2 day search in Picher for teens remains ends with no findings

Underwater drone used to search pond

Two days of searching for the remains of missing girls from Welch, Oklahoma have come to an end.
Investigators discussed what’s next in the search for Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman.

Another day of searching ponds didn’t turn up anything significant in the case. At a pond that was north of Picher high school, they used technology including an underwater drone.

On land it’s a computer screen and joy stick run by a technician. On the water crews dropped in a unit that is an underwater camera drone which sends back images of what’s down below. Long plant life showed up that can be a hazard for divers.

Justin Farley with the Tulsa Police department dive team explained, “As divers were concerned about black water, there’s no visibility. We’re concerned about depth. Also worried about obstructions, things we can become entangled in.” Farley said the ponds held trash, and things like bicycles.

While Cherokee Nation Marshalls used their remote operated vehicle (the underwater drone) Tulsa police divers used sonar to scan the pond looking for large items like cinder blocks or things you could tie a body to because sonar can’t detect skeletal remains.

Lorene Bible said, “Time has been an enemy since day one.” But she’s grateful for the technology.

Farley was the diver who scanned Black pond on Tuesday. With limited visibility, he searched by feel. He said, “At one point I came across a small bone. It felt different in the water do I put that on shore. Later it turned out to be steak bone. An anthropologist on site was quickly able to identify it as not human.”

There were no tips that led to searching the ponds, just how close they are to where a suspect once lived. Investigators dug on that property Tuesday. Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent Tammy Ferarri said that was based on tip information that the girls were last seen there and, “That they had been buried there in a possible underground structure. We didn’t find anything at that location,” Ferarri added.
Carroll pond across from where the suspect’s trailer was previously, has been drained for a future search.
Gary Stansill, lead investigator from the district attorney’s office said, “We’re still gonna search that site. Let it dry a bit and have cadaver dogs, once it’s dried up, it’s more conducive for a better search.”

Lauria Bible’s mom Lorene is used to hearing negative results of searches but understands it’s part of the process. She said, “It’s just still until we find something concrete that says these are Lauria and Ashley, it’s just another day in the journey.”

The lead investigators thanked all those involved including Bible who continues to get tips and information from the public and shares that information with authorities.

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