Former campers and counselors remember the day of arriving at Camp Scott, the girls who were killed and how they and their families learned of the tragedy.
The Tulsa World spent a year producing a six-part narrative on what remains perhaps the state's most infamous cold case: the unsolved murders of three girls - Lori Farmer, Denise Milner and Michele Guse - at a Girl Scout camp near Locust Grove 40 years ago. After an intense manhunt, Gene Leroy Hart was arrested and charged with the crimes, but was ultimately acquitted after a sensational trial. The series examines the details of what happened and the lingering effects on those who survived.
Gene Leroy Hart, a fugitive from justice with prior convictions for rape and burglary, still had many sympathizers. The idea that the former Locust Grove football star was being unfairly targeted struck a chord with some.
"I was expecting something civilized, I guess," Bettye Milner said. "I thought it would be about facts. It was like watching a movie, like everybody was performing. It was like the one who gave the best performance was the winner."
Did the killer or killers of three Tulsa-area Girl Scouts in June 1977 actually announce the crimes two months before they were committed? "It's just hard to know," said the woman who found the note.
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.
"None of us knew whether he did it or didn't. ... We were shocked that they didn't have any more (evidence) than what they had," one juror said a year after Gene Leroy Hart was acquitted. Hart died two months after the verdict, maintaining to the end his innocence in the Girl Scout murders.
Questions lingered over whether justice was served, and even advancing DNA technology has not, to date, brought conclusive answers. But a new round of testing is currently being done, paid for by private funds donated by Mayes County residents.
At the time a 7-year-old Girl Scout, the woman behind campscottmurders.com said the murders shook everyone, adults and children alike. "We were 30 miles away, but it felt pretty much next door," she said. "At 7, it was like the boogie man was right outside — like the boogie man was going after Girl Scouts."
Reporter Tim Stanley explains why and how he approached writing about the deaths of Lori Farmer, Denise Milner and Michele Guse at a Girl Scout camp four decades ago. He started with the families.