New Search Underway for Remains of 'The Welch Girls,' 2 Oklahoma Teens Who Vanished in 1999

New search begins for bodies of "The Welch Girls"
Ashley Freeman, left, and Lauria Bible.Handout

The bodies of the missing 16-year-old girls have never been found.

A new search began Friday for the remains of "The Welch Girls," two teens who vanished more than two decades ago, authorities said.

Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible disappeared in 1999, during a sleepover at Freeman's house. Their bodies have never been found. The high school students were best friends.

The girls lived in Welch, a tiny Oklahoma town eight miles from the Kansas border. Their disappearance was part of a horrid tale of murder, arson, kidnapping and rape, investigators said.

The new search is based on information from 68-year-old Ronnie Busick, a Wichita, Kansas, man who pleaded guilty in August to being an accessory to murder in the case. Busick pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in the murder case in exchange for providing information to investigators, authorities said. 

“Busick just kept saying over and over, ‘the root cellar,’” to state and local investigators, said Michelle Lowry, spokesperson for the district attorney’s office.

Busick and two other men shot Ashley’s parents and kidnapped the girls, holding them captive for days, raping them repeatedly and then killing them, investigators said. The other two suspects are dead.

The new search is at a former home of one of the dead suspects, whose stepdaughter told investigators the root cellar was always off limits to everyone in the family. The area has been searched before, authorities said.

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