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The Disappearance of Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman

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Case Update

Hello, my loyal true crime readers! I am thrilled to let you know that there has been what appears to be a huge break in this case. The disappearance of Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman is one of the first cases I covered, and I have been following it closely for years. 

For background details about the case, I suggest that you read my initial post below and then return here to learn about the update.

On April 23, 2018 the police named three men in connection with the abduction and murder of Ashley and Lauria: Warren “Phil” Welch, David Pennington, and Ronnie Busick.

Both Welch and Pennington are deceased, but Busick was arrested in Wichita. The 66-year-old was returned to Craig County to face four murder counts. He is accused of murdering Kathy and Danny Freeman, Ashley’s parents, and then abducting and murdering Ashley and Lauria. At the time of this update, Busick denies any involvement in the crimes. He remains incarcerated with his case stalled as both the defence and prosecution have “mental capacity tests” performed.  

Murder suspect Ronnie Busick
Source: Harvey County Kansas Sheriff’s Office/AP

The arrest affidavit released by the Craig County prosecutors provides an overview of what allegedly happened to Ashley and Lauria. On the night of the young women’s disappearance, Welch, Pennington, and Busick visited the Freeman home to settle a “bad drug deal.” Witnesses have told investigators that after murdering Ashley’s parents, the three suspects took “the girls and [had] fun with them.” Another witness told the authorities that Ashley and Lauria were held for days at Welch’s trailer and were “raped and violently strangled to die.” The police believe that their bodies were then “thrown in a pit.”

As in many cold cases that eventually get solved, a former partner of one of the suspects is playing a key role by providing much-needed information. An ex-girlfriend of Welch’s told police that he had decorated his trailer with Ashley and Lauria’s missing persons poster. Even more, his ex said that Welch had Polaroids that showed Ashley and Lauria bound and gagged on his bed. Apparently at least a dozen witnesses have reported that the three men kept numerous photographs as trophies to brag about their crime and to threaten witnesses into keeping silent. 

One other key discovery led to the recent progress in the case. In February 2017, documents came to light that led the current investigators to two private detectives that initially looked into the abduction and murders. Tom Pryor, one of the private detectives, no longer had his files on the case; however, he did still have in his possession “an insurance card found at the scene on the day after the Freemans were killed.” This card reportedly belongs to a woman who was living with Welch at the time. Given that Welch often drove her vehicle, this is believed to place him at the scene of the crime.  

In a statement on their Facebook page, Lauria’s family explains that although it might seem like Busick’s arrest is a big break in the case, most of the details have been known for years. It “just” took plenty of time, effort, and patience to finally gather enough information to move forward with charges. 

Although I am ecstatic about the progress, I am only cautiously optimistic. Sure, Welch’s girlfriend’s insurance card may have been found at the scene of the crime. Can it be proven that he was the one who dropped it? And during the crime and not on a previous visit? And to what extent can this information be used to prosecute Busick? Also, although many witnesses claim to have seen Welch, Pennington, and Busick with the Polaroids of Ashley and Lauria, the photographs have never been found by investigators. Will witness statements about these photographs be enough in court? Can a guilty verdict be reached, especially without Ashley and Lauria’s bodies to provide forensic evidence? Searches are ongoing for the young women’s bodies. As recently as July 2019 investigators combed through several sites in Picher, Oklahoma. Some of the sites examined include the area surrounding the mobile home Welch once rented as well as several ponds and treed areas. No signs of Ashley and Lauria were found. 

Even if the persons responsible for the disappearance and murder of Ashley and Lauria have been identified and Busick is found guilty, this case is far from closed until Ashely and Lauria are found and returned to their loved ones. A $50,000 reward remains in place for information leading to the location of Ashley and Lauria. Let’s keep spreading the word about this case. 

~ Christine


The 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 30, 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.

Lauria Bible

Image of Lauria Bible - missing person
Source: Unsolved Mysteries

DOB: 12/29/83
Height: 5’7”
Weight: 145 lbs
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Dark blonde
Defining Characteristics: Scar on the upper left side of her forehead
Last seen 12/29/99

Ashley Freeman

Image of Ashley Freeman - missing person
Source: Unsolved Mysteries

DOB: 4/18/83
Height: 5’5”
Weight: 130 lbs
Eyes: Hazel
Hair: Brown
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 is highly 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. Unless, of course, the person or persons at the scene made the disturbing decision in the moment that taking the young women to torment and assault them was too good of an opportunity to pass up. 

Lauria and 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 is likely Lauria would have taken her purse. Moreover, it is unlikely they both would have 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

Image of serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells
Source: Murderpedia

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 could not 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 they have not 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

Image of serial killer Jeremy Jones

Source: Murderpedia

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 is unlikely he is 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 is some debate as to whether or not he would have 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 and Ashley?

