Oklahoma Girl Scout murders
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (February 2008)|
|Date||June 13, 1977|
|Location||Mayes County, Oklahoma|
|Cause||Homicide by strangulation|
|Lori Lee Farmer, 8|
|Michelle Guse, 9|
|Doris Denise Milner, 10|
|Suspect(s)||Gene Leroy Hart|
The Oklahoma girl scout murders occurred on June 13, 1977, at Camp Scott in Mayes County, Oklahoma. The victims were three girl scouts, between the ages of 8 and 10, who were raped and murdered and had their bodies dumped on a trail leading to the showers 150 yards from their tent at summer camp. The case was classified as solved when Gene Leroy Hart, a local jail escapee with a history of violence, was arrested, but he was acquitted when he stood trial for the crime. Thirty years later, authorities conducted new DNA testing, the results of which proved inconclusive, as the samples were too old.
Camp Scott opened in 1928 as a Tulsa-based Magic Empire Girl Scout Council. Situated along the confluence of Snake Creek and Spring Creek near State Highway 82, the 410-acre (1.7 km2) compound was located right outside of Locust Grove.
Gene Leroy Hart had been at large since 1973 after escaping from the Mayes County Jail. He had been convicted of raping and kidnapping two pregnant women as well as four counts of first degree burglary.
Hart was raised about a mile from Camp Scott. Less than two months before the murders, during an on-site training session, a camp counselor found her belongings ransacked, her doughnuts stolen, and inside the empty doughnut box was a disturbing hand-written note. The author vowed to murder three campers. The director of that camp session treated the note as a prank and it was discarded.
Monday, June 13, 1977, was the first day of camp. At around 6:00 PM CST, a thunderstorm hit the area, and the girls huddled in their tents. Among them were Lori Lee Farmer, 8, and Doris Denise Milner, 10, along with Michele Guse, 9, of Broken Arrow, a suburb of Tulsa. The trio were sharing tent #8 in the camp's "Kiowa" unit.
On Monday morning, a camp counselor made the discovery of a girl's body in the forest. Soon, it was discovered that all three girls in tent #8 had been killed. Subsequent testing showed that they had been raped, bludgeoned, and strangled.
Camp Scott was evacuated and was later shut down.
Gene Leroy Hart, a Cherokee, was arrested within a year at the home of a Cherokee medicine man and tried in March, 1979. Although the local sheriff pronounced himself "one thousand percent" certain the man on trial committed the crimes, a local jury acquitted Hart.
Two of the families later sued the Magic Empire Council and its insurer in a $5 million alleged negligence action. The civil trial included discussion of the threatening note as well as the fact that tent #8 lay 86 yards (79 m) from the counselors' tent. The defense suggested that the future of summer camping in general hung in the balance. In 1985, by a 9–3 vote, jurors sided with the camp.
By this time, Hart was already dead. As a convicted rapist and jail escapee, he still had 305 of his 308 years left to serve in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. On June 4, 1979, he collapsed and died after about an hour of lifting weights and jogging in the prison exercise yard. An autopsy report concluded the 35-year-old Hart died of a heart attack (acute cardiac dysfunction).
Richard Guse, the father of one of the victims, went on to help the state legislature pass the Oklahoma Victim's Bill of Rights. Guse also helped found and then chaired the Oklahoma Crime Victims' Compensation Board, which would later gain prominence for its "Murrah Fund" in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing.
Another parent, Sheri Farmer, went on to found the Oklahoma chapter of the Parents of Murdered Children support group.
- Michael and Dick Wilkerson, Someone Cry for the Children: The Unsolved Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders and the Case of Gene Leroy Hart. 1981. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-27152-2
- Gloyd McCoy, Tent Number Eight: An Investigation of the Girl Scout Murders & the Trial of Gene Leroy Hart. 2011. Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC. ISBN 978-1-61777-632-8
- C.S. Kelly, The Camp Scott Murders: The 1977 Girl Scout Murders. 2014. CreateSpace Independent Publishing. ISBN 978-1-50015-735-7