Latest search efforts for missing Welch girls, mine shafts in Picher Oklahoma

Mine shafts are being checked for accessibility

Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible were abducted in Welch, Oklahoma back in December 1999, after Freeman’s parents were murdered and their home was burned to the ground. They were 16 at the time.

In 2018, 68-year old Ronnie Busick was charged with the murders of Kathy and Danny Freeman and for the disappearances of Ashley and Lauria. There are two other suspects in the case, who are both deceased, Warren Phillip Welch II and David Pennington.

Nearly 20 years later, Authorities are now checking out an open mine shaft in Picher Oklahoma as part of their ongoing search efforts. The location comes from a tip they received from someone saying they recognized the two deceased suspects in the area around the time the girls went missing.

“We cannot conclude that these girls have been placed in a mine shaft, there’re other tips, other information that we have looked at in the past as far as where the girls were disposed of, but I would say that probably the mine shaft we have heard the most” said District Attorney Investigator, Gary Stansill.

The Tulsa Police Dive Team sent a camera 175 ft down into an open mine shaft. It is one of several they are looking at in the area.

“This camera drop is not actually a search for the remains, what we’re trying to determine is if this particular mine shaft is accessible or feasible for a future search” added Stansill.

The video from the camera will be looked at by experts to determine what could be down there.

“Our monitor is only black and white, so we’re just limited on what we can see, but we’re trying to determine if there might be any openings, ledges, just any kind of debris that might lead us to believe there could be something in there of evidentiary value” said Justin Farley, Lieutenant with the Tulsa Police Dive Team.

Lorene Bible, Lauria Bible’s mother, was on the scene watching in anticipation.

“You hope that you find them, that’s the hope, but if not then we’ll continue.”

She says for 15 years it was just their families that were looking for the girls.

“You have to be a voice or hide in a closet, you hide in a closet and five years no one will know who your daughter was, if you’re her voice, 5 years, 10 years from now people will still know who she is, and here we are almost 20 years.”

Although it is a waiting game, Lorene won’t stop looking until she finds Ashley and Lauria and gets closure.

“You hope that if this is it after almost 20 years that it comes to a close, this part anyway.”
District Attorney Investigator Stansill also said they are hoping to bring in more experts on mine searches and recovery of remains, so it may be several months before an actual search begins.

These latest efforts come just three weeks before Ronnie Busick, is set to have a jury trial to determine his competency.

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