Three Girl Scouts were murdered on June 13, 1977, at a camp located near Locust Grove. Gene Leroy Hart was arrested on April 6, 1978, after the largest manhunt in state history.
The anticipated trial furthered divisions among Hart supporters and those convinced of his guilt, and by the time it finally kicked off in March 1979, emotions were running high, with national media attention only adding to it.
The prosecution in the State of Oklahoma vs. Gene Leroy Hart called 32 witnesses in making its case. Among them:
• Larry Dry, a convict and former associate of Hart's
• Carla Wilhite, Dee Elder, Susan Emery and Karen Mitchell, Camp Scott counselors
• Ann Reed, forensic chemist
• Neil Hoffman, Oklahoma state medical examiner
• John MacLeod, Cornell University professor of anatomy and expert on human reproduction
Breakdown of the major prosecution evidence:
• Sperm: MacLeod, flown to the trial from New York, testified that sperm taken from the bodies and from Hart's underwear were "quite similar."
• Hair: Hair samples taken from the bodies and from Hart's head were "exactly the same," according to Reed, an OSBI chemist. She said they came either from Hart or from someone's hair "with the same microscopic characteristics." It's important to note: As of 2015, with the FBI's admission of problems with it, microscopic hair analysis has been discredited as a forensic technique.
• Items discovered in a cave three miles from Camp Scott: That cave, which witness testimony said Hart had used while on the run, was situated just 100 feet from Hart's onetime boyhood home, of which a foundation and cellar were all that was left. Items found included a pair of sunglasses alleged to have been stolen from a Camp Scott counselor; a roll of tape that matched tape found at the death scene (the tape was on a flashlight presumably left behind by the killer); and photos reportedly developed by Hart, who'd once worked in a prison photo lab.
• Items recovered from the shack where Hart was captured: These included a mirror and toy pipe, which another Camp Scott counselor testified had been taken from her tent.
• The flashlight: Left behind at the crime scene, it had been modified in a specific way that emitted only a slice of light — a way that Hart was known to use to modify flashlights, according to testimony from an associate of Hart's.
Among witnesses called by the defense to try to undermine prosecution claims, three of the most important included:
• Allen Little, former Mayes County Sheriff's jailer. He testified of the photos linked to Hart that he saw them in the sheriff's office after the prisoner's escape in 1973, which the defense cited as evidence they must have been planted in the cave.
• Sam Pigeon, an older Cherokee man at whose shack Hart had been captured. With help from a Cherokee interpreter, he testified that he'd never before seen the items in his home that were later recovered there by OSBI agents.
• Joyce Paine, an Okmulgee woman who gave testimony implicating Kansas convict Bill Stevens in the murders. Paine was charged with perjury for this, before ultimately pleading no contest to a reduced charge.
The complete Girl Scout Murders series
Chapter 1: Tulsans react to the stunning news that three area girls have been murdered at a Girl Scout camp near Locust Grove.
Chapter 2: The largest manhunt in Oklahoma history kicks off in pursuit of two-time prison escapee Gene Leroy Hart, who, despite being charged with the murders, has a growing number of supporters.
Chapter 3: One of the state's most-anticipated and sensational trials pits a seasoned, successful district attorney from Tulsa County against a scrappy, young Oklahoma City defense attorney in a battle over evidence and accusations that Hart is being framed.
Chapter 4: Officials stop pursuing the case despite a not-guilty verdict, and Hart dies unexpectedly while in prison for unrelated crimes.
Chapter 5: In the years following the murders, the survivors and others affected continue trying to make sense of it all, while maintaining hope that advancements in DNA testing may ultimately bring answers.
Chapter 6: After 40 years, the victims' families show their resilience, undeterred by the mystery that still surrounds the case.