Hello everyone, and welcome to Forgotten True Crime by Okie Investigations, the True Crime Podcast where we tell the stories of crimes that happened long ago. If you are a true crime fan, make sure you subscribe to the podcast. That way, when we have new episodes, you will be the first to know. Also, check us out on our Facebook page Okie Investigations and visit our blog TrueCrime.Blog where we post a lot of the cool things we found for each episode. This episode, “The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders,” has a lot of exciting stuff for you to dig into.
Parts of this story may contain opinions and speculations and should be taken as such. These stories depict violent crimes of all types and may be a trigger for some listeners. Listener discretion is advised.
This is a big deal for me. We have done 50 episodes of the show, and I have enjoyed it every step of the way. When I first started Okie Investigations, I wasn’t quite sure what I would do with it. I had one idea for a show, and that was dashed away in 2020. So I decided to pivot to another concept that has slowly transformed into what we are today. Okie Investigations has transformed into Forgotten True Crime, and we have grown so much in the last few months.
I want to thank each and every listener who has taken the time to listen to our show. This is a labor of love, and I hope you all subscribe and stick with us for the long run. Because we have a lot more stories to tell.
For the 50th episode, I will do one that I have been saving since episode 1. We will cover the Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders. This has been requested over and over since I started this show, and today we will take a deep dive into it.
Now, for those unfamiliar with this story, please be aware that it involves the murder of children and sexual abuse. If this is a trigger, please; listener discretion is advised.
Girl scouts is an excellent program that helps young girls learn a whole host of valuable skills. When I think of girl scouts, I think of the cookies that I buy almost every time I see them set up outside a store. They run these programs to fund extra programs like outings and camps, where they can continue to grow and become leaders.
In 1977, things were not different. The scouts had worked hard raising money to earn their way into camp. For scouts in northeast Oklahoma, that meant there was a good chance you would be going to Camp Scott near Locust Grove, Oklahoma.
Camp Scott first opened in August of 1928. Back then, it was called Camp Ma-Del-Co. I found an interesting article in the Mayes County Democrat that described what they had built for the scouts back then and how much it all cost. It was initially published on August 2nd, 1928, just days before the opening of the camp.
In 1928, the camp was to run in two 5 day sections. If scouts wanted to just go the first 5 days, it would be 5 dollars to go. If they wanted to go all 10 days, it would be 9 dollars. This was just before the great depression, so this wasn’t overly expensive at the time.
They had secured 240 acres for the camp and had built 20 buildings. They had a water and sewage plant, a large dining hall that could accommodate 150 scouts at a time, a modern kitchen, and different facilities to accommodate the many Scouts attending.
At the time, this was a state-of-the-art camp. There was no better in Oklahoma, and if you wanted to ensure that your child was going to attend the best camp around, you were going to make sure they were going to this one.
Now fast forward 49 years to 1977. Camp Ma-Del-Co is now Camp Scott. Other than that, little has changed. Besides a few modern updates, not a lot has actually changed in the camp. The girls had sold their cookies and had earned their way into Camp Scott’s two-week-long program. In all, there were around 100 girl scouts and approximately 40 staff members in the camp.
As each girl reached the camp, they received a letter explaining the many activities they would be able to participate in. We have a copy of that letter.
This is your camp! Whatever you would like most to do in living in your summer home is possible under the friendly guidance and help of your counselors. Excellent riding and swimming are two of the most popular sports. Hiking, cooking meals out, and singling by the campfire are precious parts of camping. As you grow older, you learn more and more real camping skills so that you may take that long overnight trip or manage all of your own campfire cooking.
Living in a unit with girls of your own age and grade, you have a wonderful opportunity to make and appreciate real friendships. You’ll probably have a chance to “Be in a play” or challenge your cabinmates to an Archery or deck tennis game. You can make puppets or create a useful article of clay or wood, or leather. You’ll have the chance to just sit and gaze or to walk long distances from the bluff across the lovely valley from your own wooded campsite in the Ozark foothills. Have you ever watched the stars or learned what they were? You’ll do that too.
