Man accused in Oklahoma cold case pleads guilty to lesser charges

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CRAIG COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – The man accused of kidnapping and murdering two teen girls more than 20 years ago has pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the case.

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.

Busick was charged with four counts of first-degree murder, first-degree arson and two counts of kidnapping.

On Wednesday, Busick pleaded guilty to withholding information in the case and accessory to first-degree murder.

According to the terms of the plea agreement, Busick will be sentenced to 10 years in prison and five years of supervised release.

If Busick provides information that leads investigators to the remains of the girls, he would serve just five years in prison.

His formal sentencing is scheduled for August 31.

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