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Lori Lee Farmer, Doris Milner, Michelle Guse

 
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2008 6:46 pm    Post subject: Lori Lee Farmer, Doris Milner, Michelle Guse Reply with quote

Bid to Reopen Probe of 1977 Girl Scout Slayings Stalls

Mark A. Hutchison
The Oklahoman
January 22, 1997


PRYOR - If Ted LaTurner wants a Mayes County judge to empanel a grand jury to investigate the 1977 slayings of three Girl Scouts, it'll take some mighty convincing evidence.


And LaTurner is nowhere to be found.

The Pryor private investigator since last summer has circulated two petitions asking for a grand jury to investigate the deaths of Lori Lee Farmer, 8; Michele Guse, 9; and Doris Denise Milner, 10, at a camp near Locust Grove.

Gene Leroy Hart was acquitted of the murders in 1979 and later died in prison while serving time on an unrelated conviction.

But LaTurner claims to have investigated the case since 1981 and says there are three new suspects named by an eyewitness he interviewed in 1989. LaTurner named the men in the petition.

He said one witness had died, another was on parole from a second-degree murder conviction and the third reportedly lives in southeast Oklahoma.

LaTurner gathered 1,500 signatures of registered voters on a petition before he submitted it last July. He needed 334.

However, District Judge James Goodpaster ruled that state law prohibited a grand jury from meeting so close to the primary, runoff and general elections. LaTurner started circulating a new petition in November, but by then the grand jury laws had changed.

Voters on Nov. 5 approved stricter requirements to get a grand jury panel approved, and the number of signatures was raised from 334 to about 2,100. LaTurner failed to submit a petition by the Jan. 2 deadline.

He hasn't returned several phone messages from The Oklahoman seeking comment.

"I spoke to Mr. LaTurner one time after the deadline and he said he didn't have the signatures," Judge Goodpaster said Tuesday.

Goodpaster could call a grand jury on his own, but said he would need convincing information.

"He (LaTurner) asked me if I would listen to his evidence and I said 'sure,' as I would for any citizen. But I wouldn't be too optimistic after 20 years."


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2008 6:47 pm    Post subject: Girl Scout Killings Still Touching Lives 2 Decades Later Reply with quote

Still No Justice After 20 Years Slain Girl Scouts' Parents Haunted by Murders

Charles T. Jones
The Oklahoman
June 9, 1997


"One nation, under God, indivisible,

With liberty and justice for all.

Except for us."

That was how second-grader Misti Farmer ended a school paper two decades ago about the big sister she adored. Lori Farmer, prosecutors said, was murdered by a man with a hatchet who prowled the woods of northeastern Oklahoma, hiding in caves, cellars and barns, killing and raping girls.

There was an arrest, a trial and an acquittal. Twenty years later, the file still is open, the case officially unsolved.

Lori was just days shy of her ninth birthday when she was hammered to death while she sat in the dark, shrouded in her sleeping bag, beneath the damp canvas of a Girl Scout tent.

Lori was pretty, impetuous, read a lot, leaped from first grade to third grade and played solitaire when she couldn't sleep, as she was doing that night.

Her playing cards were found in a jumble inside her sleeping bag along with her bound and taped body, dumped by her killer outside a slumbering counselor's tent before dawn broke in the Cookson Hills of Mayes County.

The bodies of Lori Farmer, 8, Denise Milner, 10, and Michele Guse, 9, were discovered June 13, 1977 - 20 years ago Friday - in a Girl Scout camp 2 miles south of Locust Grove.

Forever etched in Oklahoma's history as "the Girl Scout murders," the case sparked the victims' rights movement in Oklahoma - largely the work of the parents of the murdered Girl Scouts. Organizations formed by parents of the slain girls were active in the relief effort after Oklahoma's most recent tragedy, the Murrah Building bombing in 1995.

Lori's mother, Sheri, formed the first Oklahoma chapter of Parents of Murdered Children. Richard Guse, father of Michele Guse, helped found and was the first chairman of the Oklahoma Victims Compensation Board, on which he still serves.

To Oklahomans, the Girl Scout murder case brought home the horror of mass murder and its unfathomable madness.

Sheri Farmer said, "I've spent a lot of years trying to figure out 'why?' ... The reality is, we will never be able to think like someone who does that. I cannot put myself in the position of someone who went into a camp and brutally raped and killed three children."

"With liberty and justice for all.

Except for us." - Misti Farmer, 1979.

"Someone sitting on the outside could say there wasn't any justice anywhere; nobody ever got it, nothing was ever finalized. The parents have no justice because their children are gone. And (Gene Leroy "Sonny") Hart (the man charged and acquitted of the crimes) is gone, and his family has no justice. I think in a lot of ways, that may be true," said Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Harvey Pratt.

