Missing Welch Girls: Man sentenced to 10 years in prison in girls’ disappearance

VINITA, Okla. — A judge sentenced a man Monday to 10 years in prison, with five years of probation, for his involvement in the disappearance of two girls from Welch in 1999.

Ronnie Busick pleaded guilty to accessory to murder on July 15 and his sentence depended on whether or not the remains of Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible were found before Aug. 31.

Busick could have been sentenced to five years in prison and five years of probation if the remains were found, but was instead sentenced to 10 years in prison including the two years he had already served in jail.

Lorene Bible, Lauria’s mother, read this statement to Busick in court the day he was sentenced:

Background

Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman have been missing since December 1999. FOX23 has been covering the investigation for years and reported in 2018 when an arrest was finally made in the case.

Bible was staying the night with Freeman to celebrate her 16th birthday that night.

Investigators say Philip Welch, David Pennington, and Ronnie Busick killed Danny and Kathy Freeman then abducted Lauria and Ashley.

Authorities say Welch, Busick and Pennington kidnapped Lauria and Ashley and held them for days torturing them before murdering them and dumping their bodies

Authorities have yet to find the bodies of the two missing girls.

Searching for the remains

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation narrowed down a handful of possible sites where the remains of Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman could be located, but have not yet found them.

Investigators focused on several sites in Picher, Oklahoma in July 2019. One of those sites is the property where Philip Welch lived in a mobile home he rented. The property on College Street is the last place the girls were seen alive. FOX23 found several ponds have been recently drained across the street from the College Street property and trees in that area also cleared.

PHOTOS: Dig sites for missing Welch girls in Picher, Oklahoma

Multiple agencies including the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the Craig County District Attorney’s Office, the Quapaw Tribe, and others assisted in the dig Tuesday, July 30.

The search July 30 and 31 marked the first large-scale dig for Laura and Ashley’s remains since 2005.

Crews came up empty after two days of digging.

As a part of a deal in court, Busick showed authorities in August 2020 where he says he thought the girls could have been taken.

However, the search again came up empty.

In June 2005, investigators from ten agencies spent days searching in Galena, Kansas. It came after a serial killer, Jeremy Jones, had confessed to the killings and directed authorities to that area. The search came up empty. Jones later recanted his confession. FOX23′s Tiffany Alaniz was at that search for several days

In 2016, FOX23 followed investigators to Chetopa, Kansas where they thought they might find evidence of the girls’ bodies. Crews were unable to locate any remains.

The men suspected in the case

In April 2018, prosecutors filed charges against Ronnie Busick for killing Danny and Kathy Freeman and kidnapping and murdering Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman.

Busick remains in custody in Vinita in the Craig County Jail. His court case had been stalled out as the judge waited on mental competency exams from the defense and prosecution.

Busick in December was found competent for trial.

Buck appears in court.

A mugshot of Busick

Warren Phllip Welch (deceased), Ronnie Busick and David Pennington (deceased), are suspected in the 1999 disappearance of two Oklahoma girls.

(Kansas Department of Corrections)

In 2019, Busick’s attorneys said he doesn’t remember because he was grazed by a bullet in a shooting that happened in 1978. FOX23 has learned Busick has talked in the Craig County Jail telling fellow inmates details about the crimes, but his attorneys have said they cannot release any of that information.

Busick pleaded guilty to accessory to murder on July 15, 2020 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with five years of probation, on Aug. 31.

Philip Welch and David Pennington, the other two suspects have both died. Welch died in 2007 and Pennington died in 2015.

Warren Phllip Welch (deceased), Ronnie Busick and David Pennington (deceased), are suspected in the 1999 disappearance of two Oklahoma girls.