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Investigators continue looking for information of missing Welch girls/last seen Dec. 30, 1999

WELCH – Over two decades have passed since the disappearance of Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman and investigators continue to chase down leads in their pursuit to locate the teens’ remains.

“This is not a cold case,” Gary Stansill, Craig County District Attorney’s office investigator. “It’s an unresolved case until we find the girls.”

Investigators believe that Warren Phillip Welch II, David Pennington, and Ronnie Busick shot Danny and Kathy Freeman, Ashley’s parents, in their mobile home in Welch and kidnapped the girls on Dec. 30, 1999, and then set the mobile home on fire.

The 16-year-old girls were taken to a mobile home in Picher, where they were bound, tortured, raped, and killed, investigators believe.

Busick pleaded guilty in 2020 to a reduced charge of accessory to murder. Welch and Pennington are deceased.

“We are still wanting people that know something about the girls’ disappearance to come forward,” Stansill said.

Information that seemed not important in 2000 could be important now, he said. New information about the men has been gained through interviewing people that knew the suspects, Stansill said.

“For instance, we recently had information that around the time the girls’ disappeared Pennington was seen thoroughly cleaning out his vehicle,” Stansill said. “What makes that so interesting is Pennington was not known to clean out his vehicle.”

It leads investigators to believe maybe the girls were taken at some point in Pennington’s vehicle, he said.

“It may not seem like valuable information, but please call and let us review the information,” Stansill said.

Individuals with information about the Welch girls case are encouraged to call the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation hotline at (800) 522-8017.

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