Pratt and his brother, along with hundreds of other state and federal agents and other law enforcement officers, tracked the suspect for 10 months. The search spanned a hot, miserable summer and a long, hard winter, until Hart's capture in April 1978.

Hart, who knew the woods of eastern Oklahoma intimately, evaded capture though the brush-tangled, heavily forested area in which he roamed. As a jail escapee and then as a fugitive in the Girl Scout case, he roamed an area of only about 35 square miles.

"You could say, as you look at it overall and try to be real objective, maybe there was no justice anywhere," Pratt said. "But, then again, some people feel that, after awhile, God did intervene and there was justice."

Genetic testing conducted by the FBI in 1989 linked Hart to the slayings but could not determine conclusively whether he was the killer.

The confidential tests matched Hart's body fluids with three probes of DNA evidence obtained at the crime scene.

To this day, those closest to the case believe Hart was involved in the Girl Scout murders, but there is doubt he acted alone.

A convicted kidnapper, rapist, nighttime home invader and jail-breaker, Hart was acquitted of the Girl Scout killings in a jury trial in Pryor more than a year after his arrest. Much like the California murder trial of O.J. Simpson years later, Hart was supported by a large following - many of them Cherokees, many of them Mayes County residents who couldn't believe the former Locust Grove High School football hero was capable of murdering children.

They loudly celebrated Hart's acquittal.

Hart possessed a strange and powerful "karma, charisma," said former Creek Indian defense lawyer Larry Oliver, originally hired to defend Hart against the murder charges.

Oklahoma City attorney Garvin Isaacs, who represented Hart at the trial, has been quoted as saying he never wavered in his belief that Hart was innocent.

After his acquittal, Hart was sent to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester on earlier, unrelated convictions. After about two months, Hart died of an apparent heart attack. Some have called Hart's death justice.

Hart, who had a family history of early heart disease, was ruled to have died of a heart attack brought on by severe blockage of his coronary arteries.

In hindsight, the Hart case presented an eerie premonition of many of the most socially divisive elements of the O.J. Simpson trial: the us-against-them cultural clash of victims' families and law enforcement authorities, juxtaposed against racial and cultural supporters of the defendant, many of whom believed that investigators fabricated evidence against him.

Denise Milner's mother, Bettye Milner, said watching the O.J. Simpson trial "was like it was happening to us all over again.

"I remembered what had happened to us - how the people cheered. All they cared about was Hart going free; it was like they didn't care about what happened at Locust Grove," Milner said.

"You would be absolutely shocked at how many similarities there were in those two cases," said Sheri Farmer. "I felt like we were just reliving our case ... the (alleged) planting of evidence, the 'race card' - all of that was played out in that case."

Oddly, Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered on the same date the bodies of Lori Farmer, Michele Guse and Denise Milner were found - June 13.

"I think the schism was definitely there, because it was in Indian territory," Sheri Farmer said. "You can't deny that that was part of the situation. So many weird things happened because he (Hart) was Indian. Groups got involved to support him, to see that things were equal. Sometimes people get so carried away seeing that things are equal, they overstep what really happened, " Lori's mother said.

"We certainly felt like the outsiders at the trial. We're from Tulsa, we're white. People in Pryor knew a whole lot more about the Indian culture than we did. A lot of people seemed to act like they wondered why we were there."

"No question about it," said S.M. "Buddy" Fallis Jr., the former Tulsa County district attorney who prosecuted the case.

"There was a very graphic delineation of the supporters of Gene Hart, and the Farmers and the Guses and Mrs. Milner and the grandparents of the little Milner girl. They had to feel that strong, strong support for Gene Hart by people who knew nothing of the facts, but merely were reacting to a - sort of built up the O.J. Simpson idea," Fallis said.

Bumper stickers on vehicles in Pryor during Hart's trial welcomed the Tulsans to "the Hart of Gene Country."

Hart, 35 at the time of his death, was no O.J. Simpson. But he was a football star at Locust Grove High. He also was a convicted kidnapper, rapist and burglar who sawed his way out of the Mayes County Jail and was roaming through the Cookson Hills for four years before the Camp Scott killings.

The camp, run since 1927 by the Tulsa-based Magic Empire Council of the Girl Scouts, closed the day after the murders.

Hart, protected from capture and advised by a man many called a powerful Cherokee medicine man, had qualities that in earlier times might have been called gifts of a warrior other men might once have followed.

But the murder of children, as it is to most of the rest of society, is anathema to Cherokees; an unforgivable crime against God the Creator.

Still, "Sonny had a strong following. He had leadership qualities. He wasn't just an ordinary guy. He was a strong person," said Oliver, a tall, aggressive, Creek Indian trial attorney from Tulsa.

"He probably had all those things," Pratt said, a Cheyenne Indian. "A lot of people liked him. Perhaps, in ancestral times, he probably would have had people follow him. I didn't know him. So, whether I would have followed him or not, I don't know."