Lorene Bible, Lauria’s mother, continues the quest for information about her daughter’s disappearance on her Facebook page. She is counting on someone coming forward to help solve the case.

Related Reading and Listening 

“Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman” – The Murder in My Family podcast 

“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

“Disappearance of two Okla. girls stumped police for 18 years. Then they learned about the Polaroids” – The Washington Post article

“Graphic Polaroids lead to arrest of man accused of 1999 abduction and murder of 2 Oklahoma girls”People article

“Missing Welch girls: Crews come up empty in Picher in Ashley Freeman, Lauria Bible case” – Fox 23 News article 

Interested in missing person cases? Check out the mysterious disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel and the unexplained vanishing of DA Ray Gricar.

Liked it? Take a second to support Christine on Patreon!
Published inMissing Person FilesTrue CrimeUnsolved Murder Files



  1. Hmmm, I knew about Tommy Lynn Sells being a suspect but not Jeremy B. Jones. I do not believe the fire is really Sells MO, but the drug debt theory is very interesting.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Erica. Nice to hear from you! I also was surprised to learn that Jeremy B. Jones was a possible suspect. I agree with you about fire not being part of Sells’ MO. I also wouldn’t be shocked if there was some kind of drug angle to the case, like you mention. Or, perhaps the girls themselves were the target? One day, hopefully, there can some sense of closure for the victims’ loved ones.

  2. Looking at the fire and the damage to the trailer and then melted aluminum it’s obvious the girls were murdered and incinerated in the living area of the trailer. Use your head folks aluminum melts it over 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. A Crematory is 1200 to 1400 degrees. The parents bodies were recognizable only because they were sleeping in a waterbed and which their bodies were immersed in water during the fire. I have a certified IQ of over 159. My brain works a lot more differently then someone with an IQ south of 110 which is most of your investigator is your police excetera. The firefighter should have immediately recognized that the Twisted steel frame and melted aluminum indicated that the girls were more than likely incinerated in the fire. They should have also realized that the only reason the parents bodies were not consumed was because of the waterbed. More than likely the shotgun blast blue the water bed apart as well immersing the parents bodies in water period while the girls bodies in the living area where more than likely exposed to fire temperatures exceeding 1300 degrees Fahrenheit. The girls are not missing and if someone with some intelligence that actually sifted the fire for bone fragments they would have found the girl’s remains tiny fragments would be my guess. Truly sorry for your loss

    • Christine Christine

      Hi John. Thanks for taking the time to comment. You make an excellent point. It’s not made clear how well the area has been searched for the young women’s bodies. When I looked up crematory temps I found numbers higher than you note, but it’s still more than possible that most of their bodies could have burned away. If so, it’s heartbreaking to think the answer could be so close for the loved ones but still out of reach unless a much more thorough search is done. Great insights! I especially love the waterbed theory. Thanks again!

    • Ben Ben

      “IQ of over 159” but apparently doesn’t know the difference between ‘blue’ and ‘blew’….

      • Christine Christine

        I hold out hope that the mistakes people make when commenting are the result of fast typing. Thank you for taking the time to comment, and happy weekend. 🙂

        • Melinda Horne Melinda Horne

          I’m loving this blog! I’ve only recently discovered it.

          • Christine Christine

            Hi Melinda – Thanks for reading and your kind words! Have a great day.

    • Barbara Repko Barbara Repko

      Too bad that with your alleged super high IQ you don’t know much about English: “blew, not blue”, “et cetera, not excetera”, and you don’t capitalize words in the middle of a sentence as you did. And it should be “girls’, not girl’s” since there were two girls. “Parents’ bodies, not parents bodies”. Don’t be so quick to pat yourself on the back about how “smart” you are.😂😂😂 There are many more grammatical mistakes, too numerous to list here.🙄 Yes, it matters, especially if you want to brag about how much smarter you are than the cops.

      • LilithaVain LilithaVain

        IQ stands for “Intelligence Quotient”. It is a test of what you are capable of knowing… not of what you already know. Someone might make typos like dude above even though they have a high IQ. Just because you have a high IQ doesn’t mean you know more than someone else without one. It just means you’re CAPABLE OF more. I have a high IQ. It doesn’t mean that I never make mistakes or that you are even particularly smart. Some geniuses are living on the street. It just makes it more foolish is all. Also… geniuses are generally very unorganized and tend to have no common sense. They bore easily. Being a genius just means that a person is capable of being really good at Math and Science & can write and spell. This means they SHOULD be capable of these things by a certain age. If not, than that’s a waste of human intelligence. It’s a very sad thing, but very real.

    • Jackie Brown Jackie Brown

      You seem to know many of the details that weren’t published such as the body on the water bed.

      • Christine Christine

        Good point. During my research I never found any mention of a waterbed. It would be useful to know where that information is coming from. Maybe John could post a link to the article. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

    • Dani Dani

      Too bad that the police have now solved the case and also learned that the girls were held and abused and tortured and sexually assaulted for possibly many weeks before they were murdered.

