Few criminal cases in Oklahoma are as notorious as the girl scouts murdered in Locust Grove the summer of 1977. Most adults today remember the fervor that spanned the state when word of the murders hit the news. For the girls’ families, the horror of June 13, 1977, is just as painful more than 37 years later. Especially difficult, justice remains elusive. However, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has never closed the case, hoping one day technology and new leads might provide answers.
The Mayes County Sheriff’s Office requested OSBI assistance the day the girls’ bodies were discovered in a wooded area of Camp Scott. Less than a year later and after extensive investigative work by dozens of OSBI agents and other law enforcement, 34-year-old Gene Leroy Hart was arrested for murdering and sexually assaulting Lori Lee Farmer, 8; Michele Guse, 9; and Doris Denise Milner, 10. In 1979, Hart faced a jury and, after a lengthy trial, was acquitted. He was subsequently returned to prison to serve more than 300 years on a previous sentence for kidnapping and raping two pregnant women. Sixty-six days after his return to prison, Hart died of a heart attack.
During the girls’ homicide investigation, agents worked hundreds of leads, most of which led to Hart. Even though the case remained open, only a few dozen new leads surfaced over several decades. However, throughout the passage of time, an OSBI agent was always assigned the case to follow leads.
Approximately three years ago, the OSBI Cold Case Unit, funded through a federal grant, reviewed the case and identified evidence that might benefit from new forensic testing. “The girl scouts’ murder investigation has been one of the most extensive investigations in OSBI’s 89-year history,” OSBI Director Stan Florence says. “When I became Director three years ago, I authorized a comprehensive review of the entire case to identify any possible leads we may further develop and explore additional scientific measures that could draw a clear conclusion to the case. This work has been exhaustive for numerous OSBI investigators and analysts, for whom I am thankful for their dedicated work.” So far, OSBI criminalists have tested more than 200 items of evidence using the most up-to-date forensic techniques available to the Bureau.
At the request of Lori Lee Farmer’s parents, Dr. Charles and Sheri Farmer, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) agreed to help with the case. Late last year, Mayes County Sheriff Mike Reed, the OSBI case agent, and the OSBI lab director traveled to Virginia to consult with NCMEC experts. Investigators there reviewed the case and leads in detail. That team suggested a few pieces of evidence be submitted to a private lab for tests currently unavailable at the OSBI lab. “For the last year, the Mayes County Sheriff’s Office has been working hand in hand with the OSBI and NCMEC to review the case from every possible angle. Our sole mission has been to pull our agencies together as one team, try to find some answers, and bring final justice for the families and citizens of Mayes County,” Sheriff Reed says.
This three-year-long case review will draw to a conclusion in the near future. Even though the best forensic testing available may not solve this case, OSBI believes the girls’ families should know law enforcement is working every possible angle to identify a suspect and find long-overdue justice for Lori Lee, Michele, and Denise. "We are grateful for the time and effort the OSBI and other law enforcement agencies have given to our case," Sheri Farmer comments.
If lab tests result in conclusive evidence of a suspect, that information will be shared with prosecutors and the girls’ families.
As always, if anyone has information that could help develop viable leads in this case, please contact the OSBI at 1-800-522-8017.