VINITA, Okla. — Exactly 20 years later, Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible will be honored by candlelight. A vigil is planned in Vinita’s South Park at 6 p.m.
The 16-year-old best friends were taken Dec. 30, 1999.
Oklahoma’s District Attorneys Council says the team searching for their bodies entered a new phase of the investigation.
“An intensive review of the case’s history, including more recently developed information, is ongoing to identify new clues. The search is being aided through tips from members of the community.”
The council says, to date, more than 400 mine shafts have been analyzed utilizing recently developed evaluation criteria resulting in narrowing the number of shafts having a higher probability of containing the girls’ remains to four.
Crews from around the state have searched areas of Picher. The team’s understanding is the girls were kept there in a mobile home.
A staff member with the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) has been appointed to assist the team’s search efforts. That staff member will travel to northeast Oklahoma in early January 2020 to meet with team members and begin the process of viewing the shafts and studying data, including recent videos of camera drops conducted by the search team this past year.
Underwater cameras have been placed down the high probability mine shafts to determine the shaft integrity for more in-depth searches. Some of the 100-year-old shafts contain debris within the shaft, blocking access to the mine workings. Others have debris at the bottom of the shafts in the mine workings. Under both scenarios, the debris will have to be removed to conduct thorough searches. The use of robotic underwater cameras is planned for future searches to assess the feasibility of removing debris.
Investigators say they cannot conclude the girls’ remains are in one of the mine shafts, but that it is their best lead so far.
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