The sole surviving suspect in the 1999 disappearance of two Oklahoma teens and the murder of one girl's parents has entered a guilty plea and pledged to lead investigators to their remains.
Best friends Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman, 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 couple had been shot to death before their trailer was torched. The whereabouts of the teens has long remained a mystery, one that has fueled a flurry of rumors and theories that are detailed in Jax Miller’s upcoming true crime book “Hell in the Heartland: Murder, Meth, and the Case of Two Missing Girls.”
Some of those rumors were quashed and others heightened following the 2018 arrest of Ronnie Busick on suspicion of kidnapping and murder charges. On Wednesday, Busick, now 68, took a plea deal to a lesser charge: one count of accessory to murder in the first degree, according to local outlet KJRH. He committed to helping investigators find the teens’ remains as part of his plea.
"I knew about the deal they were making for a little while so it wasn't particularly huge news to me, but I think seeing it happen is really surreal," Miller told Oxygen.com. "Seeing it in the newspapers makes it very real and I'm just happy for the families that they can keep moving forward."
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 behind the crimes, Tulsa World reported in 2018. The three allegedly committed the heinous crimes over a meth debt, MiamiOk.com reported.
Busick will serve 15 years in prison if the girls’ remains are not found, but only five if he can assist investigators in finding them before Aug. 31.
“It’s a long six weeks ahead for families as authorities continue to interrogate him and work on their case against him,” Miller told Oxygen.com. “It’s going to be a crazy few weeks but I feel very hopeful. I hope to God this is the final chapter for them.”
The author, who's remained close with the families, said she hopes that the case will continue moving in the right direction.
“I just hope his information will lead to the girls,” she said. “That’s everyone’s priority right now.”
Busick has been in and out of prison on drug-related convictions for nearly 40 years, Tulsa World reported in 2018. He was incarcerated at the time he was arrested and charged in relation to the girls' deaths.
Busick is expected to be sentenced on Aug. 31.
“Hell in the Heartland: Murder, Meth, and the Case of Two Missing Girls” comes out on July 28.
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