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Man Sentenced in 'Hell in the Heartland' Case After He Failed To Lead Investigators To Teen Best Friends' Remains
Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman vanished in 1999 after Freeman's trailer was set on fire during a sleepover.
The surviving assailant in the 1999 disappearance of two Oklahoma teens has failed to lead investigators to their remains.
Best friends Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman, both 16, vanished on Dec. 30, 1999 in the town of Welch 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 their trailer was torched. The whereabouts of the teens has long remained a mystery, one that crime writer Jax Miller detailed at length in her new book, “Hell in the Heartland: Murder, Meth, and the Case of Two Missing Girls.”
While Ronnie Busick, 68, was originally arrested in 2018 on suspicion of kidnapping and murder charges, he took a plea deal in July and admitted being an accessory to murder. In turn, he committed to helping investigators find the teens’ remains as part of his plea. He had until Monday to produce the remains.
While he provided leads and an abandoned root cellar in Picher was searched in August, the remains were not located, Tulsa World reports. Craig County District Attorney Investigator Gary Stansill told the outlet that Busick “acted very surprised when they (the girls’ remains) were not found.”
Investigators said they will still continue to search for the girls.
“They were in the right area, but they [investigators] just need a little more information,” Miller told Oxygen.com on Tuesday.
The author said she still remains “cautiously optimistic” that the girls could be found.
“When we don’t find something, it’s very easy to get depressed,” Miller said. “It’s very easy to let it punch you in the gut.”
Busick was sentenced Monday to 10 years behind bars plus five years probation. If he helped find the remains, that would have been slashed down to a five-year sentence, plus five years probation.
Investigators believe that Busick, along with Phillip Welch II and David Pennington, killed Danny and Kathy Freeman before setting their home ablaze and kidnapping the girls. Investigators believe they tied the girls up in Welch's mobile home where the three men raped them before killing them a few days later, MiamiOk.com reported in 2018, citing a probable cause affidavit. Welch died in 2007 and Pennington died in 2015.
Witnesses described Welch as the mastermind, Tulsa World reported in 2018. The three allegedly committed the heinous crimes over a meth debt, which was explored in Miller’s book.
Busick looked at Bible’s mother, Lorene Bible, as she read aloud a victim impact statement at his Monday sentencing.
"They were young and beautiful, but you know that," Lorene told him, according to Fox23 News. "They were innocent, but you and your other buddies took that away from them. They did nothing to you."
While she called him an "evil man," she ended her statement by telling Busick, "May God have mercy on you."
She also told him that Lauria would have forgiven him.