Three Girl Scouts were murdered thirty years ago

By Ron Jackson Modified: June 22, 2007 at 2:24 pm •  Published: June 10, 2007
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Girl Scouts no longer squeal with excitement as they hop off buses at the Camp Scott Lodge deep in the Mayes County woods. Their giggles no longer spill from canvas tents. Splashing at the camp pool ceased long ago.

The joy and laughter at Camp Scott ended 30 years ago. All that remains now are a few gutted buildings ravaged by time and heavily wooded trails haunted by the memory of three stolen souls.

On the hot, sticky morning of June 13, 1977, campers were awakened by the horrified screams of a counselor who discovered the bloodied bodies of three children.

The girls — Lori Lee Farmer, 8, of Tulsa; Michelle Guse, 9, of Broken Arrow; and Doris Denise Milner, 10, of Tulsa — had been abducted from their tents in the night and murdered. Their small bodies were found bloodied, bound and stuffed inside their sleeping bags 140 yards from their tent on the western edge of the camp.

No one has been convicted of the crimes.

Ghostly remains
Camp Scott closed the day after the murders and has never reopened. Today, the deeply rutted dirt road — once named "Cookie Trail” — drifts into the dense woods and ends at the ghostly remains of the camp lodge. Screenless, wood-framed doors flap in the wind at the lodge entrances where excited girls once found refuge from a thunderstorm on the first day of camp in 1977.

A lone picnic table sits in the shadow of a blackened stone fireplace, perhaps just as it did 30 years ago.

Outside, weeds have overtaken the now empty cement pool. And if pieces of the wooden tent platforms remain, they have long been swallowed by the dense overgrowth of the woods.

The laughter of children, heard for nearly 50 years, is gone. Quiet relents only for the wind.

‘One of us was missing'
The last time Sheri Farmer saw her daughter alive, Lori smiled and waved from a bus window as it departed for Camp Scott.

Sheri and Charles Farmer of Tulsa have lived the last 30 years without their oldest child, a blond-haired, blue-eyed girl who protected her four younger siblings.

"Recently, we had the entire family here,” Sheri Farmer said this week in the sunroom of her Tulsa home. "Our youngest daughter, Kali, just gave birth to her first child, and our grandson, Chase, just graduated from high school. We had a lot to celebrate.

"We were all here together, and yet we weren't all here. One of us was missing.”

Since then, Farmer has been haunted by her daughter's final moments in the presence of one or more of her killers.

"Lori had two decks of cards she took with her to camp,” Farmer recalled. "One deck was found neat and in its case. The other deck had been strewn all over her sleeping bag. I imagine she was a bit nervous and excited by her first night at camp and probably couldn't sleep. She must have had her flashlight out and was playing solitaire when the killer came into the tent.

"I know she was so scared.”

After the initial shock and suffering, family life without Lori required adjustments.

Joli Beasley was only 5 when her oldest sister was murdered.

Beasley, now 35, clings to the handful of memories of Lori, like the time when her older sister helped her down from a tree. Slideshow: 1977 Girl Scout murders


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Timeline
June 13, 1977: Lori Farmer, 8, Michele Guse, 9, and Denise Milner, 10, are found dead by a counselor at the Camp Scott Girl Scout camp. Investigators later determine that each girl was sexually molested. The camp, operated by the Magic Empire of Girl Scouts since 1928, closes the next day and never reopens.

June 23, 1977: Gene Leroy "Sonny” Hart is charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Hart, who has two rape convictions, escaped from the Mayes County jail four years earlier and had been at large ever since. One of the largest manhunts in state history follows, involving more than 400 law enforcement agents.

April 6, 1978: Nearly 10 months after the manhunt begins, Hart is arrested 50 miles from the camp.

March 5, 1979: Jury selection in Hart's trial begins in Mayes County. It takes 10 days to seat a jury.

March 19, 1979: Opening statements begin, 20 months and 19 days after the crime is committed.

March 29, 1979: The jury takes six hours to acquit Hart. Hart returns to jail to finish 305 years left on his previous convictions.

June 4, 1979: Hart dies of an apparent heart attack while jogging in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

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