WELCH, OKLA. — Investigators made a break in the 1999 disappearance of two Welch, Oklahoma, girls.
Officials charged Ronnie Busick in connection with their disappearance, according to KOKI.
Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible were 16 years old in 1999, when they planned a sleepover to celebrate Freeman’s birthday.
The day after the sleepover, firefighters found Freeman’s parents, Danny and Kathy Freeman, shot to death in their burned-out home. The girls, however, had disappeared.
For years, investigators searched for answers, interviewed several potential suspects and pleaded for information surrounding the girls’ disappearance.
KOKI reported in 2017 that “extremely valuable” information was turned over by Craig County Sheriff Heath Winfrey.
Officials said they charged Busick Sunday in connection with the case. He faces four charges of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping and a final count of arson.
Busick is currently in custody in Newston, Kansas, according to investigators.
At least two other people were involved in the case, they said. Those two, identified as Warren Phillip Welch and David Pennington, have since died.
Members of the victim’s families learned Lauria and Ashley were likely kept alive some time after their disappearance, but they have since died. Their bodies have not been recovered.
An affidavit claimed Welch kept photographs in a leather briefcase that showed the girls bound and gagged at his Picher home during their last days. According to the affidavit, multiple people said they had seen the pictures, but the suspects reportedly threatened them.
The affidavit claimed the girls were tied up, drugged and raped before they were killed. It said the girls were strangled and their bodies were dumped into a pit, which may have been a mine shaft near Picher.
Multiple people told investigators that both Welch and Pennington dealt methamphetamine, according to the affidavit. One person reportedly told investigators that Pennington had said the girls had entered a room where Freeman’s parents were buying drugs on the night of the crime.
Another witness reportedly said that a conversation between Welch, Pennington and Busick had implied that the Freeman parents had been murdered over a debt. That witness said the suspects had also hinted that they had taken the two girls and eventually killed them, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit said an insurance card found near the scene connected to a car that investigators believed to be connected to a vehicle in Welch’s possession helped them in the case.
It said that the suspects had threatened the lives of people who may have had information about the crimes.
Investigators said they still need people to come forward about where the girls’ bodies may be. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-522-8017 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Officials said a private reward of $50,000 still stands for information related to the location of the girls.