Probe Widens in N.M. Torture Case
ELEPHANT BUTTE, N.M. (AP) _ Dozens of FBI agents, including psychological ``profilers″ specializing in macabre crimes, converged on a trailer home Tuesday in an apparent murder investigation that began with a case of sexual torture.
The case began to unfold when a woman escaped from the home wearing only a padlocked metal collar attached to a chain. She said she had been kidnapped and tortured by David Ray and Cindy Hendy.
Another woman then came forward and said she, too, had been tortured and prosecutors filed charges relating to the second victim Tuesday.
Investigators have been searching the dusty half-acre lot around Ray’s double-wide trailer home for several days. They have expanded their search for victims or witnesses into Arizona, Texas and Mexico and urged anyone else who escaped the couple’s torture to come forward.
State Public Safety Secretary Darren White said investigators have collected more than 1,000 pieces of evidence, are pursuing more than 100 leads ``throughout the country″ and have brought in three FBI ``profilers,″ the behavioral specialists depicted in ``The Silence of the Lambs.″
``This is a very dark, very disturbing case for everyone involved,″ White said. ``We believe this case involves more victims, and we won’t rule out the possibility this case involves homicide.″
He said he feared divulging too many details because it would involve ``descriptions so vile″ other victims might not come forward.
``We believe the nightmare is behind bars,″ White said.
Ray, 59, is charged with kidnapping and criminal sexual penetration. Ms. Hendy, 39, is charged with kidnapping and accessory to criminal sexual penetration. Both are charged with conspiracy and assault. The 25 counts also include charges of aggravated battery, criminal sexual contact and additional counts of criminal sexual penetration and conspiracy.
Albert Costales, Ray’s attorney, said his client is innocent.
``I do not believe any of it is founded on anything more than rumors, sensationalism,″ he said.
The woman who escaped wearing the collar told authorities she met Ray and Ms. Hendy in Albuquerque, where Ray showed her a badge and told her she was under arrest for prostitution. She said she was sexually tortured and shocked with electricity over three days at their home near the lake before escaping March 22.
An acquaintance of Ms. Hendy’s, John Branaugh, said Tuesday that Hendy told him Ray had killed four to six other victims, mutilated the bodies and dumped them in Elephant Butte Lake, 150 miles south of Albuquerque. She said other bodies were more buried in the desert, Branaugh said.
The couple kept torture devices in a wood and glass case they called ``the toy box,″ Branaugh said. He says he didn’t believe Ms. Hendy was telling the truth at first, since she made the remarks while ``in a drunken stupor.″ He says he went to police after he saw a report on the case on television.
Hendy said she participated in the tortures for the ``adrenalin rush,″ Branaugh said.
David Kitchen, FBI agent in charge for New Mexico, said Ray hasn’t provided much information. But White said Ms. Hendy ``has been a bit more cooperative.″ He would not elaborate.
Investigators have strung blue tarps across the rear of the Ray and Hendy home and set up picnic tables behind the tarps to process evidence. The fenced-off property includes a carport with a four-wheel-drive vehicle, a couple of storage sheds and two boats.
Foot-high metal stakes with red and green flags dotted the yard where FBI agents catalogued evidence Tuesday. Bone fragments found on the scene earlier in the search turned out to be from animals, not humans, police said.
The bizarre case has stunned the normally quiet lakeside town where neighbors know one another and look out for each other’s property, Mayor Bob Barnes said. Elephant Butte Lake, a manmade body of water fed by the Rio Grande, is a popular resort.
``It’s just out of character completely for our community,″ Barnes said. ``I’m shocked, and I think our citizens are shocked.″
A town meeting was held Tuesday night to discuss the case with residents.
``It’s pretty graphic, just a sick sexual thing. I thought this would only happen in big cities. When it’s in your own back yard, it wakes you up,″ said Nancy Teston of nearby Truth or Consequences.
Ray’s neighborhood overlooking Elephant Butte Lake is marked by mobile homes and recreational vehicles occupied by people who ``come down to boat and fish, and they don’t want to be bothered, because it’s a getaway for them,″ the mayor said.
White said Ray had built up a good reputation in the town over the past 15 years and knew Elephant Butte State Park rangers: ``They considered him a very friendly person.″