Jennifer Pierce, News 9 and News9.com
MUSTANG, Oklahoma – Hundreds of people said goodbye Friday to 19-year-old Carina Saunders in Mustang.
Saunders' dismembered body was found Thursday, October 13, inside a duffel bag in a wooded area behind a Homeland grocery store in Bethany. A little more than a week later, a large crowd of her relatives and friends packed Mustang Nazarene Church for the young woman's funeral.
Even the pastor had a hard time getting through the service. He held back tears as he explained how nothing could have prepared them for such a hideous crime against a 19-year-old girl.
Hundreds of Carina Saunders' friends and family members filled this Mustang church. They came searching for answers and comfort.
The day before the service, Saunders' grandfather and aunts told News 9 she was in the process of turning her life around. She dedicated her life to the Lord only weeks before her brutal death.
"He knows Carina's heart, what she has been through and what she has overcome," aunt Patti Chesser said.
The pastor echoed those words at the memorial service. He also read letters from Saunders' parents and best friend.
Saunders' father described his pain and asked "who can prepare you to bury your own child?" He said Saunders never got to experience life. Her mother said she missed her daughter's smile, expressive eyes, and laugh.
"We are angry to be robbed of her presence and all the milestones her mom and dad will miss," Chesser said.
Despite the sadness, there is some joy. The people who loved Saunders take comfort in the last moments they shared with her.
"I said I love you, you're welcome back anytime. And I said good luck and I hugged her. And she said I love you grandpa and that's the last time I ever saw her," grandfather Gene Chesser said.
The pastor described Saunders as a bright young lady who loved to sing, and is now singing with the angels.
Barbara Jolley, Saunders' aunt, says the family is still in shock.
"She glowed. She was radiant. And for somebody to put out that light is so unfair," Jolley said.
"We're trying not to let our minds imagine what she may have gone through," said Saunders' aunt Pattie Chesser. "There is no excuse. There is no rationality. There is no way to justify an action."
Saunders had a very large family. She leaves behind her parents, eight siblings, and seven grandparents, and a number of cousins, aunts, and uncles.
Police have made no arrests and have not named any suspects, but they are searching for 21-year-old Cody Perez, a person of interest in the case. News 9 learned Thursday Perez, a culinary student at Platt College, sold a set of kitchen knives to a metro pawn shop around the time he went missing.
Police say Perez was last seen at a convenience store near Interstate 35 and Robinson in Norman. He was wearing his Platt College culinary uniform and was carrying a blue backpack. Police believe he left the metro area on Tuesday, October 11.
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