PICHER, Okla. — Today investigators with the OSBI Cold Case Team, Craig County District Attorney’s office, Quapaw Nation, Oklahoma State Medical Examiners office and Bureau of Indian Affairs… continue to search on Ottawa Street in Picher, Oklahoma, for the ‘Missing Welch Girls’.
Specialized K9 are searching freshly turned dirt to pinpoint areas of interest. This is property, 627 South Ottawa, adjacent to where one of the accused killers, David Pennington, lived in 2000. They are going on information provided by a former step daughter as to the location of a root cellar where the kids were told, never to go near, by the suspect.
Some of the dirt being sifted and searched by the Oklahoma Medical Examiner Forensic Anthropologist is from the April 2021 dig that Joplin News First covered. Today they located bones of animals. Chicken bones and also bones of a pig. But nothing significant was discovered.
The search is for the remains of Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible, who were 16 when they disappeared from Danny and Kathy Freeman’s home near Welch on Dec. 30, 1999. They have now been missing more than 20 years.
“21 1/2 years,” mother of missing Lauria Bible, Lorene Bible tells us Friday morning on Ottawa Street. “For me my main focus is to find them. Once I find them then I won’t have to search anymore, then you know the loss is going to be big.”
She shifts her focus to her group of volunteers, known as the BBI, Bible Bureau of Investigations, ‘Find Lauria Bible and Find Ashley Freeman’. Thanking them for their support.
”To get this place ready, my oldest brother, come out and cut this all down. And he spent three days to get it to where it is now. Then last Sunday we all come out with chainsaws and weedeaters, so the [investigators] can come in and won’t be trampling in weeds and stuff.”
She has a Facebook group you can follow, click Find Lauria Bible-BBI.
The Craig County District Attorney Investigator Gary Stansill say they are still searching for a root cellar Friday, October 8, on vacant land in the former town of Picher where a suspect in the girls’ disappearance, David Pennington, lived in January of 2000.
“Tons and tons of dirt moved today. These folks worked all day with only water and protein bars. The dogs worked this morning until it was too warm. Everyone always asks us about using dogs. It’s far more complicated as one would think. There’s things like being trained to find older bones verses cadaver dogs trained to find recently deceased bodies. The air temperature, the ground temperature, the humidity, all must be factored in. So it’s much more complicated and you have to have certain dogs. We are so thankful for things lining up this morning to try these beautiful animals. The teams are ABSOLUTELY EXHAUSTED right now. Everyone is too tired and too emotional to determine the next step. They gave it all they could today and we still did not recover the girls, but as always, it’s not over. After some rest and recovery, we will talk about what’s next. Just keep hanging on with us. Thank you.” FIND LAURIA BIBLE-BBI
The area was bought up by the federal government in the late 2000’s as part of the Tar Creek Superfund site. As mining runoff destroyed safe water sources and contaminated the soil all the properties were purchased by the government and the town is a ghost town now. We are just about 1,000 feet from Tar Creek, it is to the west just past the tree line.
Danny and Kathy were found dead in the burned rubble of their mobile home in December of 1999. The girls have been mossing since. Ronnie Busick of Wichita, Kansas, pleaded guilty to an accessory to murder charge in the case in July 2020. He is serving a 10 year sentence.
Phllip Welch and David Pennington, both now deceased, were never charged with the crime but are are suspects in the 1999 disappearance and murders of whom are commonly called “Missing Welch Girls”, and the killing of the Freemans.
APRIL 2021 THE FIRST DIG ON OTTAWA STREET.
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