• Missing Welch Girls: Crews come up empty in Picher in Ashley Freeman, Lauria Bible case

    By: Tiffany Alaniz

    Updated:

    WELCH, Okla. - Two girls from Welch were abducted and murdered nearly 20 years ago and the search continues for their remains.

    Latest Developments - Updated 8 a.m. August 1

    • Officials continue to search for the bodies of Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman in rural parts of Oklahoma.
    • Investigators focused on several sites in Picher, Oklahoma -- but came up empty after two days of digging.
    • 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 in Picher.
    • There is still a $50,000 reward for any information that leads to Lauria and Ashely's remains.

    What we know

    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.

    RELATED: New true crime series to explore case of missing Welch girls

    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.

    The search for the missing 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.

    We've learned investigators will dig and use ground penetrating equipment to search for the remains of Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman.

    Investigators focused on several sites in Picher, Oklahoma in July. 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 in Picher.

    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's Cailey Dougherty followed investigators to Chetopa, Kansas where they thought they might find evidence of the girls' bodies. Crews were unable to locate any remains.

    The suspects involved in the murders

    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 has been stalled out as the judge in the case awaits mental competency exams from the defense and prosecution.

    Busick says he doesn't remember anything about the murders or where the girls' remains are location due to years of his own drug use.

    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.

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

    Physical evidence found at the scene of the family murder

    FOX23 spoke with a private investigator who worked the case of the missing Welch girls 19 years after the initial incident.

    Tom Pryor told FOX23's Tiffany Alaniz he found a car insurance card near the scene that belonged to Welch's girlfriend:

    Family remembers the victims

    FOX23's Tiffany Alaniz sat down with the Freeman family in May 2019 in a rare interview to talk about their memories of Ashley and their frustrations with the case:

    Alaniz also sat down with the mother of Lauria Bible after evidence was brought to light by the private investigator. Lorene said her first priority is to find the girls' remains:

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