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Defendant enters guilty plea in Welch girls disappearance

Posted at 11:46 AM, Jul 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-15 19:52:21-04

TULSA, Okla. — The last living defendant in the disappearance of two missing teens from Welch, Oklahoma entered a guilty plea on Wednesday.

68-year-old Ronnie Busick originally faced a first degree murder charge for the disappearance and suspected murders of 16-year-old best friends, Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman.

Busick admitted withholding information in the case and plead guilty to one count of accessory to murder in the first degree. He waived his rights away and will proceed on his own free will.

The defendant also entered a plea agreement to help investigators find the girls' human remains.

"We’re optimistic, we’re hopeful, but a lot of time has passed and we know there are no guarantees,” said Matt Ballard, the district attorney for Craig County.

In June 2020, he said Ronnie Busick waived his preliminary hearing and a plea agreement was pending between the state and Busick.

READ MORE: Craig Co. DA: Pending plea agreement for suspect in missing Welch girls case

The current sentence is 15 years in prison said Isaac Shields, an assistant district attorney in Craig County. If Busick helps them find the remains of the girls before August 31, then Busick would serve five years in prison and five years on probation.

"He’ll go to prison and do his time. If he lives long enough, he’ll get to be out, but for us we still don’t have the girls," said Lorene Bible.

She and her family have searched nonstop for their daughter for the past 21 years. Bible hopes Busick is telling the truth and cooperates with investigators.

"It’s in his best interest if he knows something, he needs to tell,” said Bible.

Two things have been important in the mother's life after the girls were never found: their family and "the good Lord above."

Busick was arrested and charged in 2018 for the kidnapping and murders of Bible and Freeman. The teens disappeared on December 30, 1999 and are believed to be murdered. Freeman's parents were found dead in their burned home. The girls' bodies were never found.

Investigators believe three men, Ronnie Busick, Phillip Welch and David Pennington killed Freeman's parents, set their house on fire, kidnapped the two girls, and later killed them.

Pennington and Welch are deceased.

READ MORE: DA: Search to continue on Tuesday in Picher for remains of Welch girls missing since Dec. 1999

Formal sentencing for Busick is scheduled for August 31, 2020 at 9 a.m.

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