Horrible things happen in our world every day and have been happening for a long time now. We only get to know about these things more because of the age of digital and social media. While summer camps are all fun and games, that was not true for some girl scouts in Oklahoma in 1977.
Three girls lost their precious lives at this summer camp, and their story will give you chills. This case is not for the faint-hearted. However, if you want to know more about what took place that summer of 1977, keep reading for more.
On June 13, 1977, the counselor of the camp discovered something that would change the course of the camp. Michelle Heather Guse (nine years), Doris Milner (ten years), and Lori Lee Farmer (eight years) were three girls at Camp Scott. The counselor discovered that their sleeping bags were suddenly at least over a hundred feet away at the site.
They were meant to be sleeping in the tent. Unfortunately, what was to come was a horrific discovery at the camp that would scar everyone forever.
At first, the camp counselor thought the girls might want to sleep in the forest and beneath the starry sky. However, as she got closer, she realized that this was not the case. It was apparent that the girls were lying dead over their sleeping bags.
The counselor went to the nurse and the director of the camp. All of them realized that the girls were dead, and there was nothing they could do to bring the girls back into the midst of these woods.
The girls became friends at the camp, and they were quick to bond. After all, they had to share their sleeping space this summer, and this was what brought them closer. All of them were sad to say goodbye to their families for the summer, which strengthened their bond as they had each other.
Unfortunately, the girls had no idea that soon they would come face to face with death and not see the sun again. The most shocking thing was that this incident took place on the second day of camp.
Running Since Half A Century
Camp Scott was operational since the 1920s in an isolated area, and nothing like this had happened before. It ran in Mayes County, which is not an area that is densely populated. Everywhere you see, you will mostly notice woodlands and forests.
The isolated location meant that everyone would have fun at the camp without worrying about anything. The camp was also only two miles away from one of the most popular spots for local families residing in the area, known as Locust Grove.
Helping Other Girls
Michelle was the camp counselor, and she was only fifteen-years-old at the time. While she had outgrown coming to camp each year, she still loved to be there for the other girls. That is because Michelle understood how intimidating it is as a young girl when you leave your parents for the summer and come to the woods.
Michelle was drawn to Doris Milner the most because she looked the most scared. She even told her mother to never worry and that Doris was in good hands at the camp.
The Darkness Of The Woods
While the woods look beautiful during the day buzzing with some fantastic creatures, it can also get just as scary when the night falls. Even Michelle told everyone that it could get incredibly dark in the forest during night. Such an environment can be daunting for girls who have never been in an open space during the nighttime.
Of course, once you go through a few nights, you get used to the darkness. Unfortunately, the three girls didn’t get a chance to get used to the camp.
Doris came to stay with two other girls in the eighth tent, and they were assigned to be there for the rest of the camp duration. It was also known as Camp Kiowa, and the girls had settled in. However, one important detail about this tent was that it was the furthest one away from Michelle’s quarters.
Of course, it was still nearer to the bathrooms and the kitchen in case the girls needed anything. Doris was grateful that she would not be alone in this camp during her stay.
At first, the girls were strangers with no prior knowledge about each other. However, when they met, they instantly became friends with one another. Even Michelle noticed this and thought that they brought out each other’s top qualities.
When these girls were on their own, they were incredibly shy and quiet. However, they only needed a few hours with each other to become lively and chatty. Little did they know that a storm would come and affect their fun time at Camp Scott without warning.
Many girls don’t want to camp because they don’t want to spend so much time away from their families. Doris Milner was one of these girls, but her mother convinced her that she should visit the camp. She told Doris that the camp was a great opportunity to mingle and become friends with various people.
While the mother was not wrong about this, it only took a few hours for things to go awry. Of course, whatever happened was not anyone’s fault but a tragic incident at the camp.
YMCA Or Girl Scout Camp?
Doris didn’t want to come, and Lori was confused between the camp run by YMCA and the Girl Scout Camp. She was excited to go off to camp and experience something new. Because of this Lori decided that the best thing for her is to visit the Girl Scout Camp.
Of course, that was not the best decision because of what happened later, but no one saw this coming. This is why we have to accept that it had to happen this way.
Anxious About Camp
Finally, the third girl, Michelle Heather, was nervous about going back to the camping site this year. She had already experienced Camp Scott before, and this was her second year. However, this time, Michelle was a little anxious about returning to camp, and no one understood why.
