The brutal murder and dismemberment of two African-American men in Oklahoma had nothing to do with race, claims a prosecutor in the case.
The bodies of Jarron Moreland and Alize Ramon Smith, 21, were found dismembered and tied to cinder blocks in a pond near Oklahoma City last month, Moore County police said. The men were shot to death during a Craigslist exchange gone wrong and dismembered before suspects dumped their remains in the local pond.
Four people have since been arrested and charged in the grisly murders; 22-year-old Kevin Garcia-Boettler, his 16-year-old brother Brett Boettler, who’s believed to be the shooter and their mother’s boyfriend, Johnny Shane Barker, 43. Then suspects’ mother, Crystal Boettler, was also charged with accessory to a crime, local station WJLA reported.
Both Moreland and Smith were Black while their killers are white, leading many critics and activists to compare their heinous homicides to a modern day lynching. However, Cleveland County prosecutor Greg Mashburn said Thursday that the killings don’t appear to be racially motivated.
“We definitely explored that, and the evidence absolutely shows that this was not racially motivated,” said Mashburn, who has no plans of seeking hate crime charges in the case.
According to police, Garcia-Boettler and his brother arranged to meet Moreland and Smith on April 14 to purchase a gun from the victims in an exchange organized on Craigslist.com. The men planned to meet at a local grocery store where the Boettler’s white van pulled up on Moreland and Smith. Minutes later, witnesses said they heard gunshots and saw the van speeding from the parking lot.
It’s unclear whether Moreland and Smith hopped into the Boettler’s van willingly or were forced inside, authorities said. Garcia-Boettler told police Moreland allegedly got into the back of their van, saying he and his brother got scared after they thought they’d heard a gun being racked. That’s when the 16-year-old opened fire on the two Black men.
Garcia-Boettler also told authorities that he and his brother met up with Barker after the shooting to get rid of the bodies and clean their van. The white men stripped Smith and Moreland of their clothes and burned them before dismembering their bodies and dumping them in the pond.
Police found Smith and Moreland’s remains four days after their families reported them missing, station KFOR reported.
Upon searching the Boettler’s home, investigators said they found cleaning products and a power washer near their van, dried blood splattered on the roof of the van and a chainsaw bar soaking in a bucket of water, according to court documents. Cops also found a hatchet, pliers and other chainsaw parts soaking in bleach.
Garica-Boettler has been charged with felony accessory to second-degree murder and the unlawful removal of a dead body while Brett Boettler is charged with two counts of second-degree murder, unlawful removal of a dead body and the desecration of a corpse. Their bonds have been set at $3 million and $5 million, respectively.