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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders

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It was summer 1977 and camp season was about to begin for children across the United States.

Camp Scott, located in northeastern Oklahoma in Mayes County, had been a retreat for Girl

Scouts since 1928. Its 410 wooded acres could accommodate 140 campers and 30 staff. The

Cookie Trail road led to ten camping units scattered throughout the green beauty.

In April of 1977, just 2 months before the camp was to be started, a summer camp counselor

attending a group training session discovered that an

unknown person had broken into her cabin, gone through her

personal belongings. Strangely enough, the only thing missing was all her doughnuts out

of their box. In their place was a hastily scrawled note that

read, in part, “We are on a mission to kill three girls in tent

one.” A fake body was also found hanging on the property. This incident and the accompanying

note was disregarded as the message also made mention

ofmartiansand therefore the whole affair was seen as

a prank. The management at Camp Scott made a decision

many later called foolish when they failed to disclose

the so calledprankto parents of the children slated to attend the upcoming summer

sessions. Tent one stayed within the tent rotation and was assigned

per the usual procedure. On Sunday June 12 1977 three young girls,

Lori Lee Farmer, 8, Michelle Heather Guse, 9 and Doris

Denise Milner, 10, bounded joyfully onto the bus that would take them along with 140 other

campers, to Camp Scott.

The large group of pre-teen campers were set to spend a fun and eventful two weeks at the

camp, but for three random girls, their trip would be

tragically cut short. Upon arrival, the girls were all assigned

campsites and tents. The camp was split into 10 different units, within which there were

around 7 tents for campers and a counsellors tent.

Each campsite had a Native American tribes name, and Lori, Doris, and Michelle were assigned

the Kiowa campsite, tent eight. There were 27

girl scouts in Kiowa unit and they were split into 7

different tents. Tent eight was located on the edge of the campsite and geographically

farthest from the camp counselors' tent which was some 150 yards

away and hidden behind the forest's mass of trees and

foliage. The trio was actually supposed to be a quartet,

as a fourth girl was also set to be in tent eight but due to

a clerical error has been misassigned. The unnamed fourth girl was meant to be moved

to tent eight that same night but due to an impending thunderstorm

the camp counselors decided to postpone the move,

thus, unknowingly saving that girls life. At seven PM the night of June 12th the storm

was in full force but the girls were warm and happy

acquainting themselves over dinner in the dining tent. After eating they, along with

the rest of the brood, walked to their tents to retire for the night.

That night, after returning to their tent from dinner the girls wrote letters to their

families at home. Nine year old Michele writes:

Dear aunt Karen, How are you? I am fine. I am writing from

camp. We cant go outside because it it storming. Me and my

tent mates are in the last tent in our unit. My tent mates are Denise Milner and Lori Farmer.

My room is shades of purple. Love, Michele

Lori writes to her family, in part, “were just getting ready to go to bed. It is 7:45.

[...] I count wait to write. Were all writing letters now because theres

nothing else to do.” It is perhaps Denises letter that seems

the most haunting as she was already uneasy about her two

week stay: “I dont like camp. It is awful. [...] Mom I dont want to stay at camp for

two weeks. I want to come home and see Kassie and everybody.”

These letters would be the last written words of these precious and innocent girls.

Carla Wilhite, a university student working at the camp, later testified that around 1:30

am in the early morning of June 13th, she heard what she described

as guttural, moaning sounds at a cross-sections of

trails leading towards the showers. She swept her flashlight across the campsite as the

noise started up again but, seeing nothing out of the usual,

returned to her tent without altering any others. She later

explained that they assumed it was an animal and made the choice to not tell her co-workers

because she thought they would be annoyed at having

to walk through the cold, damp, dark forest and would

think she was not up to the job of being a camp counselor. This choice, she says, would

haunt her for the rest of her life. Other at the campsite that

night later reported seeing a flashlight bobbing through the

woods and also recalled hearing moaning or groaning sounds.

At around two AM a girl in tent seven recalls the tent flap opening and a figure with a

flashlight standing in the entryway. The girl was one of four

campers in that tent and the only one awake at the time. She

watched silently as the figure regarded the group for a second before closing the tent

flap and walking off. The camper was confused and simply went

back to sleep without alerting anyone. Between 2:30-3AM a nearby landowner later

reported hearing a great deal of automobile traffic on his

remote road near the camp. At three AM, a girl in a neighboring campsite,

Cherokee camp, heard a scream. She recalls looking at

her watch and waking another girl. They listened for more noises and upon hearing none went

back to sleep. At roughly the same time another girl

from another campsite says she heard screams and

someone cryingMomma, Momma”. She, unsure of what to do, did nothing, and went back

to sleep. Micheles father heartbreaking recalls how

she individually hugged everyone for an extra long time

before going off to camp, and reminded her mother to water her African violets. Later,

when he went back to the campsite to help search for evidence,

he found a scrap of paper on which he recognized Micheles handwriting, the paper simple

saidDear Momma and Daddy”. At six AM the next morning, Carla Wilhite,

the same camp counselor who had hard the strange sounds in

the night, was jogging the path towards the same cross-section of trails that lead to

the camps showers, the location of the strange noises she had

heard the night before. Under some trees she spotted three

sleeping bags. Thinking it was leftover luggage from the new campers, dropped off the day

prior, she began to make her way towards it. Then she

saw a body. It was the ten-year old body of Doris Milner.

Her screams first alerted the other camp counselors to the gruesome scene, and quickly a crowd

gathered. Upon seeing Doris, dead- beaten, bound, and partially nude, the counselors

were too fearful to open the two closed sleeping bags and police

didnt realize there were three victims until authorities

arrived on scene and a coroner opened the two zipped sleeping bags.

