Vigil held 20 years after abduction of Welch girls

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VINITA, Okla. (AP/KOKI) – A community in northeastern Oklahoma held a candlelight vigil to remember the lives of two girls who went missing more than two decades ago.

Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman were 16 years old when they disappeared.

The two best friends were staying at Ashley’s home in Craig County when it was set on fire in the early hours of Dec. 30, 1999.

Ashley’s parents were killed.

Ashley and Lauria weren’t found.

The Tulsa World reports that about 200 people attended a vigil Monday and remembered the girls with a slideshow, songs, prayers, speeches, and a balloon release.

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.

Although Busick was charged, it was unclear if he would be able to stand trial for the crimes.

 

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