Many of Hart's supporters, it has been said, backed him because they were unable to accept that a Cherokee, or a local hometown boy, was capable of the depthless depravity possessed of the man, or men, who did what was done to the three girls at Camp Scott.

"He was a sick individual," Pratt said of Hart. "Something was wrong with the boy - he started having to do first-degree burglaries and prowling around and fantasizing different things, making preparations to do things. Probably no telling what was going on in his mind.

"There was apparently a dark side to him," said Oliver, who spent many hours with Hart.

"I'm not sure you'd trust him with your granddaughter," Oliver said.

"I read him, and I can tell you, my reading was not favorable to him. I thought there was a strong possibility he could have done it," the lawyer said. "There was a bad side to him."

Hart's "bad side," some say, may have been aggravated when he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

"He didn't drink any more than I did. But I wasn't as affected by it as much as he was," Oliver said, refusing to elaborate.

Hart's kinfolk and other followers secreted, supplied and fed the fugitive for years before his capture and trial.

"Sonny was ... one of theirs," Oliver said. "And he was one of those people who was protected by them."

The story of Camp Scott 20 years ago is not so much the story of Hart, his manhunt and acquittal as it is the story of "three murdered little girls," Sheri Farmer said.

In the last 20 years, the grief has only softened a bit, Milner, the Farmers and others say. Perseverance is day by day. It's faith, work and support from others who know or can reconstruct productive though diminished lives.

"It doesn't seem like it's been 20 years," said Bettye Milner, wracked by anxiety since her eldest daughter's brutal death.

"The time has passed pretty fast. It hasn't been easy. But I've had to accept things that I still can't face."

Things like being unable to visit her daughter's grave for fear of awakening the terror.

"Fifteen years after her death, I was at the cemetery for another funeral. I told a friend I'd go over to Denise's grave. And when I said it, I just came apart. It was totally unexpected," she said.

"I don't understand why it's hard for me, but I find it very difficult. I've been there, but I couldn't stay."

"Everybody reacts to grief differently," she said. "And we tend to think that there's something wrong with the way we feel. If we can talk to and be with people that are experiencing the same thing we're experiencing, we're free to talk about the person we've lost. With family and friends, it's hard to talk, because they don't want to hear.

When her pain seemed overwhelming, "I'd pick up the telephone, go out; just make contact with somebody or do something. Read a book - anything to take my mind off of it, so I wouldn't sit and dwell on it.

"One of the biggest help to me was Kathy and Denise's friends. They were so sweet. These kids continued to come and see me, spend time with me. And that helped me a whole lot.

"I don't feel like I particularly ever want to be a grandmother. I don't want to have to go through the fear of having something happen to them."

Loss of a loved one - especially a murdered child - "does forever change you," Sheri Farmer said. "And there is nothing that anybody can say or do that will make the 20 years seem like it lessened anything.

"It's important to me that someone is recognizing that it has been 20 years, and that somebody might be interested that this happened to three children. It means to me that, maybe, they're not forgotten. I don't resent the stories that fall on these anniversary days.

"It's good if someone else is aware of it, and think back, and realize that we don't want it to happen again," she said.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2008 6:57 pm    Post subject: Girl Scout Killings Still Touching Lives 2 Decades Later Reply with quote

Girl Scout Killings Still Touching Lives 2 Decades Later

Charles T. Jones
The Oklahoman
June 10, 1997


Dr. Charles and Sheri Farmer traveled, consoled, advised and made speeches for 11 years in the nearly two decades since the death of their daughter, Lori. They traveled to Oklahoma City to help coordinate grief counseling after the Murrah Building bombing.

And that became enough.

"Somewhere after the Oklahoma City bombing, I decided not to do that anymore. It was just time. There comes a time when you need to do something else," Sheri Farmer said.

"We have worked in victims' issues for a long time. We're really proud of the things that we've done, We're proud of the awards. But I'm really proud that our family got through the last 20 years, and our children all turned out to be really neat, wonderful adults.

"I think that's what I would hope - if anything's focused on about our family on this anniversary, is that we got from there to here."

It was never easy. The Farmers struggled for the first two years after their daughter's death, Charles Farmer said.

The Farmers suffered through their grief in different ways. Sheri Farmer talked almost constantly. Her husband hardly talked at all.

"As is typical, I internalized everything - I just kept it in, struggled inside," Charles Farmer said. "It was very difficult to maintain any sense of normalcy in your daily activities and in your environment."

"Husbands and wives don't deal with grief the same way," Sheri Farmer said. "I always tell everybody to give everybody some space. When they say that tragedies bring families closer together, I think they mean somewhere down the road. "

One morning in the early days of her grief, Sheri Farmer saw the founders of Parents of Murdered Children on the "Today" show. By noon, she had contacted the network and gotten an address.