According to her mother, she was nervous about not being in her own house. Then, her mother was convinced it would be good for her, which is when she decided to join in the year 1977 as well.
Where’s The Fourth Girl?
Tent 8 was supposed to house four girls, and another person also booked the tent with the other three girls. However, that girl was running late, and so she was supposed to come on the second day of camp. If that girl had come a day before, she probably would have lost her life too.
It was her luck that saved her, and there were deaths at Camp Scott instead of four. At least one person was safe from everything that had happened that night.
When something like this happens, people start digging out the details. The news reporters in the locality took hold of this story, and they kept on mixing reports on what had taken place. It made the parents more anxious and made the situation even worse.
Of course, it took a few hours and some time of investigation to understand that three girls at the camp were the victim of strangling. Yes, this was the tragic event that had taken place at this camp for the very first time.
During that time, no one was sure about the terrible details of what had happened because the authorities didn’t divulge any information. Besides that, it was a sensitive matter because three young girls had lost their lives in this incident. It was found that two victims were assaulted in one way, but the third one was assaulted in a different manner.
The other two victims were put in the sleeping bag, and the third one was placed lifeless on top. Whoever it was used a different method to end the life of the third girl in Tent 8.
The police suddenly evacuated Camp Scott, but at first, no one knew why it got closed after one day. Many people thought that the parents assumed that the girls wanted to go home. The most unfortunate part was that the parents got the tragic news, but did not know who the three girls were.
Instead, each parent got to know as their daughters arrived alive on the bus after 2 pm. One by one, parents would know if their daughters were dead or alive.
Noises In The Night
As the authorities had begun their investigation, reports started coming out on what had taken place at night. Many campers reported that they heard alarming sounds at night. These noises began at 1:30 am and sounded like someone was moaning in Tent 8.
However, the counselor thought it was just a wild creature and decided to sleep. Half an hour later, a visitor from Tent 7 got up as someone tried to open her tent’s door and shone a light on her body.
There were also two other girls that heard noises around 3 in the night. One of the girls also stated she had heard someone shouting, but none of them did anything and returned to bed.
Time Of The Crime
As soon as the authorities were notified, they found the crime scene as the tent had blood over it. The police relied on clues to figure out what happened and when. The local landowner confessed that they heard a lot of traffic on a lesser-known road between 2 and 3 in the night.
Besides that, it was also visible that someone made efforts to clean the murder mess with a mattress and a towel. The police also found footprints inside and outside the tent, along with duct tape, cords, and even a flashlight.
The families needed an answer, and the police were up to the task even though it was not easy for them. That is because they had to go through the campsite, which was over four hundred acres. However, they uncovered many clues during the search.
Their search revealed that the perpetrator thought of every detail before deciding to do this. The murderer used duct tape on the flashlight for dimming, and they also stuffed batteries in a paper so that they don’t make noise. Clearly, the murderer had thought of everything.
The Furthest Camp
There was a reason that the murderer chose tent 8. It was quite far from the quarters of the counselor and was also impossible to see from there. Parents thought that Camp Scott should not have used tent 8 at all because of the distance.
Everyone needed someone to blame for the tragedy, and most of them decided to blame the management of the camp. After all, they were the ones who didn’t think about tent 8 being at a great distance and away from their eyes.
Bye Bye Fools
The criminal knew what they were doing, and they were proud of it. That is because investigators found a nearby cave, and it seemed like the murderer had been living there before the incident. There was a message on the wall of the cave that said, “The killer was here, bye bye fools.”
The police also found duct tape, photographs, and groceries in this cave. All the signs pointed to the fact that this was the sanctuary of the killer before the horrific murders took place.
More details came to light as the case was being investigated. Eight weeks before this incident, the counselors of Camp Scott had a training activity, but it was cut short. That is because one of the cabins was destroyed, and there was a note left back.
The person who wrote the note stated that they want to kill three girls who are residing in the same tent. Along with the note was also a model of a man hanging. The counselors thought it was a prank and dismissed it without speaking to anyone about it.
Naming The Prime Suspect
After three days, an investigator claimed that they located the murder weapon. The weapon was thought to be a crowbar, and this wasn’t true. Besides that, the District Attorney and his special hunting dogs found the cave, and there were photos of women in the cave.
The police had to connect the dots between the women and find a common link. They did that and understood who the prime suspect was. Gene Leroy Hart was considered to be the perpetrator.
