The unspeakable tragedy dominated Oklahoma headlines for years.
In the darkness of June 13, 1977, on the edge of a
wooded campground filled with Girl Scouts anticipating two weeks of fun,
three young campers were raped and murdered, their strangled and
mutilated bodies left under a tree about 100 yards from their tent.
A 10-month manhunt led authorities to arrest and
charge a convicted rapist with ties to the area who had escaped from
jail four years earlier.
Although police retrieved no weapon or fingerprints,
they did uncover a single hair that analysis said could belong to a
Native American — such as suspect Gene Leroy Hart — along with items
possibly stolen from the camp that authorities linked to him.
But the jurors in rural Mayes County were unconvinced
and found Hart, 33, not guilty. “They tried to frame him,” Hart’s
attorney, Garvin Isaacs, tells PEOPLE.
Sent back to prison after the acquittal to complete
his prior sentence, Hart died two months later, in 1979, leaving the
mystery of who murdered 8-year-old Lori Farmer, 9-year-old Michele Guse
and 10-year-old Denise Milner officially unsolved for more than 40
The Oklahoma campsite at Camp Scott near Locust Grove, where three young Girl Scouts were killed in June 1977.
Gene Leroy Hart
Says Sheryl Stokes, Lori’s childhood friend: “People just want to know what happened and who did this?”
Now they may finally find out.
With $30,000 raised locally last year by Mayes County
Sheriff Mike Reed, surviving evidence from the crime scene is
undergoing DNA testing that Reed thinks may reveal a forensic profile of
the killer that was unavailable four decades ago.
From left: 9-year-old Michele Guse, 8-year-old Lori Farmer and 10-year old Denise Milner
Whether Reed hopes to confirm a link to the formerly
accused Hart or make another match, he won’t say. But he hopes he can at
last provide answers to the victims’ survivors, who have kept the
girls’ story alive.
“If I can bring some kind of peace to the family
members, the moms, the dads, the children,” Sheriff Reed says, “that is