After six years of conversations, she was told she was ready to start her own chapter.

"In 1985, when we formed the chapter, there was basically nothing that had anything to do with victims," Sheri Farmer said.

She said she felt a special affinity with the angry families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman after O.J. Simpson's acquittal in their deaths. Goldman's father railed against the criminal justice system and demanded reform.

"You're just really shocked at how overwhelming that feeling is - when you're in the middle of a system that you know nothing about, and you see such obvious (possible) changes," she said.

Despite the tragedy , all four of Lori Farmer's siblings - ages 2, 3, 5 and 7 at the time of her death - grew up strong and healthy and are leading productive lives.

Former Mayes County District Attorney Sid Wise was roundly criticized by law enforcement officials and families of the murdered girls. His critics suspected he was using the high-profile murder case to vault himself into the state attorney general's chair.

He was soundly defeated in that election and was discredited for having arranged a book deal on the Girl Scout murder case while that case was in progress.

Pressured by law enforcement, and the Farmers and Guses, Wise consented to bring in Fallis to prosecute Hart.

Wise disappeared from the public scene after the murder case.

Mayes County Sheriff Pete Weaver lost his bid for re-election after the Girl Scout murder case, but he regained his old post in a subsequent election. He died in 1991.
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2008 7:01 pm    Post subject: June 13, 1977 Girl Scout Slayings Shock State Reply with quote

June 13, 1977 Girl Scout Slayings Shock State

Mark A. Hutchison
The Oklahoman
April 18, 1999


It was a crime that shocked and angered Oklahomans.

Three Girl Scouts had been bludgeoned, strangled and sexually assaulted as they camped in the Oklahoma woods.

The girls, Lori Lee Farmer, 8, and Doris Denise Milner, 10, both of Tulsa, and Michele Guse, 9, of Broken Arrow, were found 100 yards from their tent at a Girl Scout camp two miles south of Locust Grove.

Within hours after the discovery, scores of lawmen, tracking dogs from out of state, helicopters with infrared sensors and hundreds of private citizens joined in what was then the largest manhunt in state history.

Gene Leroy Hart was named as a suspect.

A Cherokee Indian, Hart was known for his survival capabilities and eluded capture for 10 months.

He was found at a ramshackle house near Tahlequah, 30 miles southeast of the campsite.

Hart was charged with the girls' deaths, and it took longer to select a jury to hear the evidence than it took to try the case itself.

The suspect was acquitted March 30, 1979. About two months later, he collapsed in the exercise yard of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, where he was serving 308 years on previous burglary, rape and escape convictions.

An autopsy showed Hart, 35, died of a heart attack. His body lies buried in the Little Ballou Cemetery within two miles of where the girls were slain.

The Girl Scout camp never reopened. On several occasions after Hart's death, theories have surfaced suggesting other killers. None has been given credence by state investigators.

"I've lived through this thing all these years," former Mayes County Sheriff Glen "Pete" Weaver said in 1984. "And if I wasn't 1,000 percent convinced we had the right person, then I would be at the head of the line pursuing the S.O.B. from now on."
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2008 7:03 pm    Post subject: DNA test fails to link suspect to 1977 slayings Reply with quote

DNA test fails to link suspect to 1977 slayings

The Oklahoman
May 20, 2002


TULSA - A DNA test has failed to link the late Gene Leroy Hart to the 1977 killings of three girls at a Girl Scout camp.

Hart was tried and acquitted of the murders in 1979 and died later that year.

There are no other suspects in the deaths of Michelle Guse, 9, of Broken Arrow, and Lori Lee Farmer, 8 and Doris Denise Milner, 10, both of Tulsa. The three Girl Scouts were raped and killed June 13, 1977, on their first night at Camp Scott near Locust Grove.

"There's nothing else to hope for, is there?" said Bettye Milner, Doris' mother. "This puts away any hope we might have for any solution. I was really counting on that."

For the tests, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation tried to use a semen-stained pillowcase from the crime scene. OSBI spokesman Chuck Jeffries said there was no evidence left to test on the pillowcase.

Milner, a lab technician for 21 years at Tulsa's Hillcrest Medical Center, said she doesn't understand how the samples could have deteriorated so much and thinks they were mishandled.

She said she still believes Hart committed the murders but does not believe that he acted alone. Milner said she had hoped the test would have answered some of those questions.

"It would have given us peace of mind that the right person was charged and that there is not anyone else out there," she said.

An FBI test on samples from the same pillowcase in 1989 were inconclusive. Joann Kihega, head of the OSBI's criminal DNA lab, began the latest analysis in December.

"She tried twice to get the genetic markers to make the call," Jeffries said. Both tests were unsuccessful.

S.M. "Buddy" Fallis Jr., the former Tulsa County district attorney who prosecuted the case, says he still thinks he had the right man.

