Former Tulsan to make Camp Scott movie

BY JAMI MURPHY
Former Reporter
07/21/2011 07:13 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Delno Ebie, left, shakes hands with producer John Russell after auditioning for the part of Gene Leroy Hart for the movie “Candles” on June 26 in Tulsa, Okla. Hart was a Cherokee man who was accused, and later acquitted, of the Camp Scott murders in 1977. COURTESY OF CHANCE FILM PRODUCTIONS
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Auditions for the upcoming move “Candles” are held June 26 at Circle Cinema in Tulsa, Okla. Movie producer John Russell said the movie is based on the murders of three Girl Scouts in Locust Grove in 1977. COURTESY OF CHANCE FILM PRODUCTIONS
TULSA, Okla. – Nearly 34 years after three Girl Scouts were murdered at Camp Scott in Locust Grove, writer/director John Russell plans to name whom he believes is their killer in his upcoming film “Candles.”

Gene Leroy Hart, a Cherokee man, was accused of killing Michelle Guse, Lori Lee Farmer and Denise Milner and hunted by law enforcement officials in 1977. He was acquitted of the crimes in 1979, but died three months later of a heart attack while serving an unrelated prison term.

Russell said he’s making this movie because of his personal connection to the event. He grew up in Tulsa and attended the Boy Scout’s Camp Garland in Locust Grove as a child.

Russell said for the past 30 years he has interviewed individuals and researched the case. He’s also worked with a former Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation officer.

“Matter of fact, we have an ex-OSBI officer that was involved in the investigations in assisting us as far as getting the facts straight…and what was going on within the community and the law enforcement agencies (at that time),” he said.

This film is not a documentary, Russell said, but a drama based on factual events. He called it a “bi-story.” It will tell two stories – one of the manhunt and trial of Hart and one of the killer, he said.

Russell said he thought Hart had gone astray as far as his sexual prowess, but he was not a killer.

“The person that killed the three girls is someone who is a pathological and a psychopath,” he said.

Russell didn’t name the individual he believes is the killer, only saying that this person was not from the area originally and is currently on death row in the state penitentiary in McAlester.

The Cherokee Phoenix asked of the legality of his naming the individual and Russell said that he it is rightful to do so.

“I believe it’s my right to express what was told to me. I think it’s my right constitutionally that any information that I receive would be considered evidence as long as it was not disputed,” he said.

Russell said he’s attempted to give his information to authorities, but has not been successful. He added that making a film was his only avenue of getting out the information.

“Now that I have a production company and I have the vehicle to do it, when my wife passed away two years ago I felt free that I could go ahead and do this and not have any repercussions on her either through threats or possible attacks on her,” he said.

Russell said several people, who he didn’t name, have made it know to him that they don’t want the film made. He only identified them as law enforcement officials from that time.

“The people that have been attacking me certainly know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, and they’re the ones that don’t want the information out. Basically, we’re opening a can of worms or a Pandora’s box if you will,” he said. “Because there was Oklahoma law enforcement officials involved in protecting the killer for their own personal reasons because of the drug traffic that was taking place in northeastern Oklahoma. These people don’t want this story to be told because they’re going to be held accountable for why they did what they did.”

Regarding the individual he plans to name as the murderer, Russell said if that person had been convicted of previous crimes then he wouldn’t have been free to commit the Camp Scott murders.

“…The killer would have been death row at that time and not at Camp Scott,” he said.

Russell added that the Oklahoma Film Commission has refused to assist or support his making the movie in Oklahoma and told him “the film is too controversial.”

“I’d like to try to force filming there, but when you don’t have the support of the film commission we feel that we would run into other obstacles where people would try to stop us in having success filming there. Instead of bucking the proverbial winds that might blow through Oklahoma we decided to go ahead and make the decision between our staff of filming in Kansas,” he said.

Russell said he’s disappointed about his movie not being welcomed by the OFC and believes that lack of support would lead to others in the state not wanting it filmed.

“…then who might possibly say ‘well, if you don’t have the support of the film commission, then we’re not going to support you as far as filming on our land or filming at our courthouse or filming at McAlester state penitentiary for that matter.’”

Leslie Blair, Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department’s public information officer, said the state is out of money for the rebate offered to filmmakers through the OFC. She added that the OFC reserves the right to not be involved with movies that are considered controversial.

“We at this time chose not to send out a release about a casting call. We’re not saying he can’t make his movie in Oklahoma. We’re not working against him. We are not involved,” she added.

The OFC assists filmmakers while filming in Oklahoma. According to its website, it helps find the best Oklahoma locations for projects and minimizes red tape during shooting. Companies are required to fill out the paperwork, including a project information form and an Oklahoma filming permit.

Russell held a casting call on June 26 in Tulsa. He said he had more than 500 people who auditioned and had some “pretty good talent.”

“We’re thinking about auditioning in Oklahoma City. (I hope) within the next 30 days if we do it,” he said. “We had one very good possibility for Gene Hart.”

jami-custer@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560

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