Your parents are asked to cooperate with you and your camp director and counselors in making this summer’s Camp Scott experience the happiest, healthiest, and most adventurous you’ve ever had. We’ll be looking for you.”
This letter was to help ease the girls into the idea that they were going to be without their parents for the week. Not all of them were too keen on the idea of being dropped off into the woods. I remember when I was young, and I was sent off to camp. I absolutely hated it when I first got there, but over time I made new friends, and then I ended up having a great time. I think just getting through the first couple of days is the biggest hurdle for these camps.
On the first day, three girls who didn’t really know each other received their tent assignments. Their names were Lori Farmer, who was eight years old, Michele Guse, who was 9 years old, and Doris Denise Milner, who was 10 years old. They were assigned to the last tent on the row of tents, furthest from the camp counselors tent. I believe that this would have been tent number 7. I also have read reports that it was tent number 8, but there were only 7 scout tents that I could see from the aerial pictures. The only other tent in the area was the counselor’s tent.
On the first day of camp, it had begun to rain. It was right after dinner, and the girls were all in an area that they called the singing porch. They waited until the rain subsided some, and they all walked over to the Kiowa camp where their tents were. All of the girls got in their tents. There were 4 girls in a tent, except in tent number 7, which only had three at the time. The counselors then went tent to tent, telling the girls to change into dry clothes and shoes and get ready for bed. They then buttoned-down each of the tents so that the rain could not get in.
The girls had all huddled into their tents. Most of the nighttime activities were canceled due to the weather, so most of the girls spent their time writing letters to their parents. Each girl in tent number seven wrote to their families, and we have a copy of each letter.
Lori wrote. “Dear Mom and Dad and Misti and Jo and Chad and Kathy. Were just getting ready to go to bed. It’s 7:45. We’re at the beginning of a storm and having a lot of fun. I’ve met two new friends, Michele Guse and Denise Milner. I’m sharing a tent with them. It’s started raining on the way back from dinner. We’re sleeping on cots. I couldn’t wait to write. We’re all writing letter now ’cause there’s hardly anything else to do. With love, Lori.”
Denise wrote. “Dear mom, I don’t like camp. It’s alfwl. The first day it rained. I have three new friends named Glenda, Lori and Michele. Michele and Lori are my roommates. Mom, I don’t want to stay at camp for two weeks. I have to come home and see Kassie and everybody. Your loving child, Denise Milner.”
Michele wrote. “Dear Aunt Karen, How are you? I am fine. I am writing from camp. We can’t go outside because it is storming. Me and my tentmates are in the last tent in our unit. My tentmates are Denise Milner and Lori Farmer. My room is in shades of purple. Love Michele.”
The girls went all went to bed. A few times in the night, some campers remembered some of the girls laughing or talking loud, and they were told to go back to bed. Later in the night, around 3 am, some campers heard what they thought was a scream, but when they voiced their concerns, they were told it was nothing and to go back to bed.
That following day, camp counselor Carla Wilhite was walking down a path towards the showers. She had a long full day scheduled with the Scouts, and she wanted to get her shower in before they all got up. As she walked along the path, she noticed something ahead. It looked as if it were sleeping bags. At first, she believed that they might have fallen off of a scout truck. It was the only thing that made sense at the time. But as she approached, she discovered the nude body of a little girl.
Carla knew at an instant that the young girl was dead. Her eyes were open and unseeing. Carla ran back to the counselor’s tent and alerted everyone about the dead body, and they needed to do a headcount of the scouts. At the time, Carla was under the impression that an accident had happened on the trail. But that thought was quickly dashed away.
The Camp director Barbara Day and her husband, Richard, left with the camp ranger, Ben Woodward. Not far from where the little girl was found dead, they found two bloody sleeping bags, both containing a young girl zipped inside. Both girls were also dead.
Barbara and Richard alerted authorities of the girl’s deaths and then began gathering and organizing the scout’s immediate return home. In a move that would follow Barbara for many years to come. Before calling and informing the parents of the murdered girls of what had happened, Barbara first called the camps insurance company. She probably feared what this would do to the almost 50-year-old camp, and rightfully so. Because this would be the last camp that Camp Scott would ever see.
