Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders

The murdered girl scouts. Family photos/Pryor Jeffersonian.

In late April 1977, a counselor at Oklahoma’s Camp Scott returned from a training session to find her belongings strewn. Her doughnuts were gone but a paper was inside the empty doughnut box. She took it out and found a handwritten note in which the writer vowed to murder three campers. Since pranks are common at camps, she discarded the note.

On June 12, 1977, a group of Girl Scouts arrived at Camp Scott, a 400-acre camp at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Tent units were named after Indian tribes: Osage, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, and the like. The outermost unit was Kiowa. As girls were transported on buses on the road called the “Cookie Trail,” they merrily called out the names of the units they passed.

A thunderstorm erupted at about 6:00 p.m. that evening. Lori Lee Farmer, 8, Doris Denise Milner, 10, who went by her middle name of Denise, and Michele Guise, 9, huddled in that last tent of the Kiowa group. Lori and Denise were from Tulsa; Michele from Broken Arrow. Denise was a black girl; Lori was a blonde white girl; and Michelle was a brown-haired and bespectacled white girl.

Early in the morning of June 13, camp counselor Carla Emery, 18, was walking to the showers when she let out a shriek of horror. She had discovered the dead body of little Denise at a fork in a trail. A rope and towel were wrapped around the child’s neck. She soon found Lori and Michele nearby; both dead inside their sleeping bags and both with their mouths sealed with black electrical tape.

Police were called. Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) Officer Michael Wilkerson recalled, “People were talking in whispers. I remember how tiny, tiny, tiny the figures were in the sleeping bags.”

The three had been sexually molested – but not raped. Doris had been strangled. Lori and Michele were bludgeoned. Their bodies had been carried more than 100 yards from the tent.

The surviving girls went home. Camp Scott had served Girl Scouts for almost half a century but has never re-opened since this tragedy.

Gene Leroy Hart. Police photo.

On June 14, 1977, the bloodied wooden floor of the tent in which the murdered children had slept was airlifted to a crime laboratory. It appeared that someone had unsuccessfully tried to mop up the blood with towels and mattresses. According to Girlscoutmurders.com, a site dedicated to the event, reports, “Against the wishes of investigators it is published in the press that a tennis shoe print is found outside the tent and a different print was found inside the tent.”

A red flashlight with a piece of newspaper inside it, a roll of duct tape, and a nylon rope were found close to the bodies. Throughout Camp Scott, several pairs of prescription eyeglasses had been taken and discarded on its grounds.

John M. Crewdson reported in the New York Times that police believed the murderer had to be “physically agile.”

“Wonder Dogs” from Pennsylvania arrived at Camp Scott on June 16, 1977. Police deduced from the tracking of the K-9 cops that the perpetrator(s) passed by a counselors’ tent on the way to the tent in which the victims slept.

Men working at Camp Scott were investigated and cleared. Investigators looked into Jack Shroff who owned a nearby ranch. A few days prior to the murders, he had reported items stolen from his home. He passed a polygraph and was cleared.

A cave close to Camp Scott was found to contain a newspaper that was the same as that in the flashlight. Pictures of two women were also found. Investigators learned that a prison guard who moonlighted as a wedding photographer had taken the pictures. They had been developed by inmate Gene Leroy Hart, who had escaped four years previously and was still at large.

Sketches of Gene Leroy Hart done by Native American forensic artist Harvey Pratt.

A high school football star, Hart had been convicted of burglarizing four Tulsa homes and of sexually assaulting two women.

In June 1966 Hart worked at Flint Steel in Tulsa. On one workday, he did not show up at his job. He drove his car, the trunk of which was covered with fresh newspapers, to a popular nightclub area often called “The Corner of Dreams.” From the parking lot of the Fondalite Club, he kidnapped two young pregnant women. One rode in the trunk and the other in the passenger side. In addition to both being pregnant, both wore eyeglasses. Hart tried on the spectacles of the woman riding in the passenger side.

He had the women trade places. He tried on the eyeglasses of the second woman. Hart drove his car into a wooded area where he raped and forcibly sodomized both women. He bound the women, even duct taping their nostrils, and left them to suffocate to death under leaves and debris. The victims broke the bonds and freed themselves.

On April 6, 1978, officers of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) stormed a house located in a rural area near Bunch, Oklahoma. They arrested Gene Leroy Hart and charged him with the three murders. The house in which he was living was that of a Cherokee medicine man. When caught, Hart wore women’s eyeglasses.

Hart’s trial opened on March 19, 1979 before a jury of six men and six women. S. M. “Buddy” Fallis prosecuted. Garvin Isaacs defended. It was Isaacs’ first murder trial but he put on a vigorous case.

Fallis put on a witness who said Hart’s hair matched a hair on duct tape binding Doris Denise Milner. Fallis put on a chemist stating that this was not an absolute identification.

Isaacs also showed that there was a thumbprint on the flashlight that was not Hart’s and that a footprint found in the tent that of someone wearing a 9 ½ size shoe while Hart wore 11 ½. Isaacs notes, “You can’t change your fingerprint or shrink your feet.”

Hart was acquitted in April 1979.

In June 1979, Hart was jogging in the prison to which he had been returned for the four burglaries and the attack on the pregnant women. He collapsed while jogging and died of a heart attack.

Michele’s Dad, Richard Guse, eventually helped the state legislature pass the Oklahoma Victim’s Bill of Rights. Lori’s Mom, Sheri Farmer, founded the Oklahoma chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, a support group.

Shortly before Hart died, he wrote a letter proclaiming his innocence. A DNA test was performed in 2008 on materials from the crime scene. Investigators described its results as “inconclusive.”

Authorities describe the case as still “open” but also as “inactive.”

 

 

Sources on following page. 

Categories
Advertisement