PICHER, Okla. – Federal, state, and tribal investigators spent Thursday in Picher looking for the remains of two missing Craig County teenage girls.
Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman are presumed dead.
The 16-year-old best friends were last seen on Dec. 30, 1999. Investigators believe after they were kidnapped they were taken to Picher where they were bound, tortured, drugged, sexually assaulted, and beaten for two weeks before being eventually killed in a mobile home belonging to Warren Phillip Welch II.
Ground radar picked up two anomalies at a site where Welch’s mobile home once stood. Investigators used heavy machinery and hand tools to excavate the site.
Gary Stansill, Craig County District Attorney’s office investigator said the dig turned up two large rocks. Other items found at the site were vintage jars, shards of glass, and a shirt.
The area that was most significant to Stansill was an area where the mobile home’s porch was once located and it was also a place where Welch would hide items.
“The shirt did not belong to the girls,” Stansill said. “They were very old, it’s possible they could have been buried 100 years ago.”
A dig at an old abandoned root cellar on Cherokee Street yielded nothing but shards of glass, he said.
Investigators believe Welch along with David Pennington and Ronnie Busick shot Danny and Kathy Freeman, Ashley’s parents, at their Welch homestead and kidnapped the girls, and then set the mobile home on fire.
Busick pleaded guilty in 2020 to a reduced charge of accessory to murder and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Welch and Pennington are deceased.
There still remains a $50,000 reward in the case. Individuals with information about the Welch girls’ case are encouraged to call the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation hotline at (800) 522-8017.