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Investigators search in Picher for Welch girls

Posted at 7:24 PM, Jul 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-30 20:24:15-04

PICHER, Okla. -- Investigators are searching property in Picher for the bodies of Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman who were believed to be murdered nearly 20 years ago.

"At first I could’ve shot somebody point blank for putting me and family up there, but the further it goes along we just want to recover Laura’s body and Ashley’s body and go from there," said Lorene Bible, mother of Lauria Bible.

Lorene sat with family members Tuesday watching ground penetrating radar and heavy machinery dig through property, which once belonged to one of the suspect's involved in her daughter's murder.

"The worst was five years, then ten, then it became 15 and December will be 20," said Bible.

In December of 1999, Lorene's daughter spent the night at her friend, Ashley Freeman's house. Investigators say three men, Ronnie Busick, Phillip Welch, and David Pennington killed Freeman's parents, set their house on fire, kidnapped the two 16-year-old girls, and later killed them.

"At the end of the day, tomorrow, it may be absolutely nothing but at least we can cross this off the list and go to the next," said Bible.

Those involved in the investigation include O.S.B.I., the Craig County District Attorney's Office, Quapaw Nation, and the Tulsa police dive team.

For more than six years, two investigators from different agencies have led the investigation into the “Welch Girls” case.

Gary Stansill, Investigator for District Attorney Matt Ballard began working the “Welch Girls” case in 2011. In January 2013 OSBI Special Agent Tammy Ferarri joined the investigation and the two have served as co-lead investigators since.

The Quapaw Nation, led by Chairman John Berrey, has been active in assisting this investigation for months including clearing and securing the search site, and other areas, using a backhoe. Quapaw Nation is providing a cadaver dog to assist in the search efforts. The Nation has also drained some area ponds to assist in the search for Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman.

The agencies are footing the bill for the search, hoping they can provide some closure for the families. Crews will be out again Wednesday to continue searching for the two girls.

"That’s not any place any family, any mother, any father wants to be," said Bible.

Busick, the only surviving suspect, was arrested in 2018 on seven felony charges: four counts murder in the first degree, two counts felony kidnapping, and arson in the first degree.

He's due in court in late September. He's in the Craig County jail with bail set at $1 million.

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