Authorities would testify that the other two girls, Lori and Michele, were both bound with

elastic bands in their respective sleeping bags- in fetal positions

and wrapped in bloodied bedsheets. Both had died of

blunt force trauma to the back of the head, seemingly while still sleeping inside the

tent. Doris, however, detectives surmised, had been lead away from

the tent still alive. Evidence showed Doris was sexually

assaulted and beaten so hard in the face that indentations of the weapon remained as post-mortem

artifacts, although her cause of death is listed as strangulation. There was blood on

the floor of the tent indicating the girls had initially been

attacked inside and then carried outside. Evidence found on scene was a large flashlight,

red in color, with a single fingerprint on the lens that,

while able to be dusted, imaged, and scanned, never returned any matches in any state or

federal databases. A footprint, left in the pool of

blood in the tent was also found, made by a male size 9 and a

half shoe. Along with these items there was rope, duct tape and a long black hair.

Authorities began their tedious and emotionally charged investigation, surrounding the camp

with emergency vehicles. Parents were informed

that something had gone wrong and that they would

have to pick up their children at the council building.

Parents of all 140 campers rightfully panicked and drove to the camp, creating a literal

mile long line of cars back up into the entrance road, known

as Cookie Trail (so named for the Girl Scouts most famous

annual endeavor). Frantic parents were turned away and forced to wait for hours in the sun

as the camp was put on lockdown. Terrified parents who

saw the emergency vehicles and heard rumors were not told

of their campers status. The rest of the girl scouts were not told that three of their

camp mates were dead. They were taken to participate

in activities away from the campsite until the buses

arrived to take them back to Magic Empire Council in Tulsa.

The camp was eventually evacuated and campers relaxed to their parents or guardians some

released without even their luggage and all confused

at the purpose of their trip being cut short. June 13th would

be the last day Camp Scott operated. The camp would close for good.

The investigation went into full swing once the camp was cleared out. The following day,

June 14, detectives noted that it appeared the murderer

had attempted to clean up the blood and smeared it around. There was blood not only on the

floor but also on towels and the mattresses.

The investigators soon learnt about Jack Shroff, who owned a ranch near Camp Scott. At his

home, black duct tape was found as well as rope which appeared identical to that which

had been used to bind the wrists of 2 of the girls.

However, Shroff claimed that his house had been broken

into prior to the attack. Some items had been stolen from his cabin but he couldnt name

exactly what had been taken. Shroff took a polygraph

and passed. He also had a solid alibi for the night

of the murders and therefore was cleared as a suspect.

Authorities then came up with a new suspect named Gene Leroy Hart

Gene Leroy Hart was a local Cherokee man, raised just 1 mile from camp Scott, who had

been at large for four years, since 1973, when he escaped

the Mayes County Jail, of which he was an inmate for the

crime of kidnapping and the subsequent rape of two pregnant women as well as four counts

of burglary. Although there is no direct evidence linking

hart to the crime, the sheriff in town, Weaver said that he

believed Hart was1000% guiltybut did not elaborate as to why.

Several days after the murders, some hunters discovered a cave which appeared inhabited.

They found number of items in the cave, including

womensglasses, pages from the Tulsa newspaper (a section of which had been found in the

battery compartment of the flashlight. Possibly to keep

the batteries from rattling around), and photographs that Hart himself had developed while

working in the photo lab at the Granite Reformatory. Perhaps the most tantilising clue found in

the cave was a note written on the wall which read:

77-6-17 The real killer was here

Bye Bye FoolsNearly one year after the crime, hart was

picked up at the home of a Cherokee man by the name

of Pigeon and arrested on suspicion of the brutal assault and murders.

Investigators searched the residence of Pigeon but did not find anything relating to the

case. They searched again and this time they found

items that the camp counselor claimed had gone

missing before camp began. Pigeon claimed these items were never there and had been

planted in his house. There was also speculation that

Sheriff Weaver actually had the photos which belonged to Hart in his desk at the Mayes

County jail and planted them in the cave, therefore

tying Hart to the cave. Many family and area residents believed Hart was innocent. They

raised money for his defense and supported him during

his trial. A key piece of evidence was the long black

hair found on one of the victims which a State crime analyst

said that although it matched Harts hair, you could not identify a person based on Hair

alone at that time in 1977. The fingerprint on the flashlight

lens did not match that of Hart. The bloody footprint in the tent

was also too small to be of Harts. A jury eventually found him acquitted of all

charges and when they pronounced that verdict, Hart began

openly sobbing with relief. He maintained his innocence. The not-guilty verdict notwithstanding,

Hart still had a 306 year state-prison sentence for the

crimes he was originally convicted of as well as the

successful prison escape. However, after just 2 months back in jail, Hart had a massive

heart attack and died instantly, at age 35.

The parents of Doris Denise and Lori Farmer (but not those of Michele) sued The Magic

Empire Council of Girl Scouts for $5 million, citing negligence

on the part of the adults in charge and organization administrators. They included complaints regarding

the threatening note left in the donut box two month

prior to the tragedy, as well as lack of adequate supervision of the campers and lack of follow

up in regards to the noises that night. One of the

campers who heard sounds in the night, though it is unclear

who, says she told a camp counselor of these screams but was told to ignore them. In their

defence the camp counselor explained that first nights

at camp are often filled with girls gleefully screeching and

getting to know one another. In 2008, bodily fluids from inside the tent

were put forward for DNA testing with more advanced forensic

technology analysis. No answers came from this, however, due to the deterioration of

the samples being too great.

No other viable suspect ever surfaced and the case remains open and unsolved to this

day.

The Description of The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders