Suspects Identified in 1999 Oklahoma Cold Case - KOAM TV 7

Suspects Identified in 1999 Oklahoma Cold Case

Ronnie Busick Ronnie Busick
Philip Welch Philip Welch

April 23, 2018:

Authorities Identify Suspects in 1999 Cold Case: Click here to read the probable cause. (contains graphic content)

Craig County District Attorney Matt Ballard today, April 23, 2018, identified three suspects in a 1999 cold case in Welch, Oklahoma and asks the public to help find the bodies of Ashley and Lauria.

Two of the suspects, Philip Welch and David Pennington, have died since the crime. Ronnie Busick is in custody outside of Oklahoma and is charged with four counts of first degree murder, two counts of kidnapping and one count of first degree arson.

Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible have been missing for nearly two decades. Authorities say the suspects had spoken to people after the crime and had taken photos of the crime. Investigators believe there are other people who have details and are asking those people to come forward to help find the bodies of Ashley and Lauria.

Lauria's mother, Lorene, made a plea to anyone with information, to please come forward and help her bring her daughter home. "It's been 18 years, 3 months and 26 days to this point and we're not finished." The 16-year-old's father thanked all participating agencies for their work and says "We've missed her for a long time but we're going to bring her home and we're going to hold on to that."

OSBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Aungela Spurlock and Craig County Sheriff Heath Winfrey also spoke during today's conference.

We'll have more details from court documents this evening.


The following stories are a few out of many stories covered by KOAM/FOX 14 since 1999.

Dec. 30th, 1999 KOAM News Coverage:

Authorities suspect foul play in a death and fire in Northeast Oklahoma.

One body has been pulled from the burned remains of a home near Welch, OK. Family members gathered to support each other while they wait for what they say they're sure will be bad news.

The County Sheriff's Office believes the body they found inside is that of 38-year-old Cathy Freeman. Freeman lived in the home with her 41-year-old husband Danny and 16-year-old daughter Ashley. They're both missing along with 16-year-old friend Lauria Bible. Bible spend the night at the Freeman house last night and officials believe foul play may be involved.

Craig County Sheriff George Vaughn says, "We found a body in the house on the bed and we turned it over to OSBI."

Sheriff Vaughn says officers found a brick next to the body's head. The Sheriff's Office seeks a search warrant so they can continue their investigation.

KOAM also spoke with relatives Celesta Chandler and Barbara Lytle that day.


Update on Dec. 30, 2014:

It's been 15 years since the disappearance of two girls in Welch, Oklahoma. The family has planned a memorial service.

Fifteen years ago Ashley Freeman and her friend Laura Bible planned a sleep over at the Freeman's home. That night the Freeman parents were shot to death, the house burned and the two 16-year-old girls vanished.

Investigators sifted through the burned home, searched the countryside, and nearby mineshafts. But there has was no trace of the teens and no arrest for the murder of Danny and Kathy Freeman.

Last year, Laura's mother turned to Facebook, posting age progression photos of the girls. Today Freeman and Bible would be in their 30's.

People are gathering at the First Chuch of God in Vinita, Oklahoma for this evening's memorial (Dec. 30, 2014).

Lauria's mother, Lorene, says she wants the focus of tonight's ceremony to be on what further they can do in this case that has gone very cold.

For Lorene Bible, it's been a long 15 years. She's worked tirelessly tobe a voice for her missing daughter all this time. "At 15 years you think, oh we're never gonna solve this, is there somebody, what can I do to help get this moving forward."

She says the most recent call for information from the District Attorney's Office in Rogers, County was regarding two unknown men seen at the Freeman's residence prior to the incident. "Two males, two weeks before this, and Danny talked to one of them supposedly and there was another guy in the vehicle and he told the one man he was speaking to, never to bring the man to his property again."

Bible says she will not give up until some answers are found. "You've got to choose, are you gonna be your daughter's voice? Or are you going to hide in the closet? If you hide in the closet, it will go nowhere."

And it's not just the Bible family that remains hopeful. Otheres here in the town of Welch, along with the Craig County Sheriff's Office, says this case will not be forgotten.

Steve Davis, Welch resident, says "Conversation like in the cafe or the convenience store, still goes back to that day."

Craig County Sheriff Jimmie Sooter, "At 16 they were just getting started in life, and something needs to come to bring some closure to what happened to them."

Bible hopes continuing to hold remembrance services for her daughter and Ashley Freeman will bring answers. "We've not forgotten, just to let people know, hey, can we jog somebody's memory?"

Lorene Bible says recent cases such as the three women found in Ohio who had been held captive for a decade giver her hope that her daughter may still be alive and found one day. She says she would be grateful for even the smallest tip that may lead to something tangible in her daughter's case.


Update from Dec. 30th, 2017:

Box of Files Sheds New Light on Welch, OK Cold Case: Missing Girls

Welch, OK -

Eighteen years after two teenage girls disappeared in Welch, Oklahoma there are new details about the investigation.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation received newly discovered notes and documents dealing with a double homicide case in Welch back in 1999 from the Craig County Sheriff's Office.

That case dealt with the murders of Danny and Kathy Freeman in December of 1999 and the disappearance of the couple's sixteen year old daughter Ashley and her friend Lauria Bible. She was also sixteen. The Freemans were shot and killed in their home before it was set on fire.

The OSBI said the Craig County Sheriffs Office found a crate a year ago of files with notes and evidence that could put the case at a turning point. Investigators said they were already aware of most of what's inside but it's making more sense now, than it did years ago. Gary Stansill, with the 12th District Attorneys office said they're taking a close look at handwritten notes in the crate. Stansill said, "Mostly written on handwritten notes as if someone was talking to someone over a phone. and we don't know who wrote the notes, but some of that stuff we pieced together and it proved to be very valuable"

Lorene Bible, Lauria's mother just learned about the discovery. She remembers what it was like when the crime happened. She said, "It was this cold eighteen years ago." Her daughter, Lauria, and her best friend Ashley Freeman, went missing after a sleepover to celebrate Ashley's birthday at her home.

Lorene said these were her last words, "I told her i loved her. She was gonna stay the second night with Ashley - 'I'll be home in the morning.' That was it."

Neighbors woke up to see the home burned to the ground later learning both of Freeman's parents had been shot to death and left inside.

Lorene says she and her husband searched every inch of the rubble. "When I left I was 100 percent sure the girls were not in that fire."

The girls haven't been seen since the night of the sleepover. Law enforcement and Lorene both say the investigation is moving in the right direction - but know, the girls could be anywhere.

Bible said, "You don't get your hopes up til the day that you're sitting over your child or somebody brings her in and she's still alive."

The OSBI just pitched in $10,000 in reward money for credible information bringing the total up to $60,000. Anyone interviewed in the early stages of the investigation is urged to call the OSBI tip line because its possible some information was never documented.

Some of the preceding is information was shared by KOTV in Tulsa and reporter Amy Slanchik.

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