"It would be nice if they could have gone and had a full result in order to resolve any doubt that some people might have had, but it certainly doesn't change my belief as to Hart's guilt, and it does not support any belief that he was not the person," Fallis said.

Hart, a prison escapee when the attacks happened, was tried and acquitted of the murders in 1979 in Mayes County. He returned to prison and died from a heart attack later that year. He was 33 years old and had previous convictions for rape, burglary and kidnapping.

The latest DNA test came after requests from Mayes County District Attorney Gene Haynes and state Senate President Pro Tem Stratton Taylor, who said he had been asked by a constituent.
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2008 7:05 pm    Post subject: Girl Scout killings still haunt state Reply with quote

Girl Scout killings still haunt state

Melissa Merideth, Rebecca Lange
The Oklahoman
June 13, 2002


The Monday morning of June 13, 1977, began with dozens of excited Girl Scouts waking up for their first day at Camp Scott, two miles from the town of Locust Grove in Mayes County.

A counselor peeked into tent number seven to find three girls missing. As the counselor walked along the grass, she found the bodies of Lori Lee Farmer, 8, Michelle Guse, 9, and Doris Denise Milner, 10.

They had been molested, bludgeoned to death and left in the brush.

Twenty-five years ago today, this scene still haunts Oklahoma as the day when parents could no longer feel that their children were safe. The deaths of the three young girls also forever changed their families and friends, leaving behind questions that may never be fully answered.

"It still was my child who was murdered, and I wish someone would come forward and make it 100 percent positive (who killed her)," said Sheri Farmer, Lori's mother. "It still remains open-ended for me."

During the night, someone had broken into the tent where the girls were sleeping. The girls' bodies were found about 6 a.m. 100 yards from their tent. Two of them were still in their sleeping bags.

The little girls would be grown now, maybe with families of their own.

Denise was an outgoing girl devoted to ice skating and gymnastics. Lori could work 100-piece puzzles and recite poetry by the age of 2.

Within hours of the discovery, scores of lawmen, tracking dogs from out of state, helicopters with infrared sensors and hundreds of private citizens joined in what was to become the largest manhunt in state history.

Law officials suspected Gene Leroy Hart, an escaped convicted rapist who grew up in Locust Grove, a half-mile from the camp. In April 1978, Hart was found by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation living with a Cherokee medicine man in a remote cabin near Tahlequah, 30 miles southeast of the campsite.

FBI testing linked Hart to the murders but was not substantial enough for conviction.

Acquitted in March 1979, Hart was sent to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester to serve 308 years on unrelated rape, burglary and kidnapping convictions. Two months later, Hart, 35, collapsed in the prison's exercise yard of a heart attack. He is buried in Little Ballou Cemetery two miles from where the girls were slain.

As the only suspect, Hart's sudden death left many unanswered questions.

Long after his death, Hart's body fluids matched three samples of evidence from the crime scene; two other tests were inconclusive. Earlier this year, the OSBI tried to use crime scene evidence for DNA testing. Because of deterioration, the results were inconclusive.

Garvin Isaacs, Hart's attorney during the trial, still believes in Hart's innocence. Isaacs claimed Hart's quick prosecution and law officials' alleged mishandling of evidence was due to former Mayes County Sheriff Pete Weaver's personal dislike of Hart.

"At the time, Hart had broken out two different times from Weaver's jail and he had extreme hatred for Hart," Isaacs said. "I was glad to see that the (recent) DNA evidence didn't convict him and I wish people would accept the verdict for what it was."

In coping with the tragic death of her daughter, Sheri Farmer formed the first Oklahoma chapter of Parents of Murdered Children. Richard Guse also helped found the chapter and was the first chairman of the Oklahoma Victims Compensation Board.
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2008 7:10 pm    Post subject: 1977 killings changed security at summer camps Reply with quote

1977 killings changed security at summer camps

Ron Jackson
The Oklahoman
June 17, 2007


Oklahomans forever re-defined summer camp 30 years ago this week after three Girl Scouts were abducted from their tent and murdered at Camp Scott in Locust Grove.

For those who remember the aftermath of the June 13, 1977, homicides, it was a time that fostered nightmares and prompted people to lock their doors for the first time. The security of children at summer camps would no longer be taken for granted.

That legacy appears to be present today at summer camps statewide whether new generations of parents and counselors realize it or not.

Security issues are a high priority.

"Our campers and counselors wear colored wrist bands, similar to something you might see in a hospital,” said Chuck Childs, a Boy Scout administrator at Camp Simpson near Milburn. "If we see someone in camp who is not wearing that band, we approach them immediately and ask them if we can help them in any way.

"If they aren't supposed to be there, they are asked to leave.”

Such measures are now commonplace throughout Oklahoma and beyond.

