The Girl Scout Murders
I am not a trained researcher or writer. I research these topics in my spare time so I can share what I am passionate about with others. I like to add my own thoughts throughout each piece and I like to keep things "light and fun", even when discussing dark subjects like true crime. I do not claim any of these writings as "official articles" and instead call them "stories". They should not be used for official purposes. And Yes - sometimes I use Wikipedia as a resource but never by itself. Thanks for reading!
The case of the girl scout murders of Oklahoma is an upsetting one. Three little innocent girls were brutally murdered while they slept and justice for these families has never been served. Children murders are especially disturbing. For everyone, not just parents. I myself have three little boys and the thought of sending them away to a place that I assume is safe and in reality they are far from it, just wrecks me! You think it’s just a two week respite for you and a chance for your kids to make new friends but they don’t make it through the first night alive. And you never get to talk to their sweet little faces again. The kisses are gone. The hugs are no more. Where the air was once filled with giggles, it is now silent. A parent’s worse nightmare.
It was a warm summer night in 1977 at Camp Scott (June 13, 1977 to be exact). There was a storm building in the distance and the guests, the young girl scouts, had all chosen their tent mates and were preparing to bunk down for the night. In tent 8 were three first-time campers; Lori Lee Farmer (8), Michelle Heather Guse (9), and Doris Denise Milner (10).
Just some sweet little lambs.
Before the grisly events that led to these girls demise there were some hints of the evil to come. Approximately two months before, at a camp counselor training event, one of the camp counselors discovered that her tent and her belongings had been rifled through and worse of all (Gasp!) her donuts had been stolen! In the now empty box was a note.
Along with the note was a crude drawing of a man being hanged from a tree. The 70’s must have been a more chill time than I ever realized because if I found a note like this I would be packing up so quick and hauling ass back home. The note was discarded and treated as an brutish prank. I mean Geez! A threatening note AND her donuts were stolen. It think it would be time. to. go.
Nothing else reportedly happened between then and the first night of camp.
Camp was all set to begin on June 13, 1977. As the girls arrived to the Kiowa unit, they were each given the opportunity to choose their tent mates. The three girls that were left without buddies were Lori, Doris, and Michelle. It was their first time at camp and they were all nervous and somewhat riddled with anxiety.
Here is a map of the area to show exactly where the Kiowa Unit was in Camp Scott. As you can see, the girl’s unit was on the far western edge of the camp. It was also partially blocked by the showers. Tent 8 (aka 7, because the counselor’s tent was not actually numbered) was the farthest tent from the counselor’s tent. It was the prime target for predators.
All of the scheduled after dinner activities were cancelled the first night because of stormy weather. All of the girls were sent back to their tents for the remainder of the evening.
That night there were several odd occurrences:
Around 2 AM odd noises were reported by some of the other campers. Including what sounded like a little girl saying “Momma” over and over again (Omg….my heartstrings) and strange moaning. Several screams rang out through the night and even one girl said that someone lifted the flap to their tent and peeked in with a flashlight. The counselors investigated but could not find anything suspicious and returned to their own tent. I’m sure the girls who woke up to the peculiar noises realize now just how close they all came to being victims themselves. I wonder how much it haunts them? If it haunts them?
The next morning was when all hell broke loose.
Around 6 am, camp counselor Carla Wilhite was making her way to the showers to beat the morning rush. It was now Monday, June 13, 1977. As Carla walked along the trail she came across a brightly colored sleeping bag. Her initial thought was that one of the girls had slept outside on the ground but as she inspected it closer she realized the girl was dead. The other two bodies were not far from the first.
Oddly enough, while the first girl was checked by the camp nurse for signs of life the other two were never disturbed. Their bags were only opened and inspected more closely once the police got to the scene around 7:30 AM. As police and investigators began to observe and break down the crime scene the camp counselors herded the rest of the girls to breakfast and did a few arts and crafts before the buses arrived to take them all back home.
Differing reasons for the quick and untimely return were given to the girls and their parents. The most prevalent excuse being “there was an accident”. After the campers had been cleared out and the counselors sent home, Camp Scott was never the same. It was never used by the girl scouts again. After opening in 1928, Camp Scott would now be abandoned. Despite having a new owner in the 1980’s nothing has ever been done with the property. It still sits out there today completely eaten away by vegetation. Of course, that is all very understandable. What parent would send their child(ren) to a camp where three girls were killed? It’s no wonder it was abandoned.
