WELCH, Okla. (KFOR) – Oklahoma investigators are pursuing a new lead as they continue looking into the disappearance of two teenage girls who disappeared following the brutal murder of one of the girl’s parents.
Best friends Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman were last seen alive on Freeman’s 16th birthday in December 1999.
The girls were having a slumber party inside the Freeman family trailer, located along a rural road in Welch, Okla., a town in Craig County, about eight miles south of the Kansas state line.
Freeman’s parents were killed, their bodies found in the burning trailer. But the girls were nowhere to be found.
Authorities believe the killers kept the girls alive as they tortured them for days, then ultimately killed them.
The new lead has investigators on the property of a home once owned by Philip Welch, a now-deceased man who was believed to be the mastermind of the murders.
Investigators believe Welch committed the killings along with David Pennington, who is also now deceased, and Ronnie Busick, who is now 69 years old.
Welch and Pennington were allegedly known to cook methamphetamine together, and several Welch community members reported the three killed the Freemans over money owed for drugs.
Authorities charged Busick with four counts of first-degree murder in relation to the cold case, 19 years after the murders occurred.
Busick pleaded guilty to withholding information in the case and accessory to first-degree murder.
Busick cut a deal on the accessory to murder charge last fall. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison along with five years of probation.
After accepting the plea deal, Busick told investigators that they should search an old root cellar in Picher for the remains. An extensive search followed, but nothing was found.
Investigators have searched around 400 of thousands of mine shafts in Picher for Freeman’s and Bible’s remains.