      • LilithaVain LilithaVain


  3. Jonathan B. Jonathan B.

    I just watched an old episode of Unsolved Mysteries, and I do too believe that these young ladies were murdered alongside of their parents. With all the mounted technology they should do another search of the property one last time. It’s almost 20 plus years later.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Jonathan. Thanks for your comment. Like you, I worry that Lauria and Ashley have been murdered. And great point! With all of the advances in technology, it would be important to re-examine the crime scene and surrounding area to see if any new evidence can be found. Thanks again for taking the time to comment and have a great day.

  4. Stacey Stacey

    ID did a special tonight on Laurie and Ashly and the waterbed was mentioned on there.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Stacey – Thanks for the info! Have a good weekend. ~ Christine

  5. Mink Photos Mink Photos

    This website was… how do I say it? Relevant!!
    Finally I’ve found something which helped me. Thanks a

    • Christine Christine

      Happy to help, and thanks for reading!

  6. Jessica Jessica

    Case was solved on April 23 2018

    • Christine Christine

      I heard about the arrest of a suspect in this case earlier this week and look forward to adding an update to my post on the weekend. Great news!

  7. Keri Keri

    You make a good point about having a strong enough case to hold up in court. I’m guessing the police would have waited to arrest him if this was the case. No doubt they’ll offer the girlfriend(s) immunity to testify against this dirtbag.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Keri. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. Here’s hoping one day there is a strong enough case. Lauria’s and Ashley’s loved ones deserve some answers.

  8. Bill Bill

    I’m thankful for progress, but the victory seems somewhat hollow. If both the prosecution and defense are concerned about Busick’s mental competency, then he probably wasn’t the driving force for the murders. I don’t have a problem executing someone who has lost some mental capacity if he knew that killing was wrong when he killed, but I wish he could fully experience the fear and anxiety of facing his sentence. Likewise, I wish that the girls, particularly the friend, could be returned to their families for proper burial.

    The other question raised by Busick’s questionable competency is whether he was ever anything more than “dumb muscle” in the crime. If he’s of such low intelligence that he just went along for the ride with the other two, he’s not the one on whom justice should be most strongly served. While I believe he should face justice, maybe he isn’t as culpable because of low intelligence.

    I share the skepticism about some of this information. We can’t know whether the insurance card was dropped on the night of the murders or whether the insurance card had been dropped previously. If the insurance card was found with a private investigator, the chain of custody may be so bad that the insurance card is worthless.

    I’m curious why this woman is talking about the killings now and not when her boyfriend was alive. She may be in trouble for some other crime and is trying to parlay information about these killings into some kind of leniency. Depending on the seriousness of her crimes, I wouldn’t give her much credit for information that I could use against Busick if he was just a mentally-deficient follower of the other two. If she’s accused of some other crime, she may be lying completely just to avoid punishment on other charges.

    Even if Busick goes to trial, convicting him will be difficult. If the woman got a deal for her testimony, her credibility will be lower. If Busick says that he was just bragging about being part of the killings of either the parents or the girls in order to boost his credibility in the criminal world, the prosecutors won’t have evidence to contradict him. Even if someone saw him with the Polaroid pictures of the girls, he can say that he had the pictures but wasn’t there when they were taken. Even if he could lead authorities to the bodies, he can claim that he wasn’t there when they were killed. In that case, he may be convicted of crimes related to the body disposal but not be convicted of the killings.

    This one feels particularly unsatisfying. I wish the people who saw the pictures of the girls being tortured but didn’t come forward for all these years could be punished in some way. That these pieces of trash took the girls for torture and rape and didn’t die by execution is frustrating.

    Being as polite as possible, the notion of the girls’ bodies being completely consumed in a trailer fire is silly. A simple online search shows a few things. House fires rarely burn above 1100 °F while cremation takes place at 1400 to 1800 °F. Cremation takes one to three hours. I’m sure that time is required to get all the water to evaporate so that the heat can destroy tissue and break down bone. Even then, the bones need to be ground to powder. A trailer fire isn’t likely to burn for a long period of time anyway. The bodies are not going to be completely dehydrated and reduced.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Bill! As always, thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. I agree with you on all counts!

  9. Jordyn Martinez Jordyn Martinez

    I think that for sure it was abduction, and also by someone in the girls inner circle, because how else would the know that they were all at the one house for a slumber party? Anything about it being an accident, a stranger, or something of that sort is absolute rubbish. It would make much more sense to have been someone in the girls’ inner circle, but maybe just passing information? I don’t know which one, but this website is one of my favorite sites ever, keep up the good work!!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Christine Christine

      Hi JM. Thanks for reading and for your kind words! Yes, there has been progress on this case and it looks like the girls were killed by someone with a grudge against the parents. Heartbreaking indeed!

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