PICHER, Okla. – Authorities say that a dive team didn’t make any significant findings in the search for the bodies of two teens.
On December 30, 1999, the bodies of Danny Freeman and his wife Kathy Freeman were found in their burning home in Welch, near the Kansas border. Their 16-year-old daughter, Ashley Freeman, and her 16-year-old friend, Lauria Bible, weren’t found.
Since then, there have been three suspects in the case: Warren Phillip Welch II, David Pennington, and Ronnie Busick.
Of the three, Busick is the only suspect still alive. He was charged in 2018 with murder, kidnapping and arson. He has denied the charges.
Authorities said several witnesses said the men killed the Freemans over money owed for drugs.
According to the Tulsa World, in an arrest affidavit filed in Busick’s case, authorities believe Ashley Freeman and Bible were “kidnapped, tied up, raped and held at Welch’s mobile home for a ‘matter of days’ before being strangled.”
An anonymous caller told investigators on January 4, 2000, that the two 16-year-olds were both killed and their bodies were dumped in a mineshaft southwest of Picher, Oklahoma.
The paper states multiple witnesses told officials the men threw the teens’ bodies into a pit or mineshaft or dumped them into a cellar which was later covered in concrete.
FBI agents investigated the tip at the time, but didn’t find anything. Now, investigators are hoping to possibly identify the anonymous caller, and are looking into if the information called in was interpreted correctly.
On Tuesday, the Tulsa police dive team began searching for the girls’ remains, centered near the former residence of Welch in the abandoned town of Picher.
Officials told KJRH that no significant findings came out of the two-day search, but they are not giving up on finding the girls.
“This is by no means to anywhere close to being the end results. This is just one phase of the search to say, ‘look, we’ve been there. We’ve done that, and now we’re going to move forward,'” said Gary Stansill, lead investigator for the district attorney’s office.
Authorities are not releasing their next search location yet.