A lot of changes

Jeff Solomon has watched summer camp security increase nationwide in recent decades as executive director of the National Camp Association, a New York-based organization that monitors summer camps coast to coast.
Solomon's organization is continually bombarded with security questions from parents in search of a safe summer camp for their child.

"Twenty-five years ago I could drive my car into a camp, park, and walk around without ever being questioned,” Solomon said. "Today, I don't know of one camp where that could happen. You'd either be stopped at a front gate or have to call ahead of time to let them know you were coming.

"Security at summer camps 30 years ago compared to today is like night and day. We just live in a different world now.”

So do those associated with the Girl Scouts of Magic Empire Council, which closed Camp Scott 30 years ago after the discovery of murder victims Lori Lee Farmer, 8, of Tulsa; Michelle Guse, 9, of Broken Arrow; and Doris Denise Milner, 10, of Tulsa. The Tulsa-based Girl Scouts organization — one of five in Oklahoma — since has sold the 410-acre camp site.

A constant reminder

Today, no one with the Magic Empire Council will discuss security, according to spokeswoman Kristi Engle, although the stigma of the 1977 slayings is evident on its Web site.

"The senseless tragedy of 1977 will surely remain in the hearts and minds of all who care for children in Oklahoma,” an official site posting reads. "Thankfully, nothing like this has ever happened before or since this tragedy. We have stringent practices in place to ensure the safety of all girls in our care, such as background checks and extensive safety training for all who work with girls, strict ratios of girls for adult supervisors for all activities, and we do not disclose the location of our campsites to the public.

"In fact, we exceed the safety guidelines set by Girl Scouts of the USA and the American Camp Association, and constantly evaluate our standards for areas of improvement, because the safety and well-being of girls is our first priority.”

Loss of innocence

Oklahomans who remember the murders as children generally share the common perspective of lost innocence.

"My parents tried to shelter me from the news, but inevitably you heard about what had happened around town,” recalled Bonnie Buzzard, 46 and a life-long Locust Grove resident.

"Suddenly, you felt scared, like you couldn't go in the back yard to catch fireflies or else someone might snatch you up and take you away.”

A year later, a then-17-year-old Buzzard attended a weeklong cheerleading camp in Arkansas.

"Looking back now, I can't imagine what my mother must have been thinking when she let me go to camp, knowing that three girls were murdered at a summer camp only a year earlier,” Buzzard said.

Summer camps continue to introduce children to the outdoors, and adventurous activities like horseback riding, swimming, hiking, climbing, canoeing and archery.

Helping children

Roxanne and Kim Kerley hope to see their campers reach such lofty heights as well each summer at their 40-acre camp outside Duncan.

"A lot of kids don't get to go on a vacation, and a lot of times when kids get back to school, people will talk about where they went on their summer vacation. These kids now have a story to tell. That's important,” Roxanne Kerley said. "We give them three days of fun, just to be themselves without pressure they might face on a daily basis. In the end, we give them a Bible.”

Feeling secure

Background checks on volunteers and staff members, security guards, colored wrist bands, and smaller counselor-to-camper ratios are just some of the steps taken these days by various summer camp organizations.
"Although the children never realize it, they are probably watched and guarded more at camp than if they were at home,” McWhorter said.

Summer camp administrators contacted by The Oklahoman all stressed that counselors are never permitted to be alone with a camper.

Still, dangers exist.

In 2002, a 12-year-old girl at a church camp near Tishomingo was molested and raped. Johnston County Assistant District Attorney Charles Migliorino said charges were dropped against an out-of-state suspect, who produced an alibi for his whereabouts at the time of the incident.

Migliorino said the investigation into the allegation made one thing abundantly clear.

"Basically, you had people who trusted other people because they were at a Christian camp,” Migliorino said. "They believed if you were at a Christian camp, then you shared the same beliefs and values as other Christians. Well, that's not always how it works. They were trusting people who became untrusting. Unfortunately, there are some things we just can't prevent. Bad things happen.”
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2008 7:16 pm    Post subject: DNA linked to 1977 case inconclusive Reply with quote

DNA linked to 1977 case inconclusive
Families of three slain Girl Scouts still hope to one day know the truth.

Sara Plummer
Tulsa World
June 25, 2008


PRYOR — More than 30 years after the murder of three Girl Scouts near Locust Grove, the victims' families still don't know for sure who killed them.

Mayes County District Attorney Gene Haynes announced Tuesday that DNA testing from the 1977 murders was ruled inconclusive. The physical evidence was too deteriorated to form a DNA profile, according to a statement from Haynes.

On June 13, 1977, 8-year-old Lori Farmer of Tulsa, 9-year-old Michelle Guse of Broken Arrow and 10-year-old Doris Milner of Tulsa were found slain at Camp Scott in Mayes County.