Who Was Gene Leroy Hart?
Gene Leroy had been arrested for other crimes, and he was in jail for 3 years. However, he had escaped four years before the camp incident and was being chased by the authorities since then. He was in jail because he kidnapped two pregnant females, assaulted them, and left them to die.
Fortunately, both the women survived, and Gene was convicted of these crimes. He was sentenced to more than 300 years of jail time, which means an entire lifetime.
Who Was Hiding Gene?
After a lot of investigation, the police believed that the local Cherokee nation had been hiding Gene ever since he escaped from the prison. However, it was time to catch this murderer and criminal. So, the police decided to offer a reward of more than $1,000,000, and forty agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation got involved in this situation.
They captured Gene around a Cherokee place a year later after this crime. You reap what you sow, and Gene would finally get to face whatever he had done in all these years.
Was Gene A Scapegoat?
The American Indian Movement was not impressed when the police blamed Gene for the crime. They claimed that the Sheriff was only doing this because he needed to answer to the parents and was using Gene to gain success. Of course, the allegations were bold, but the police didn’t care.
Gene was charged with killing three young innocent females. Finally, the parents would find some relief that their daughters would get justice in some way. It was charged as first-degree murder, and Gene would not come out of prison in this lifetime at least.
A Trial Of A Few Weeks
The trial only lasted a few weeks, which was strangely short for a murderer. The prosecution stated the hair on the tape was Genes, and he had also taken eye glasses from the camp. However, the defense claimed that all this evidence was planted and that the prosecution had nothing.
According to the defense, the prosecution didn’t have much, and they were trying hard to make Gene look guilty. It is also unusual for the trial to last so short when one is accused of murder.
Gene Leroy Hart received a lot of support during this time from the Cherokee wanted to be there for him. They wanted to help him, and so they started raising funds to cover the cost of his legal fees. There were a few fundraisers organized to help Gene out.
A vote was also taken in a school from 4th graders in the vicinity. They were asked whether they considered Gene to be the perpetrator or not. Gene was found to be not guilty by 32 students while only 3 votes were for him being guilty.
The case was something to be seen as everyone had a different take on what had happened. The jury discussed whether Gene was guilty or not. After the final argument, it took five minutes for the jury to reach the verdict of not guilty.
Many people showed disapproval and got angry at the jury for the decision. Even the Sheriff was shocked at the outcome. He was also not looking forward to opening the investigation once more, as they thought they had found the culprit.
The Trial Should Have Been Held Elsewhere
Gene was a respected member of the community as his peers respected him, and he was even an athlete in his high school days. Because of this, many people believed that the trial would not be fair and might lean in favor of Gene. The prosecutors tried hard to have the trial somewhere else, but their efforts were in vain.
Gene was part of the local Cherokee nation, and he got respect from everyone he came into contact with. Many people thought before the trial that the jury wouldn’t find him guilty because of these reasons.
Morning Of The Crime
The reputation of Gene was not the only reason he was found not guilty by the jury. Instead, the defense brought a witness to the stand who brought doubt on Gene being guilty. The witness was a waitress named Dean Boyd.
According to her, she was at the diner a few miles from Camp Scott the morning the girls were found. She emphasized that a nervous man came into the diner and identified himself as William Stevens. He also had been convicted of assaults in the past.
Spotting William Stevens
Besides that, a camper from Camp Scott also spotted William Stevens in the campgrounds a day before the girls were found dead. Even one of William’s friends had some claims to make about him. For example, one of them claimed that they had loaned William their flashlight, which was found in tent 8.
Besides that, the friend also claimed that Stevens confessed to them about taking the lives of the three girls. All of this was damning evidence that the Sheriff had the wrong man.
What Allegedly Happened In The Camp
According to Steven’s friend, Duane, he knew the area well because Stevens worked on an oil rig near the camp and had been there his entire life. Besides that, Stevens knew when the camp was supposed to start. Stevens had also spent some time in Vietnam, which meant he knew how to put the camp under surveillance.
So, he picked the isolated tent and covered the flashlight. However, William didn’t accept any of these accusations as they came to light in public.
Died Three Months Later
Gene was still not a free man even after being found not guilty. That is because he was already serving a 300-year sentence for other crimes before he escaped. As the trial ended, Gene was taken behind bars once more, and his destiny was to spend the remaining days in prison.