Two of the little girls had been raped while the other was sodomized. They had been brutally beaten and strangled to death. Their bodies had been bundled up and left approximately 150 yards from their tent. How does one person kill three children and only make minimal sounds?
As the scene was canvased a few pieces of evidence were collected:
Weren’t those honking huge flashlights like a requirement to just exist in the 70’s? I think when I was growing up in the 90’s we had a bunch of these for some reason. Along with these items there was rope and duct tape found. The murderer had used the rope to hog tie the girls.
The investigation went into full swing once the camp was cleared out. The following day, June 14, the platform that the girls had been sleeping on was airlifted to a crime lab. It was doused with blood. The detectives also 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.
As news of the triple child murder spread (which is one of those things that spreads like fucking wildfire!) a neighbor to the girl scout camp, Jack Shroff, came forward saying that his house had been broken into prior to the attack. Some items had been stolen from his cabin but he couldn’t name exactly what had been taken. Than how do you know if something was stolen? The community began to suspect Shroff (despite him taking and passing a lie detector/polygraph test) and he started being overwhelmingly harassed by the public. He received so much attention that he ended up in the hospital.
Call in the Wonderdogs!
The Wonderdogs were a trio of highly trained tracking dogs (two German Shepherds and a Rottweiler) that were brought in to hopefully find additional evidence and possibly lead the investigators in the direction of a suspect. They arrived on the scene June 16.
With this help it was determined that the murderer or murderers went right by the counselor’s tent to get to the girls tent. They found another pair of women’s glasses. The trio also lead their handlers to a pond on the Shroff property. The pond was dragged for evidence but nothing came from it.
It was rumored that the Wonderdogs were cursed by a Cherokee medicine man. It was whispered that they would soon die. This prophecy turned out to be 2/3 true. One dog died from heat exhaustion and another ran into heavy traffic and was immediately struck by a car and killed. The dogs were worth about $10,000-20,000 each. Not to mention the emotional damage of losing a dog. They grow such a deep and special bond with their handlers…just more heartbreak for this awful, awful story.
The local law enforcement, the District Attorney (DA), and the OSBI began to report different findings in the case.
One might say that a murder weapon had been found but another organization would say they had no weapon. One had suspects while the other had none. It was constantly a battle of “well - we don’t really know”. They all just wanted to provide something to the hungry community. I can only imagine how starved people would be for any kind of clue or suspect or break in the case. Just anything!
On June 21, Oklahoma Governor David Boren proposes that he can call in the National Guard to help with the case. The manhunt is truly about to begin.
A suspect is finally announced but only called “Mike”. Mike is a camper who was in the area the night of the murder not far from Camp Scott. He admitted to being alone and was “possibly” living out of his car so he “could have” stolen a few items from the girl scouts, the boy scouts, and people living in the area. He was soon released after it became blatantly obvious that he didn’t know anything about the murders.
This lead had gotten everyone excited but everyone was devastated once he was let go. It must have been like seeing a speck of light at the end of the tunnel but then there is a massive cave in and you have to find a new way out.
There was one man that local authorities had at the front of their minds. Gene Leroy Hart. An escaped convict who was spotted in the area around the time of the murders. Hart had been convicted of kidnapping and raping two pregnant women (and stealing their glasses!) in 1966. He had escaped from jail in 1973 and was still on the lamb. He was a Cherokee man and was raised by his mother about 1-mile from Camp Scott. So he knew the area. Had previous rape and attempted murder on his record. Was a violent offender. Yep, seems to fit the bill to me.
June 24th a posse of 200 law enforcement officials and 400 civilian volunteers gather at Camp Scott to start walking through the area combing for evidence. This even was closely monitored by the American Indian Movement (AIM) to make sure no evidence was planted or false accusations were made.
On June 28th, a reward was announced. Money always works, right? Too bad people won’t just come out and say something just because it’s the right thing to do. I’m not saying that people don’t do that but people do get much more friendly when there is a cash money reward on the table. Shameful. $14,000 had been raised by the community. But there were no serious leads and the reward went unclaimed.
The next day the FBI gets involved and sends in 40 agents to stay in the area and temporarily help with the investigation. A lot of good that did. It didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
More evidence does arise though! In a cave, about 3-miles from Camp Scott, they find a few items that tie back to the murders and specifically to Gene Hart. On the cave wall was this:
There were women’s glasses (again with the fucking glasses!) and their vinyl case, a roll of tape, 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. Everything is pointing to Hart! Don’t you agree?