Gene Leroy Hart was tried for the killings, but he was acquitted in 1979. He later died while in prison on unrelated charges.

Bettye Milner, Doris' mother, said she was disappointed when she learned of the DNA results earlier this year.

"I'm a big 'CSI' fan. You see all this stuff on TV and the things they can do," Milner said. "I was hoping we would have conclusive results."

Sheri Farmer, Lori's mother, said she and her husband weren't surprised by the results, but are still hopeful.

"We still think in our lifetime we will know the answer, it just wasn't this time," Farmer said. "I still have hope. One day someone will come forward or they'll come up with new technology."

In 2007, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was awarded a federal grant to use private laboratories for DNA testing in unsolved cases. Samples were sent to a lab in Houston and then a second lab in Salt Lake City. DNA results from evidence on a pillowcase and one of the victims were not found or were inconclusive.

Haynes said no further DNA testing is planned.

"The tests that were done are the most advanced. Unless they come up with something better," no more testing will occur, he said.

OSBI still considers it an open case, Haynes said, and occasionally someone will call with information and officers will follow up on those leads.

"There's not much else to be done," he said. "It's been 31 years. We were hoping to have some closure, but it didn't work out."

Both Farmer and Milner said they have gone on with their lives even though their daughters' murders are still unsolved.

"I don't think closure is the right word. We have accepted what's happened," Farmer said. "We've led a happy life and have been blessed."

Milner said acceptance is all she can do.

"I don't see we have another choice. I don't see an alternative," she said.

Still, Farmer said she thinks she will have answers eventually.

"We'd like to know what happened to Lori that night," she said. "I don't go, 'Oh well, we're over with that.' Some day we'll know."
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2008 7:19 pm    Post subject: Was a female involved in 1977 Girl Scout slayings? Reply with quote

Was a female involved in 1977 Girl Scout slayings?

Ron Jackson
The Oklahoman
June 25, 2008


LOCUST GROVE — The unsolved 1977 Girl Scouts murder mystery just grew murkier.

Recent DNA tests failed to identify the killer or killers who raped and murdered three Oklahoma girls June 13, 1977, at Camp Scott in Locust Grove. However, the tests revealed a partial female DNA profile, Mayes County District Attorney Gene Haynes announced Tuesday in a news release.

Testing from a semen-stained pillowcase found at the crime scene failed to exclude all three of the victims or the possibility of a female attacker, adding to the stockpile of questions that already surround this enduring mystery.

No answers for families

The biggest question remains, 31 years later: Who killed Lori Lee Farmer, 8, of Tulsa; Michelle Guse, 9, of Broken Arrow; and Doris Denise Milner, 10, of Tulsa?

“I’ve always felt in my gut that there was a girl present,” Sheri Farmer, Lori’s mother, told The Oklahoman. “So when I saw the DNA results, that was a concern with me. ... Lori was eventually excluded from the DNA match and so was one of the other girls, I was told, but they couldn’t exclude all three girls.

“Given the DNA results, you have to wonder if there wasn’t also a female who took part in the murders.”

Haynes’ statement didn’t expound on the results.

“It is unfortunate the testing did not produce a DNA profile,” Haynes said. “We had hoped the testing would bring an end to the debate over who committed these terrible crimes. The families of the victims certainly deserve an ending to the case.”

To date, the late Gene Leroy Hart is the only person to ever be charged with the murder of the three Girl Scouts. Hart, then 34 and a fugitive, had been spotted living in the Cookson Hills near Camp Scott at the time of the murders.

Hart, however, was acquitted by a Mayes County jury in March 1979. Two months after his acquittal, Hart collapsed at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester from a heart attack while serving 308 years for unrelated rape, burglary, and kidnapping convictions.

“I feel badly for the families of those little girls who were murdered,” said Garvin Isaacs, Hart’s defense attorney. “But Gene Leroy Hart was an innocent man who was falsely accused.”

Haynes had hoped new DNA testing would solve the mystery once and for all.

Assembling the pieces

A venture into the latest DNA technology became possible last year when the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation received a federal grant that permitted private laboratories to examine DNA evidence in cold cases. In April, the agency received permission from Haynes to conduct specific DNA tests on semen stains from pillowcases and a swab taken from one of the victims.

Haynes signed off on the tests even though they would exhaust the evidence from the swab.

The DNA test conducted is capable of separating female and male DNA. But results from tests conducted by Houston-based Identigene returned inconclusive.

Two months later, OSBI sent the remaining evidence from the pillowcases to Sorenson Forensics in Salt Lake City for further testing. This time a DNA profile that genetically types as female was obtained from one of the pillowcase stains.

Samples of the surviving parents were then submitted for testing in October.