However, a few days after the trial, Gene was jogging in the exercise yard and lifting weights for at least an hour. During this time, he had a heart attack and lost his life.
As Gene passed away, the case of this camp became a cold case. That is because many people believed they would not have a definite answer as to who committed the crimes that night. Of course, investigators still wanted to find answers.
In 1989, some DNA tests were done, and three out of five hair on the flashlight matched Gene. Besides that, some other tests in 2008 were also done. However, they were inconclusive because the evidence had become too deteriorated since then.
Suing The Magic Empire
When you don’t get answers, you do everything you can to seek justice. Two of the girl’s families attempted to sue the Magic Empire Council. This was the council that was in charge of Camp Scott when this incident took place.
They sued the council for five million dollars on counts of negligence. However, the jury denied the case, and the parents were unsuccessful. This was another blow to their hurt sentiments, and we can’t even imagine what the parents were going through at this time.
Camp Scott became the center of attention when the murders happened, and not in a good way. Instead of calling for help and alerting the families, the camp decided to call their insurance company and a lawyer first. That is because the camp was worried about their image.
The priority of the camp was not to help the families but get themselves out of this mess. After all, the murders had happened on their grounds and under the noses of their counselors.
Involvement Of More Than One Person
Many people believe that more than one person was involved in the murders that took place that day. Locals claim that the police never caught the accomplice because they were too focused on Gene. Even the District Attorney claimed that other persons might have been involved with the crime, but they don’t know about it.
A second person was never named, and Gene was put behind bars. We really wish that the police had been more thorough because it was three young girls that had died as a result of these murders.
In 1966, two further suspects were also named after a petition was created. The locals wanted a grand jury to hold another trial and open the investigation of the case once more. They needed to know about the actual criminal behind the murders.
Several more names of different suspects emerged from this petition. They believed that two more people could have been guilty. These included Sonny James and Frank Justice. Besides that, the petition also stated many theories behind what had taken place that tragic night at the camping site.
Gene Leroy And Frank Justice
On the list of new suspects, Frank Justice was there, and his name did not just appear from thin air. Instead, he had a drinking history and a lengthy crime sheet associated with drinking. Besides that, he was also friends with Gene.
Many people thought he was involved because Frank bragged about seeing the writing on the cave before Gene was caught. Frank also refused to say where he was the night the murders happened when he was interviewed later on.
Sonny James: A 16-Year-Old Boy
Another suspect was Sonny James, who was 16 years old when the murders took place. That is because he was the nephew of Frank Justice, and he also was friendly with Gene because of Frank. Besides that, Sonny had a few petty crimes that went with his name.
Such crimes were related to illegal drinking and substance use. He was also accused of taking someone’s life, but he was not found guilty. Later, it was concluded that Sonny killed Freddie Rodgers as he owed money to him.
Theories Also Blame Camp Counselors
When something like this happens, many theories come to light as to what might have taken place. One of the theories states that the camp counselor is to blame for the crimes that took place at Camp Scott. The theory claims that Gene could not have overpowered all three girls and kept track of them while assaulting each one.
On the other hand, the theory states that a camp counselor has some authority over the children. Of course, all of this is just speculation, and we will never know what happened that night and what the case was.
Movie Of Camp Scott
There was even a convicted criminal who tried to make a movie out of what happened at Camp Scott. This happened in 2011 when John Russell, a convict, announced that he would make a movie known as Candles. When he was in jail, Russell met Karl Lee, who claimed that he was the one who slayed the girls at Camp Scott.
The movie was supposed to tell Karl’s version of the events. Karl was in prison because he ended the life of Cindy Marzano in 1966. He was also linked to another assault and murder but was never found guilty of that crime.
Kristin Chenoweth And Camp Scott
You might know who Kirstin Chenoweth is as she is an actress and singer who has had a fruitful career. According to her, she was also supposed to be at Camp Scott that night. She was eight years old, and she lived near the camp, which is why she begged her mom to let her go.
Her mom agreed, but she got sick before camp began and never made it there. She also made a documentary about these slayings, and it is known as “Keeper of the Ashes.”
The father of one of the victims, Michelle Guse, has helped to change the law in Oklahoma that surrounds similar cases. He was one of the top pioneers in getting the Victims’ Bill of Rights and the Oklahoma Victims’ Compensation Board. That is because Michelle’s father believed that the legal system had let them down.
