Case File 1: Disappearance of Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman
Case File Overview
Best friends Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman, both 16, disappeared from Welch, Oklahoma, a small rural town in Craig County USA, in the early morning hours of December 30th, 1999.
Lauria was at Ashley’s home for a sleepover to celebrate Ashley’s 16th birthday.
The Freeman’s mobile home went up in flames in the wee hours of December 30, 1999. Kathy Freeman’s body was found inside. Initially, Danny Freeman was suspected in the murder of his wife and the disappearance of Lauria and Ashley. However, the next day Lauria’s parents searched the crime scene and discovered Danny Freeman’s body, which had been partially covered by debris.
Autopsies determined both Danny and Kathy had sustained gunshot wounds to the head and that Danny’s right collarbone had been fractured prior to his death.
Lauria and Ashley have never been found.
Weight: 145 lbs
Hair: Dark blonde
Defining Characteristics: Scar on the upper left side of her forehead
Last seen 12/29/99
Weight: 130 lbs
Defining Characteristics: Mole under her nose and a scar on the top of her head
Last seen 12/29/99
Case File Theories
The Craig County Sheriff’s Department
There was reportedly bad blood between the Craig County Sheriff’s Department and the Freemans. Danny’s son, Shane, was shot and killed by officer David Hayes after Shane stole a truck and a neighbour’s gun. Later, the Freemans threatened to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the Craig County Sheriff’s Department even though Shane’s killing was ruled justifiable.
Rumour had it members of the department were trying to intimidate the Freemans. Also, Danny had warned his brother Dwayne Vancil that if anything happened to Danny that the Craig County Sheriff’s Department was responsible.
Did members of the sheriff’s department play a role in Lauria and Ashley’s disappearance? It’s unlikely. First of all, the Craig County Sheriff’s Department voluntarily turned the case over to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Additionally, members of the sheriff’s department took polygraph tests, and Special Agent Steve Nutter of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation cleared the sheriff’s office of any and all wrongdoing.
A Drug Deal/Robbery Gone Bad
Danny was a known marijuana grower, and the Freemans may have been targeted for drugs and/or cash on the premises. Ashley had been saving money for her first car, estimated to be between $3000-$4000, and stashing it in the freezer. The police were unable to locate Ashley’s savings, which suggests the murders and disappearance could be the result of a robbery. However, Lauria’s purse was found at the scene and was said to contain $200, calling into question if robbery was the motive. Even more, it seems that the last thing a robber or rival drug dealer would want to do after committing murder is kidnap two teenagers.
Lauria & Ashley Committed the Murders and Fled
Investigators dismissed this theory due to a lack of evidence. In fact, both young women were considered well-behaved and good students with bright futures. Also, if they did commit the murders and then flee, it’s likely Lauria would’ve taken her purse. Moreover, it’s unlikely they both would’ve been able to remain hidden all of these years. Agent Nutter explained, “I find it difficult to believe that the girls, by themselves, could hide out that long and not be found.”
Tommy Lynn Sells
In a letter to The Joplin Globe in May 2002, convicted murderer Tommy Lynn Sells confessed to killing Danny and Kathy Freeman and abducting and killing Ashley and Lauria. According to Sells, he was travelling through Welch, Oklahoma and committed the crimes. He stated he was high on drugs and couldn’t recall details of the crime or where he left Lauria and Ashley’s bodies.
Authorities believe Sells may have committed as many as sixteen murders but haven’t been able to find any evidence linking him to the Bible/Freeman case. Sells was executed by lethal injection on April 3rd, 2014. Regardless, he remains a possible suspect.
Jeremy B. Jones
Death row inmate Jeremy B. Jones confessed to killing Danny and Kathy Freeman as a favour to a friend over a drug debt. Jones has been charged with two murders and is suspected in disappearances and murders in six states across the USA. He claimed he took Lauria and Ashley to Galena, Kansas, shot them, and threw their bodies into an abandoned mine.
Some evidence suggests Jones may be the perpetrator in the Bible/Freeman case. For example, Jones was convicted of murdering a woman and setting her house on fire to destroy the evidence. This is disturbingly similar to what transpired at the Freeman’s mobile home. Additionally, during his confession, the type of shotgun and accelerant Jones mentioned matched the evidence found at the Bible/Freeman crime scene.
On the other hand, other evidence indicates it’s unlikely he’s responsible for the crimes. Jones lived in Ottawa County, Oklahoma at the time of Ashley and Lauria’s disappearance, and he was released from jail at 10:30 p.m. on the evening in question. There’s some debate as to whether or not he would’ve had the time to commit the crimes. Also, nothing was found when authorities searched the mine where Jones claimed he had hid Ashley and Lauria’s bodies. Later, Jones recanted his confession, admitting he lied to receive better food and extra phone privileges while in prison. Like Sells, however, Jones remains a suspect in the case.
What do you think happened to Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman?
Lorene Bible, Lauria’s mother, continues the quest for information about her daughter’s disappearance on her Facebook page. She’s counting on someone coming forward to help solve the case.
Lauria Jaylene Bible – The Charlie Project case overview
Ashley Renae Freeman – The Charlie Project case overview
Lauria Bible & Ashley Freeman – Unsolved Mysteries case overview
“‘Pot-stirring’ gives investigators new leads in cold cases such as missing Welch girls” – Tulsa World article
“New leads in search of Oklahoma girls missing since 1999” – News Channel 4 article
Looking for some true crime reading this summer? Check out The TCF’s recent post for 3 must-read true crime books.