Another search planned for Oklahoma girls missing since 1999
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Two days of meetings and new searches were planned for the week of Dec. 6-12 for two 16-year-old Oklahoma girls missing and presumed dead for more than two decades, authorities said Monday.
Investigators with the Craig County District Attorney’s Office and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation will be joined by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement for Lauria Bible, a Cherokee Nation citizen, and Ashley Freeman in and around the former town of Picher, about 85 miles northeast of Tulsa, said district attorney spokeswoman Michelle Lowry.
Lowry said a request from Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma late last year prompted the federal agency’s involvement.
“We don't have a (new) tip or a lead” prompting the search, Lowry said, “The federal agency brings additional equipment and expertise in dealing with underground and mine searches.”
Previous searches for the girl’s bodies both in northeast Oklahoma and southeast Kansas have been unsuccessful.
The OSMRE will use an underground camera and, if needed, lighting to examine the floors and walls of mine shafts in the area. Picher, which no longer exists as a town, was included in a federally funded buyout after a 2006 Army Corps of Engineers study revealed abandoned lead and zinc mines beneath the area had a high risk of caving in.
Authorities said Bible was spending the night with Freeman on Dec. 30, 1999, when Freeman’s parents, Danny and Kathy Freeman, were killed and their mobile home near Welch was burned.
The parents’ bodies were found in the burned rubble and girls haven’t been seen since.
Authorities believe the teenagers were eventually killed and their bodies left in a pit in the Picher area.
A Kansas man, Ronnie Dean Busick, 68, was arrested and charged in 2018 with four counts of murder, two counts of kidnapping and one count of arson in the case.
Busick in December was found competent for trial. He has denied knowledge of or involvement in the case.
Authorities said two other suspects in the case are now dead.