FBI back in Picher; another search underway for Welch girls’ remains

PICHER, Okla. – Authorities are back in Picher, Oklahoma searching for the remains of the Welch, Oklahoma girls. Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman went missing in 1999.

Investigators believe the girls were kidnapped and murdered, but their bodies have never been found. In 2020, the last remaining suspect in the case, Ronnie Busick, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for accessory to murder.

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The FBI, OSBI, Quapaw Marshals and other departments are in two locations today. According to Lorene Bible, the mother of Lauria,

“One location is at the memorial sight also the last known place the girls were kept alive before they were murdered. This is also the place we now know the photographs of them were taken bound and gagged on a bed. The other location being searched is just a few blocks away at a property once owned by the former mayor of Picher. These are few of many locations with cellars that we have searched.”

KOAM’s Amber Jenkins and Shannon Becker are in Picher this afternoon. We’ll have updates on the search as they are released.

The case

The two have been missing since December 30, 1999, when the girls went missing during a teenage sleepover. Lauria Bible was staying with Ashley Freeman at her parents’ trailer house near Welch, Okla.

During the early morning hours about 5:30 a.m., the fire department was summoned to a fire where the trailer house was destroyed. In the rubble, they find the burned body of Kathy Freeman. She had been shot, execution-style,  before the fire.

The girls and the father Danny Freeman were missing.

The following day, December 31, the Bible family, searching the rubble of the home find something investigators overlooked. The body of Danny Freeman in the burned-out trailer house rubble. He was also shot, execution-style, prior to the house burning.

Busick pleaded guilty to Accessory to Murder for the disappearance of Laura Bible, Ashley Freeman and for the deaths of Danny and Kathy Freeman. The two other suspects, David Pennington and Phil Welch, have since passed away.

But still no sign of the girls. Now it has been more than 20 years.

>>The Missing Welch Girls featured on A&E Cold Case Friday 8 p.m.


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