Search Continues For Remains Of Welch Girls Kidnapped In 1999


Tuesday, November 26th 2019, 9:35 pm
By: Amy Kauffman


Investigators are continuing to search mine shafts in the Picher area in hopes of finding two teens that went missing nearly 20 years ago.

It is believed Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman were taken from Ashley’s home on the night of December 30th. Investigators say Ashley’s parents were killed inside the home and then their home in Welch was set on fire.

Related Story: Competency Hearing Set For Man Accused In 1999 Welch Murders 

At this time, investigators believe the two girls were held here in Picher in a trailer for a few days, before their bodies were thrown into a mineshaft. Investigators tell me they’ve identified a few mine shafts as potential places of interest— but they wanted to search this particular one on the east side of town because they’ve received new information that the suspects were seen over here shortly after the murders.

On Tuesday Tulsa Police’s Dive Team attached a camera to a rope and sent it down the 175-foot-deep mine shaft.

They say they got video of the walls that will later be analyzed to see if it’s worth sending a remote controlled car down to further search the area. Lauria Bible’s mom has been at every search effort for her daughter’s remains and says she won’t receive closure until she knows what happened to Lauria.

“We’re doing everything we can to find you,” said Lorene Bible.  

Related Story: Detectives Search Pond For Remains Of Welch Girls Kidnapped In 1999 

Bible and her family have sat through many searches in the Picher area and continue to stay hopeful even almost 20 years after her daughter’s disappearance.

“They still are searching and talking to people every day to see what we do next,” said Bible. “You know that it could lead to nothing, but you still say let’s go see what’s there and if it’s not okay. you’re no different off than you was the day before.”

Tulsa police’s Dive Team dropped a camera in the hundred year old mine shaft to look at the accessibility of the mine. The shaft was sunk in 1918 and the team is trying to figure out if there is any concrete blockages along the way.

“The diameter of the shaft opening now is about 15 feet but as you go down it gets smaller and smaller,” said Ed Keheley.

Ed Keheley is an expert in mine shafts and says he’s been studying this area for more than 20 years. As investigators receive new information, he helps them map out the potential mines to search in the area of interest.

“We’ve reached a point where we have some shafts identified for various reasons so now we are starting to do the video work and begin the assessment,” said Keheley.

Keheley and District 12 D-A Investigator Gary Stansill will analyze the video that was recorded inside the mineshaft to see if the mine is worth taking a second look.

“We wanted to check to see is this mineshaft open  to the point that it goes into the mine workings, another question would be can we send a remote operated vehicle down this shaft at a later date,” said Investigator Gary Stansill.  

In the video, the dive team was able to see the concrete walls, along with sediment and debris because the 175-foot-deep shaft has filled with water. Investigators say if they see something of interest in the video, they would need more advanced technology to help with the search.

“A remote operated vehicle would allow us to maneuver it a little easier than our camera. With our camera we are having to use a pulley and rope system, whereas we could use a remote control and basically drive this, but unfortunately they are very expensive,” said Tulsa Police Sargent Justin Farley.

Investigators arrested the only living suspect in the case, Ronnie Busick back in 2018 and even though Busick is sitting in the Craig County Jail.

Lorene is still not giving up.

“Until I find their bodies or what remains of bodies or whatever that’s closure,” said Bible.  

Lorene is still pleading for people to come forward with information in this case. They say no tip is too small, and to contact OSBI if you know anything.

A court date is set for December 13th in Craig County District Court to determine competency of Ronnie Busick. Until then, Investigators will review the video of this mine shaft and see where they’ll go from here.