Yesterday, nearly 100 FBI agents were at work in three different states uncovering what they believe is a case of serial torture, and possibly murder, on a horrifying scale. David Parker Ray and his girlfriend Cindy Lea Hendy, who are in custody pending bail of $1m each, have been interrogated by police investigators and no fewer than three behavioural experts in an effort to discover the extent of their alleged crimes.
"It has national implications. We literally have 100 leads and 1,000 pieces of evidence. This investigation is expanded throughout the country," the director of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, Darren White, told a news briefing in the small tourist town of Truth or Consequences, now the nerve centre of the police operation.
Mr Ray, a 59-year-old mechanic with the state parks department, and Ms Hendy, 39, were originally held on 12 charges including kidnapping, criminal sexual penetration and conspiracy, but this week state prosecutors laid another 25 charges, relating to an attack on at least one other woman.
FBI and local police are seeking to link them to crimes in Phoenix and Tucson in Arizona, El Paso and Victoria in Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. Officials have been reluctant to release details of the wider investigation for fear of jeopardising the case.
The woman aged 22 who ran naked down the road in Elephant Butte, the small community near Truth or Consequences where the suspects lived, was found with cuts, bruises and bumps on her head, welts on her back and small puncture wounds on her breasts.
According to the criminal complaint, the woman was lured inside the camper van of Mr Ray and Ms Hendy after an introduction by a mutual acquaintance. Mr Ray flashed a badge at her and said she was under arrest for prostitution. She was then handcuffed, driven back to the couple's trailer and bound to a bed. She was tied up, hung from the ceiling, whipped, given electric shocks via electrodes attached to her breasts, threatened with a revolver, raped and molested with sexual and medical objects.
She told police she escaped on the third day of her ordeal by striking Ms Hendy in the head with an ice-pick.
The police quickly swooped on the trailer, arrested Mr Ray and Ms Hendy, and found an assortment of torture devices as well as videos, which they said depicted the couple committing various crimes. They did not elaborate.
Earlier this week, a second woman came forward, saying she had been subjected to similar torture over five days in February. She had visited the trailer to pick up some cake mix only to be stripped, bound and assaulted. She managed to negotiate her own release.
The case has stunned the local community, a quiet mountain region 150 miles south of Albuquerque. Over the weekend, there was talk of bones buried beneath the suspect couple's trailer but these turned out to be animal, not human, remains.
Police also scotched a rumour that a dozen bodies had been dredged out of Elephant Butte lake.
Friends of the couple have suggested they mutilated or killed up to six people. One said Ms Hendy went along with the crimes because they gave her an "adrenalin rush".Reuse content