtesy before alerting the news media, he said.

“The natural (assumption) once the information gets out … would be that their loved ones were found dead,” so he informed them, stressing that he did not know the identities of the bodies, city Police Chief Joe Prentice said in a Friday news release conference.

Police have not said how the four dead men died; a medical examiner in Tulsa will perform autopsies and make identification, Prentice said on Facebook.

A passerby called police after seeing something suspicious in a river Friday afternoon outside Okmulgee, a town of about 11,000 people about a 35-mile drive south of Tulsa, Prentice said.

Police arrived and saw remains sticking out of the river, Prentice said. Police initially said they did not know how many bodies there were, but hours later said four male bodies had been removed from the water.

The bodies mark a deeper mystery for police in the eastern Oklahoma city: What happened to four friends who were reported missing from their hometown this week? And if the bodies are not those of these four men, whose are they?

Four men who live in Okmulgee — Mark Chastain, 32; Billy Chastain, 30; Mike Sparks, 32; and Alex Stevens, 29 — were reported missing by relatives Monday night or early Tuesday, Okmulgee police said.

“All four are close friends and are believed to have left Billy Chastain’s home on the west side of Okmulgee” on Sunday, Oct. 9, around 8 p.m. 8 p.m., police said in their initial release.

“All were reportedly on bicycles,” the police statement read, without elaborating on why they had gathered or where they might have intended to go.

Clockwise from top left: Billy Chastain, Mark Chastain, Mike Sparks and Alex Stevens, all of Okmulgee, are seen in this undated handout photo provided by Okmulgee Police.

At least two are believed to have mobile phones with them. Police traced the path to Mark Chastain’s phone “to an area south of Okmulgee but was turned off or lost power,” and “officers checked the area and found no sign of either male,” the statement said.

The river where the unidentified bodies were found Friday is nowhere near the path indicated by the phone data, Prentice told reporters Friday.

No bikes were found near the river, Prentice said.

“All the information we had up to this point indicated that our missing men – based on phone data – had traveled east to leave the city and then ultimately south. … This (river) is in the opposite direction,” said Prentice.

“We never considered this (river) as a search area,” he said.

Prentice cautioned that the path of the telephone need not necessarily be the path traveled by the men.

“I can tell you where Mark Chastain’s cell phone went, but I can’t tell you definitively if he had it at the time,” Prentice said Friday.

Police have received reports of sightings of the men after Sunday night, but investigators — including those checking surveillance video in the area — have not confirmed any of them, Prentice told reporters Friday.

CNN’s attempts to reach the Tulsa doctor for comment Saturday were not immediately successful.

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