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Following a promising tip, investigators in Oklahoma are searching for an abandoned root cellar on their quest to find two teens missing since 1999.
Best friends Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman, both 16, vanished in 1999 after Freeman’s family home went up in flames with her parents, Danny and Kathy Freeman, inside. The parents had been shot to death before the fire. While the teens are presumed dead, their remains have never been found.
The only surviving suspect, Ronnie Busick, took a plea deal last year, admitting to being an accessory to the girls’ murders. He promised to lead investigators to the teenagers' bodies in exchange for less prison time but failed to do so. Investigators believe that Busick, along with now-dead suspects Phillip Welch II and David Pennington, kidnapped the girls after killing Danny and Kathy Freeman over a drug debt. The men allegedly kept the girls alive for a few weeks, torturing and raping them, before ultimately killing them.
Law enforcement received a new, seemingly credible, tip from Pennington’s relatives, which led to a Tuesday search for a root cellar, Tulsa World reports. The search marks the one of at least 25 conducted to find the teens.
“It may be our most promising lead,” Gary Stansill, Craig County District Attorney’s Office investigator, told the outlet.
At one point, Pennington had told Busick that Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman were buried in a root cellar.
Both the deceased suspect’s relatives, as well as former neighbors, told investigators of the “possibility of a cellar type structure” on or near Pennington’s former property in Picher.
Pennington’s former wife “also confirmed the existence of the cellar and that they were not allowed to go near it,” Stansill told Tulsa World.
“I have full faith that authorities are doing everything they can, and I know families are on standby with them now,” Jax Miller, author of “Hell in the Heartland: Murder, Meth, and the Case of Two Missing Girls,” told Oxygen.com on Tuesday morning. “I’ve watched them fight tooth and nail for answers, and they’ve fought much longer than I’ve known them. Whether it’s the outcome they hope for or otherwise, there will be answers today.”
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