Suspect charged in missing Welch girls case pleads guilty

BY STAFF REPORTS
07/19/2020 02:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
In this April 25, 2018, photo, Ronnie Dean Busick arrives at the Craig County Jail in Vinita. The 68-year-old suspect in the 1999 disappearance and presumed deaths of two Craig County teen girls pleaded guilty to a reduced charge on July 15 in Craig County District Court. SHEILA STOGSDILL/TULSA WORLD VIA AP
VINITA – The 68-year-old suspect in the 1999 disappearance and presumed deaths of two Craig County teen girls pleaded guilty to a reduced charge on July 15 in Craig County District Court.

Ronnie Busick was charged with murder, arson and kidnapping in the deaths of Danny and Kathy Freeman, their then-16-year-old daughter, Ashley, and her friend and Cherokee Nation citizen Lauria Bible.

However, on July 15, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of accessory to murder. The murder, arson and kidnapping charges were dropped in accordance with an agreement he made with prosecutors.

The agreement states that Busick’s sentence is dependent upon whether he leads authorities to the bodies of the two girls who disappeared on Dec. 30, 1999.

According to reports, he was sentenced to a split 15 years, to serve 10 years in Oklahoma Department of Corrections custody and five years under supervised release. Reports also state that he would serve an alternative sentence of five years in prison and five years of supervised release if information he provides leads to the recovery of the girls’ remains. Time served would apply to that sentence, reports state.

His formal sentencing is set for Aug. 31, according to reports.

Busick has been held in the Craig County jail in lieu of $1 million bail for more than two years.
Investigators say Busick and the now-deceased Warren Phillip Welch II and David Pennington shot the Freemans and kidnapped the girls on Dec. 30, 1999, before setting the Freemans’ mobile home in Welch on fire.

Investigators also say the three men took the girls to a mobile home in Picher, where they were sexually assaulted and killed.

Investigators have searched for the girls in numerous locations in the former Tar Creek mining area.

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