Highway patrol, Police, and FBI quickly took control of the crime scene. Tent number seven was thought to be the murder scene. There was a considerable amount of blood in the tent. The mattresses were completely soaked through with blood, and it had pooled on the floor.
The tent contained a lot of evidence a red large battery flashlight was left behind, it was not one of the girl’s flashlights, and it didn’t belong to any of the counselors. So it was believed that the killer accidentally left it behind. The wooden platform itself had several bloody footprints on it. They were tennis shoes, and the type and style of the shoe made investigators believe they belonged to the killer and that it was a male. It looked as if the killer tried and quickly gave up on the idea of cleaning up the blood at the scene. The bedding had been stripped and ditched on the trail.
The girls had been bound by two-inch wide electrical tape and lengths of ski rope. Most of this was already wet from the morning dew, so lifting fingerprints seemed impossible.
That same morning, a local man had been arrested for public drunkenness. When he sobered up, they started interrogating him about his possible involvement in the killings. They held him for several days, checking out his story, and found that he could not have been involved.
The girls had bloody fingerprints on them as well. Investigators didn’t know if it came from the killer or someone checking the girls when they first found on the trail. The girls were transported to the medical examiner’s office. It was believed right away, one of the girls had been sexually molested. But to everyone’s horror, during the autopsy, they found that each girl had been molested in some way. Two of the girls died of head trauma, the third died by strangulation. They believed that the two girls were hit with something heavy that could be wielded and struck with by quick blows.
This was not only a shock to the state of Oklahoma. But it was a shock to the nation as well. This was early in the summer months, and many camps were taking place across the country. Camps from all over were hiring more security to help parents and campers feel safe. Many parents swore off letting their children ever go camping again, and many kids missed their camps in 1977.
To help preserve the evidence and potentially find more evidence, Officials moved the wooded platform that the tent stood on. It was strategically flown to Oklahoma City at the OSBI headquarters. There, lab officials were able to study the footprints and preserve them.
One standard theory that didn’t and wouldn’t occur to me now is that it might have been a gay woman who committed the murders. I don’t know why anyone would jump to that theory so early in the case, but the only thing I could think of is that the prominent people being questioned at this time were the camp counselors, who were all female. There was only two male staff at the camp, and they didn’t seem to be involved in any way.
Each of the counselors was interrogated at the scene and after. They were not allowed to return to their tents to gather their belongings until officers had a chance to search them first. A few days later, they again let the counselors back on the campgrounds to gather their belongings. Officers went with them, and they went through everything, piece by piece, and cataloged everything they had. One of the counselors was missing her glasses and an eyeglasses case.
Meanwhile, Officials were putting together one of the most extensive searches the state has ever seen. Every agency was pitching in, and they had hundreds of searchers looking for clues. A Pennsylvania State Trooper came down to Oklahoma with his search dogs. They were two sizeable German Shepherds, and they had helped with searches before. After a day or two of searching, they found one of the most significant pieces of evidence still missing. The murder weapon.
It was a crowbar. There was a home robbery at a farm nearby, and one of the things taken was a heavy crowbar. This robbery happened near the same time as the murders. Officers believed that this was the heavy blunt object used to kill two of the girls. When officers linked the two crimes, they found that the homeowner also had rope and tape that was stolen, the same kinds used in the murders.
Searchers found photographs that appeared to have been recently dropped in a cave that looked like it was being lived in. They were of three women, and after some searching, they were able to identify who they all were. But they didn’t know if it pertained to the case or not. But they became very interested in the cave when they found the stolen camp counselors eyeglasses and case in there as well.
The Detectives on the case started to look at their suspect pool and decided that they needed to start eliminating the ones they knew had nothing to do with the case. But how do you do something like that? One tactic was to use a lie detector and see if everyone is telling the truth. This can be helpful in not only finding the killer but in finding anyone else who is holding back information that might be useful to the Police and the investigation. One by one, everyone close to the murders passed the polygraph tests. One by one, they were all taken off the suspect list.
