PICHER, Okla. — A disappointing day for investigators and family members in the case of the missing Welch girls.
The search of a remote area in Picher turned up nothing. Investigators from multiple agencies, including the OSBI and district attorney's office for District 12, were searching for an underground root cellar for human remains.
Crews began digging around 9 a.m. at the corner of Ethel and 7th Street in hopes of excavating an old root cellar where Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman could have been buried in 1999.
68-year-old Ronnie Busick, who pleaded guilty to his part in the case, gave investigators the location information after looking at aerial photographs of what the area looked like in the past.
"When asked why we should be looking at a root cellar, he mentioned that the other suspect David Pennington had made mentions that he had to fill in a root cellar shortly after the crimes," said Gary Stansill, District Attorney Investigator for District 12.
However, after nearly a four-hour search, the team didn't find anything. This is one of multiple searches over the last 21 years, including one in the summer and winter of 2019.
Stansill said they will be looking at a couple of other possible locations not based on Busick's information.
"We’ve got another location to search, it’s a mineshaft. There’s a couple of mineshafts. We’ve already dropped cameras down some of them," said Stansill.
Bible and Freeman haven't been seen since December 1999 and are presumed dead. In June 2020, Busick admitted withholding information in the case and pleaded guilty to one count of accessory to murder in the first degree. As part of that deal, if he leads investigators to the girls' remains before August 31, then his time in prison will be shortened.
The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's office, along with OSBI lead detectives and the DA's investigator headed Tuesday's search. Also helping were members of the Quapaw Tribe, Craig County Sheriff Heath Winfrey’s Office and Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere --