Missing Welch Girls: New tip could bring closure to investigation

Investigators say information has surfaced that will direct their next efforts in the search for Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible.

Gary Stansill, District Attorney Investigator for District 12, says he’s been working on the case for almost a 10 years. FOX23 News has reported extensively on the case over the years after the girls were allegedly kidnapped in Welch after Freeman’s parents were killed.

Stansill says they’ve been able to reevaluate the case and piece things together and says they have enough information to search near one of the suspect’s homes in Picher where David Pennington lived. Stansill says Pennington moved to the area 3-4 weeks after the girls had disappeared. Family had mentioned Pennington didn’t want them to go near the cellar.

Stansill said, “Some of this information has been inconsistent, but the bottom line is that we have several sources that say there was some type of below ground structure mainly on the adjoining property that was next to his, that at the time, was vacant.”

Through multiple interviews including interviews with Ronnie Busick, the last remaining live suspect in the case, Stansill says they have reason to think the girls may be in a “root” cellar. Stansill said, “We don’t know exactly where this cellar is, it’s a below ground structure. So there are several things that we can do. One of them is called ground penetrating radar.”

Stansill says they are hopeful an excavation can begin on the property before spring foliage comes to full bloom possibly this April.

He added, “In the past excavations, all the different digs that have been done, the different searches have come up with negative results. But we’re still going to continue. One of these days I think we’re going to find the right spot.”