PICHER, Okla. - In the town of Picher, for all intents and purposes a ghost town, is a field, empty, overgrown, unassuming.
On that field, at one point in the last 20 years, sat a trailer, the home of Phil Welch. It was the last place where investigators believe Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman were alive.
The girls disappeared when they were 16 years old. Freeman's parents were found shot dead in their burned-up home in Welch back in December of 1999.
The case grew cold, but Lorene Bible never gave up hope that she would find answers. A break in the investigation in 2017 led to an arrest April 2018. Ronnie Busick was extradited to Oklahoma for his alleged involvement in their disappearance.
He, Welch and another man, David Pennington, were all named as suspects in the girls' disappearance. Welch and Pennington have since died.
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Investigators believe the girls were kept alive for an unknown period of days at Welch's trailer before they were killed. Now, investigators want to find the girls' bodies.
Lorene Bible visited that field and sent FOX23 News the pictures. Like most of Picher, the place is mostly empty. Overgrown weeds fill the space.
Picher is the site of the Tar Creek Superfund, which was declared in 1983 and covers Picher's Ottawa County neighbor, Cardin. Mining impacts caused an eventual dissolution of the city. Court documents suggest witnesses told investigators that Freeman and Bible were in a pit or mineshaft in the area.
The town began closing in 2006. Residents voted in 2009 to close the school district and graduate its final class of 11 students that May, according to KWSO.
Picher was official dissolved in 2013.
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