Dive teams continue search for remains of missing Oklahoma girls nearly 20 years after disappearance

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WELCH, Okla. (KFOR/KJRH) – Nearly 20 years later, family members in Oklahoma are still searching for answers related to the deaths and disappearances of loved ones in a high-profile crime.

The case began in 1999 when investigators discovered the bodies of Danny and Kathy Freeman inside their burning home in Welch. Authorities soon learned that the couple’s daughter, 16-year-old Ashley Freeman, and her friend, 16-year-old Lauria Bible, were missing.

Although rescue teams searched the area, they never found any sign of the teenagers.

Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible (family photo)

The initial investigation didn’t get very far, but authorities said a review in recent years uncovered new evidence, including witness statements linking Ronnie Busick, Warren Phillip Welch and David Pennington to the killings.

Several witnesses said the men killed the Freemans over money owed for drugs, according to authorities.

19 years after the murders, authorities charged Busick with four counts of first-degree murder in relation to the cold case. The other two men have since died.

Ronnie Busick, Craig County Jail.

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 that the teens were both killed and their bodies were dumped in a mineshaft southwest of Picher, Oklahoma.

Although authorities say they have searched the area, their bodies have never been found.

However, officials say they are not giving up.

According to KJRH, dive teams from the Tulsa Police Department are heading to a mineshaft in Picher to conduct another search for the victims’ bodies.

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