It appeared that the staff had nothing to do with the murders. Everyone else that they looked into that was in the area could prove their innocence as well.
It wasn’t until June 23rd, just 11 days after the murders, that they started to hone in on a suspect, and they let it be known to the public. There was a convicted rapist who had escaped from jail in 1973 named Gene LeRoy Hart. He had been on the run ever since, and it was believed that he hid out in the area. He grew up there and knew the landscape well. They honed in on him after they found the photographs. The photos were taken by prison photographer Lewis Lindsey, who Hart worked for while in prison. These photos could have been stolen by Hart and then accidentally dropped by the suspect on the night of the murders.
Even though Hart was not in custody, District Attorney Sid Wise brought him up on charges of murder. He believed that it would only be a matter of time before they found him because the manhunt had zeroed in on him, and they were not going to leave no stone left unturned.
It was during this search they came upon a cave that had writing along the inside of it. Written on the walls was this chilling phrase “The killer was here. Bye Bye fools, 77-6-17.”
Although the Detectives on the case believed that this would be a short manhunt. This search would go on for nearly a year. On April 6th, 1978, Gene Leroy Hart was located 50 miles from the murder scene. He was living with a Native American medicine man named Sam Pigeon Jr. Hart was of Native American descent, and it was believed that Pigeon harbored Hart because he thought him to be innocent and would not get a fair trial.
Officers surrounded the little house where Hart was hiding. As they broke down the front door, Hart tried to escape out the back. Only to be met by Officers with loaded shotguns. Hart quickly surrendered and was taken into custody. They took Hart to McAlester prison in Oklahoma to hold him. They placed him on death row so that he would not have another opportunity to escape.
At the trial, Hart pled innocent. The prosecution started the trial with the accounts by the counselors. Each one of them described the scene that day and what had happened. They identified the missing items as theirs and didn’t know how they got into the cave. They tugged on the Jury’s heartstrings by taking them to the camp and showing them where the three girls were placed and raped.
The defense brought in the owner of the flashlight, who stated that he loaned it to two boys from Kansas. They argued that nothing the prosecution brought forward actually proved Hart’s guilt. And they could only convict Hart if they had no doubt of his innocence. They also produced another suspect, Bill Stevens. Stevens was a former inmate of a Kansas prison and was seen near the camp the week before the murders. He has been convicted of rape. The morning of the murders, witnesses reported seeing Stevens with boots on that were stained with something red.
The defense also accused authorities of planting the evidence in the cave. They suggested that it was convenient that in a high profile crime like this one, those who had access to the belongings of the counselor’s items were to find the missing items days later in a place where their suspect was known to have been.
The Jury received the case on October 30th, 1979, and on the next day, On Halloween. Gene Leroy Hart was found innocent. Everyone was shocked, including Hart, who immediately asked the judge if he could address the Jury and was denied.
Interviews with jury members after the verdict gives us a look into their decision. They were mostly shocked that the prosecution had little to no evidence tieing Hart to the murders. It’s hard to convict someone on so little.
The Girl Scout murders are considered an open case. The authorities believe that the murderer was Hart and have looked into little else. Over the years, several people were significantly affected by this case. Camp counselor Carla Wilhite reported in 1979 that she found it impossible to find another camp that would hire her. They would tell her that they didn’t want the negative press that would surely follow her. The owners of Camp Scott were also the subject in a civil suit brought on by the victims’ parents. Although the owners were not held liable for their deaths, the camp never recovered and has remained closed until this day.
I’m not sold either way on this case. I would like to see the DNA testing come back on this one to see if Hart had anything to do with the murders or not. They did testing in 1989 when DNA testing was relatively new and again in 2002. Each time the DNA testing failed. But as time goes on, DNA testing improves, and I think it’s past time they try again.
What do you all think? I hope you all enjoyed the show. If you did, make sure you support us by subscribing to the show. It helps us out more than you know. I’ll see you all next time. See ya.