MAYES COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – It has been 45 years since the horrific murders of three Oklahoma Girl Scouts, but officials say they don’t expect a different suspect to ever be found for the crime.
It has been called Oklahoma’s most notorious cold case, but officials with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, OSBI, say they are confident they know who the killer is.
The infamous case is now the subject of a new streaming documentary on Hulu called “Keeper of the Ashes. The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders.”
On June 13, 1977, investigators made a gruesome discovery at the Girl Scout Camp outside of Locust Grove, Oklahoma.
The video above is the first of a two-part special KFOR aired on the 40th anniversary of the murders.
Officials found the bodies of 8-year-old Lori Farmer, 9-year-old Michelle Guse, and 10-year-old Denise Milner under a tree near their tent.
One of the first on the scene was Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Howard Barry.
“You’re just not ready to drive up on something like that and find three little girls. That’s something I’ll take to my grave,” Trooper Howard Berry, with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, told KFOR in 2017.
The girls had been raped, mutilated, beaten, and strangled.
600 volunteers would begin what would be the largest manhunt in Oklahoma state history.
No one has ever been convicted of the crime.
In 1977, the investigation focused on 33-year-old Gene Leroy Hart, a convicted rapist who was nearby at the time of the crime.
Prosecutors argued that Hart had left the same signature signs on the little girls as he on his previous victims.
Garvin Isaacs was hired to defend Hart on the murder charges.
“Gene Leroy Hart was an innocent man, wrongfully accused of a crime he did not commit,” Isaacs told KFOR in 2017.
Isaacs says his client was framed and points out a flashlight found near the bodies.
“We believe it’s a thumb print on the lens of the flashlight that is not Gene Leroy Hart’s fingerprint,” said Isaacs. “The tent where the murders happened had a footprint in the blood. That footprint was a 9 ½ . Hart’s footprints would be an 11 ½.”
The jury ultimately acquitted Hart of the killing the girls.
Hart was taken to prison to serve the remaining 300 years on his previous rape and burglary convictions.
Only weeks later, he died of a heart attack while jogging in the prison yard.
The video above is the second of a two-part special KFOR aired on the 40th anniversary of the murders.
Camp Scott now exists only in the black and white print of crime reports.
The sign over the entrance is gone. The land is leased for hunting.
Time has ravaged the abandoned buildings.
OSBI agents say that after all these years, the evidence still points to Hart being the killer.
In 2017 KFOR reported Mayes County residents raised $30,000 for DNA testing.
The evidence was sent to an independent lab in Virginia. It’s a forensics lab that specializes in mitochondrial DNA analysis.
The last DNA report was issued in 2019.
“For 45 years, the OSBI has devoted countless hours in the pursuit of justice for Denise Milner, Michelle Guse and Lori Farmer; three little girls whose lives were ended much too soon. OSBI agents have followed every tip, every theory, every lead, and OSBI criminalists have processed all the evidence possible. The result is that every person of interest is excluded with the exception of Gene Leroy Hart. The DNA from a hair found on the floor of the tent and a semen stain found on the pillowcase of one of the girls exclude all other persons of interest except for Hart.
The case remains open at this time, and to this day, every tip is followed. However, the Bureau is as confident today as we were in 1977 that the right person was identified, arrested, and tried as the killer.
For the families of Denise, Michelle and Lori; for the girl scouts in Kiowa camp the night of June 12, 1977; and for the investigators – then and now – that have been impacted by the horrific nature of this gruesome and senseless murder, our hope is there will be peace and freedom in knowing all evidence points to Gene Leroy Hart.”Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations
A new documentary on the 1977 cold case is now streaming on Hulu.