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Gruesome Sexual Torture Case Shakes Up Sleepy New Mexico Town

Crime: Four people have been charged with kidnapping women for use as sex slaves. Although no bodies have been found, more than a dozen may have been murdered.

June 27, 1999|CHRIS ROBERTS | ASSOCIATED PRESS

ELEPHANT BUTTE, N.M. — She ran terrified down a dusty southern New Mexico road, blood-smeared and naked except for a padlocked metal collar and chain.

Daylight was fading as she spied an open door in a trailer about 100 yards away. She bounded across the porch, burst into the home without knocking, grabbed the woman standing inside and pleaded for help.

"She was terrified, she was crying and she kept saying 'Please, help me, don't let them get me!' " said the neighbor, Darlene Breech. "And she went back and locked the front door."

Still frantic, the 22-year-old woman told police she had escaped a mobile home of horrors, where she had been chained to a bed and subjected to a ritual of sexual sadism.

"I'm alive! Yes, I'm alive!" she cried. "I broke free! I broke free!"

Ron Lopez, the local district attorney, took one look inside the mobile home and called for help. Within days, nearly 100 state police and FBI agents had mobilized in this small lakeside town about 150 miles south of Albuquerque.

Even the top state official in charge of the case, Darren White, was disgusted by what investigators found. He described it as a "sick and disturbing" case that likely involved more victims and murder.

Since the case broke March 22, four people have been charged, one with murder. Despite a major search, no bodies have been found.

At two preliminary hearings, graphic testimony of sexual slavery shocked this quiet haven of retirees and vacationers in modest mobile homes. The front page of their weekly newspaper featured photos of the two main suspects, right next to one of the community's smiling fiesta queen.

The investigation quickly spread to nine other states--including Colorado, Arizona and Texas--and two more women told tales of sadistic rape and torture at the home of David Parker Ray, 59, a mechanic for the state parks system.

Ray and his girlfriend, Cynthia Lea Hendy, 39, were charged with dozens of counts of kidnapping and sexual assault. Police later charged Ray's daughter, Glenda "Jesse" Ray, 32, with 12 counts. They charged Dennis Roy Yancy, 27, in the murder of a 22-year-old woman.

Hendy is seeking a plea bargain. The others have pleaded innocent. No trial dates have been set.

Hendy told investigators that Ray admitted killing as many as 14 people and dumping their bodies in the desert and in Elephant Butte Lake. Ray's attorney accused her of telling prosecutors simply what they want to hear.

In Ray's mobile home and a nearby trailer dubbed the "toy box," police found intricate, handcrafted torture devices, photographs of women being tortured, guns and a coffin-shaped box with a ventilation system to keep victims from suffocating.

After removing a thousand pieces of evidence from the property, they started digging in the yard with shovels and probing with electronic devices. They brought dogs trained to sniff human remains to search the yard and some sandy gullies in the area. They even used a backhoe to search for bodies.

FBI profilers described Ray as a sexual sadist; prosecutors called him a sexual predator.

The first woman told police she had been kidnapped by Ray and Hendy in Albuquerque while negotiating a price for oral sex. She said she escaped from Hendy three days later, while Ray was working.

The second woman, from Truth or Consequences, said she hitched a ride to Ray's house in February to borrow a cake mix for her boyfriend's birthday. She said she persuaded Ray and Hendy to release her a few days later after she promised to keep quiet.

Later, police used the videotapes found at the home to track down another woman. She testified that Ray and his daughter kidnapped her after a night of barhopping in July 1996, then dropped her off several days later at her mother-in-law's house.

The women's stories are similar. Two women said they remembered hearing an audiotape that warned them they would be "kept naked and chained up like an animal and used and abused." Police found nine such tapes at the home, and an investigator identified the voice on at least one tape as Ray's. The tape said the women's memory would be fogged with drugs after the ordeal.

All said they were tied up, sodomized and assaulted with sexual devices, and treated like animals. Two said they were given electric shocks through clips attached to their nipples and genitals.

Prosecutors say Ray had a favorite place to degrade his victims, the "toy box," a large, soundproofed trailer next to his mobile home.

Ray's accusers recounted nightmarish episodes in the trailer where they couldn't tell day from night. The trailer was filled with instruments, a gynecological table with restraints, a pulley system to allow body parts to be stretched, books on female sexual behavior and drawings of women being sexually tortured.

On the trailer's interior walls were photographs of victims, charts to keep track of what was done to each and homemade posters with detailed instructions on how to treat "sex slaves." One stated coldly: "If she's worth taking, she's worth keeping."

Next-door neighbors describe Ray as a polite man who kept to himself. They reported no screams and nothing suspicious.

Three months after the first woman's story was told, law enforcement officials are not ruling out more suspects, charges or victims.

"We're still very open-ended on this investigation," said FBI agent Doug Beldon.

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