“Any time you play with evidence long enough, you run the risk of things becoming cloudier,” said Tulsa attorney S.M. “Buddy” Fallis, who prosecuted Hart. “It would be nice if we had pristine DNA samples from all parties involved, but we don’t. Now the case becomes murkier, and that’s real sad. The more this is played out, the more the lore of public speculation grows. ... Of course, this doesn’t change my belief. I’ve always believed we charged the right guy in Gene Leroy Hart.”

Farmer is also convinced Hart murdered her daughter.

“To me, this would be the final piece to the puzzle,” Farmer said. “I would know this is what happened to my daughter in her final hours, but that would still only be a test result. It wouldn’t bring back my daughter.”
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2008 7:23 pm    Post subject: DNA results offer no clues in investigation Reply with quote

DNA results offer no clues in investigation spanning three decades

Ron Jackson
The Oklahoman
June 29, 2008


LOCUST GROVE — Sometimes on dark and still nights, Harvey Pratt's mind drifts back to a haunting time when he worked as an undercover agent in the hills of eastern Oklahoma, hoping to catch a killer.

The assignment remains the most challenging he has faced in his 36-year career with Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. His mission then was simple, yet dangerous: Catch the person or people responsible for the sexual assaults and murders of three Girl Scouts on June 13, 1977, near Locust Grove.

So Pratt disappeared into the dense woods and expansive hills of eastern Oklahoma, spanning several counties, in search of the girls' killer.

"Those hills were so dark,” recalled Pratt, now 66 and still an OSBI agent. "The canopy of trees was so thick, and at night, you couldn't tell where the trees ended and the sky began.”

DNA test results released earlier this week failed to identify a killer. Evidence found at the crime scene in 1977, and later tied to a remote "cellar cave” in the nearby woods, pointed investigators to one main suspect — Gene Leroy Hart.

Hart, then 34, was a strong full-blood Cherokee who had been sighted roaming the Cookson Hills as a fugitive in the four years prior to the Girl Scout slayings. Acquaintances described him as an expert woodsman, who despite being a convicted rapist, kidnapper and burglar, remained in the local consciousness as a popular former Locust Grove High School football hero.

Hart possessed an amiable smile, an extensive network of friends and relatives in the region, and according to some, the mystical powers of a medicine man.

"People would tell me, ‘You can't see him because he's under you and above you,'” Pratt remembered. "What did they mean? Was he below our feet? Or was he above us in the trees? Suddenly, we're looking everywhere.”

‘We were always guarded'

With his life on the line, Pratt sought the services of the one man he wanted by his side most — his brother, Tony.
Tony Pratt, who died from cancer 10 years ago, was then a Midwest City police officer. Officials specifically assigned him to the OSBI to assist his brother in the manhunt for Hart.

Together, the Pratt brothers ventured into the Cookson Hills, unaware of what or who they might encounter.

"You never knew who you might encounter out there,” said Pratt, then in charge of the agency's criminal intelligence unit. "Hart had so many friends and relatives in the area, people who supported and probably harbored him, you just couldn't take any chances. You never knew when you might come across someone, either Hart or someone else, who would want to end it right then and there.

"So we were always guarded.”

The Pratts sat sometimes silently in complete darkness without a campfire, listening to the strange and eerie sounds emanating from the surrounding woods. Other nights they would build a fire in hopes of drawing someone into their camp, maybe an acquaintance of the fugitive or even Hart himself.

"You never knew what to expect,” Pratt said. "If there was more than one, they might just boldly walk into camp. Or maybe one would come into camp and another would remain hidden in the woods. You just had to be ready for anything.”

Occasionally, they conducted nighttime surveillance at Camp Scott near the spot where the bodies of Lori Lee Farmer, 8, of Tulsa; Michelle Guse, 9, of Broken Arrow; and Doris Milner, 10, of Tulsa were discovered. They hoped the killer or killers might return to relive a twisted fantasy.

The whole time, Hart stayed at the forefront of Pratt's thoughts.

"To me, he (Hart) was a very formidable person physically,” Pratt said. "He was a former football player, still pretty young, and obviously, capable of being very, very violent.”

Finally, nearly 10 months after the slayings, a contingent of state agents apprehended Hart at a shack in a heavily wooded area near Tahlequah in southern Cherokee County. Harvey Pratt remembers the day vividly.

"We had the place surrounded,” Pratt said. "I came in from the back, and as we approached, I saw him open the back door. He stuck his head out, saw us, shut the door and went back inside. By then, we had agents enter from the front who took him down. They cuffed him and carried him out around the side of the house.

"At first, he was real defiant. Then, once we brought him down to the (police) station, he became indifferent, saying he had nothing to do with the murders.”

Despite months of searching and the confidence of law enforcement, Hart would eventually be acquitted. But because he was a fugitive, Hart was sent back to prison where he died just a few months after his trial.

Today, Pratt concludes without hesitation, "I'm convinced he killed those girls.”
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