The new law ensures that the families are kept in the loop during every step of the way of the investigation. Besides that, the board is present to offer any compensation to families, such as medical bills and much more.
Everyone grieves in their own ways, and so do the parents of the three girls. Lori’s mother decided to create a support group for families who have lost their loved ones in such tragic incidents. The name of her organization is POMC, and it has been created to help dads and moms who have lost their children.
If anyone has been through a horrific crime, they can seek support from the organization. The aim is to create a world where other people don’t take the lives of innocent victims, especially little girls.
Hope Is What Keeps You Going
The case of Camp Scott had many ups and downs as there was a lot happening during the time. However, Lori’s parents never gave up Hope that the guilty party would be found. Even ten years ago, the Farmers decided to go to the Sheriff and ask him if he would go over the case one more time.
The Farmer’s had no idea how far things would go when the new team of OSBI investigators would be on the case. They were not ready to give up yet.
Finding Another Suspect
The Farmer’s only requested to know who ended the life of their girl, but this turned into a hunt for truth that lasted nine years. Mike Reed told the news channels that the case was evil. He was young when this entire incident took place.
He tried to go on and prove that someone other than Gene could have been the one behind the murders. However, he couldn’t make this happen, no matter how hard he tried. He was unable to put another suspect or person in Gene’s place.
It Was Gene
There are many ways you can look at a cold case. Many people go over all the evidence that was collected at the crime scene, and that was what Mike Reed did. He also had help from more than twenty of the best detectives and behavioral analysts at the FBI.
All of them reached the same conclusion, and it was that Gene Leroy Hart was the one behind the murders. They could not place any other suspect at the crime scene at that time. Each of the detectives also had their own investigation, so their results would not coincide with one another, but they did.
Local Donations Investigation
The biggest piece of evidence is always the DNA at the crime scene. The team needed more than thirty-thousand dollars to run DNA tests again, but they didn’t have money. Mayes County and its local community came together to raise funds because they needed answers.
The evidence was tested three years ago, and the results came out this year. According to Lori’s mother, Sheri, she knew that the results would offer some clarity as to who was behind the murders of the three girls.
Mike Reed Determined On Gene
Not all evidence is allowed in court, no matter how much effort or money you put into it. That was what was happening for the evidence against Gene. Reed admitted this, too, when he spoke to the news channels about what was happening.
According to Mike, there was no doubt that Gene was the one who committed the murders. He said that even without the DNA testing, he would have reached similar conclusions. After all, investigators have a thorough process of investigating crimes.
Gene Could Have Been Stopped
According to the Sheriff, Gene could have been stopped from murdering the girls if people had paid more attention to what he was doing. He states that trouble started in 1966 when Gene was arrested for the first time. Mike also says that everything went downhill from there.
That is because Reed says that Gene used to be a textbook criminal and people in his local community missed the signs. He says there should be a change in the system to avoid what happened that night and when Gene escaped the prison.
Investigation Of About 140 People
According to Mike Reed, he gets a phone call each month from people who claim that they know who was behind the murders. Even social media has its own theories as to what happened. At least around 140 people were interviewed by the OSBI during their investigations.
Besides that, the Sheriff also believes that people listen to what they want to hear about the Camp Scott case. Everyone has to offer their two cents, and even the families have their own take on whether they have gotten justice or not.
One theory that spread was that knots were used to keep the girls in place. This means that at least two people were in on the murder. However, Reed says that there weren’t two different knots because they had the same pattern, but they were tied in a manner that made them look different.
The footprint found in blood inside the tent also didn’t match Gene. According to Mike, it was someone who had arrived on the scene before the police did.
Mike Reed gave nine years of his life to investigating this case again with experts. His investigation also proved that Gene was the murderer. So, why is it that the case remains officially unsolved?
The reason for this is that the DNA tests are inconclusive. Because of this, the case will probably never be written off. It will forever be a cold case.
Camp Scott Remains Shut To The Public
Camp Scott was run by the girls since the late 20s, and many people enjoyed coming here from time to time. However, in 1977 everything changed for the camp, and since then, it has never opened its doors to the public again. Instead, the camp was sold to a local family who still own the land.
Even then, many paranormal investigators and other people have tried to explore the area. That is because many of them believe that the ghosts of the little girls still haunt the campsite today.