On July 1st, the local authorities declare that they have found all of the possible evidence and leave the campground area. But a few days after they leave, a man matching Hart’s description is seen near the camp. Tracking dogs are brought in but just as quickly as they picked up the scent - they lost it.
There begins to be more and more time between updates from authorities. On July 6th, the Medical Examiner announces that he completed the autopsies on the girls. In a press conference following this, OSBI director Jeff Laird makes a curious announcement about the fingerprints that had supposedly been found on one of the bodies.
So what were they?! Just finger shaped smudges? He didn’t elaborate on that statement either. Thanks for the clarification Director.
On July 29th, Hart is seen in the campground area again and this time a “present” is left on the porch of the camp director’s house. In a bag was a pair of Denise’s shoes and socks. They were drenched through and no other evidence was found on, in, or with them. Is he taunting investigators now? I think this is the ego of the murderer poking through. What if it was actually the camp director? GASP! I obviously know nothing about the camp director, it was just a thought.
After this titillating clue was discovered and it’s mysterious appearance was announced, the Governor took out a full front page plea in the Tulsa World Newspaper.
The manhunt for Gene Hart reached far and wide. He would be found - no matter the cost. No matter the time it took. No matter what resources had to be utilized. This monster would be captured and would see his day in court.
After a 10-month manhunt Gene Leroy Hart was FINALLY apprehended! April 6, 1978 at 4:15 PM the home of Sam Pigeon was raided by OSBI agents. This home was 45-minutes from Camp Scott in the southeast corner of Cherokee County (near Bunch, OK). Inside the agents found Hart. And posed for a “trophy” picture after being cuffed. He was arrested without incident and taken directly to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlestar.
The community at large was delighted to have Hart in custody at last but the Cherokee community was not pleased with the outcome. They believed that Hart was being framed and that racial bias played a role in his arrest. I think there are too many things pointing at Hart for it not be him. There is no way those were all just coincidence. Right??
The trial of The State of Oklahoma vs. Gene Leroy Hart commenced on March 9, 1979. The trial lasted until May 30 of that year and he was found - NOT GUILTY! So, why was he found not guilty? Well, there are numerous speculations. We cannot read the court transcript from the actual trial (only the pretrial) because in Oklahoma when the defendant is found not guilty (acquitted) the transcripts are held by the court clerk and never released. So, we don’t know for certain but we have SOME ideas.
It was rumored that the jury didn’t feel the need to convict him because he would be spending the rest of his life in prison regardless of what they ruled. He was still a convicted rapist and attempted murderer of those two pregnant women in 1966. He still had to serve 300 years for those offences. He was going to die in prison no matter what - or possibly escape again.
In my opinion, this was a serious injustice to those girls. No one else has EVER been charged with their murders and this douche just gets to walk away - albeit back to prison but he got off free and clear.
The only solace the victim’s families received was that on June 4, 1979, Gene Leroy Hart dropped dead in prison from an apparent heart attacked. He had overexerted himself while exercising. Serves him right….
There were some positives to come out of this horrific event. Richard Guse (victim’s father) helped the state of Oklahoma establish the “Victim’s Bill of Rights” (you can read those exact rights by following the link) as well as the “Oklahoma Victims Compensation Board”. Richard and his wife felt that they had been pushed aside and left out of the loop by investigators and later by prosecutors. They helped draft this bill so that families could stay involved during the investigation and legal process. The compensation board helps families with medical and/or funeral costs associated with crimes. I can only imagine how many people they have helped. It’s like their severe pain may lessen the pain for others down the road. Maybe not lessen but at least make the process not so frustrating.
Sheri Farmer (victim’s mother) also founded the Oklahoma chapter of “Parents of Murdered Children” (POMC)- an organization devoted to providing assistance and support for families of murdered children. It is a sad, sick world that such an organization has to exist. I wish you could see my face right now - I want to cry. I am disgusted. I am heartbroken. I am just - sickened.
The current Mayes County Sheriff, Mike Reed, has said:
Between 2017 and 2018 there was $30,000 raised for surviving evidence to be tested with modern technology. There is not much hope for the remaining evidence though - it will most likely be too degraded to be tested. Fingers crossed anyway!
That, my friends, is the heart wrenching story of the Oklahoma Girl Scout murders. Still unsolved. Still a mystery. Did they let Hart get away with murder? Was the correct person or persons never even suspected?
RIP sweet little lambs.