Name: Ashley Renae Freeman and Lauria Jaylene Bible
Age: 16 years old
Last seen: December 30, 1999
Location: Welch, Oklahoma
Status: Still Missing, declared legally dead
Disappeared: Season 6 Episode 9 “Out of the Ashes”
16-year-old Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible were last seen in Welch, Oklahoma on December 30, 1999.
They disappeared from Freeman family’s home after spending the night together celebrating Ashley’s sixteenth birthday.
Ashley Freeman was born on December 29, 1983 to parents Kathy and Danny Freeman. She has one brother and the family lived in the city of Welch, a rural area in the northeast corner of Oklahoma.
Lauria Bible was born on April 18, 1983 to parents Lorene and Stanley Bible in Claremore, Rogers County, Oklahoma. She has one brother and the family lived in the city of Welch.
Ashley and Lauria had been best friends since kindergarten. Ashley played for her high school’s basketball team, and Lauria was a cheerleader.
On December 29, 1999, the girls went to a local pizzeria with Ashley’s mother. That evening they planned to celebrate Ashley’s birthday with a sleepover at her parent’s mobile home.
On December 30, 1999, a passerby called 911 reporting that the Freemans’ mobile home was engulfed in flames at approximately 5:30 am. Emergency responders rushed to the Freeman home and found the charred remains of Ashley’s mother inside.
Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible were nowhere to be seen, and haven’t been heard from since. Lauria’s vehicle was found parked in the driveway of the home with the keys in the ignition. Her purse, which contained money, was found in the rubble.
Authorities determined the cause of the fire to be arson, with an accelerant found near the home’s wood-burning stove.
Ashley’s mother was found lying on the floor near the waterbed with a gunshot wound in the back of her head. Her father’s remains were not initially found, and authorities suspected him of murdering his wife and fleeing with the girls on that evening.
On December 31, 1999, a second body was discovered around the rubble, and was soon determined to be that of Ashley’s father. He also presented with a gunshot wound in the head.
Warren Welch, David Pennington and Ronnie Busick
In April of 2018, 66-years-old Ronnie Busick was arrested and charged with four counts of first-degree murder and malice aforethought, four counts of accessory to first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping, one count of arson and one count of accessory to first-degree arson.
The arrest came after years of investigation and tips. Several witnesses, who had either lived or dated the three men claimed that they had bragged about the murders of Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman.
Dozens of Polaroid pictures were said to be taken of the girls, bound and gagged with duct tape lying on a bed in their final days, kept as trophies in a soft leather briefcase.
The pictures haven’t been recovered by authorities, but memories of the lost images from several witnesses were enough to serve as vital clues to the case. The other two men suspected for the murders were already deceased. Warren Welch died in 2007, and David Pennington died in 2015.
Investigators believe that Busick, along with Welch and Pennington, came to the Freemans’ trailer in the early morning hours of December 30, 1999 to collect a drug debt from Ashley’s father. After shooting the parents, they took the girls and set their house on fire.
Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman were likely kept alive for several days in Picher, where the three men raped and tortured them. The girls were then strangled, and their bodies dumped in an undisclosed location.
On July 15, 2020, Busick pleaded guilty to accessory to one count of accessory to murder in the first degree and entered a plea agreement to help investigators find the girls’ remains.
Busick was sentenced to ten years in prison, with five years of probation if he can assist investigators in finding the girls’ body before August 31, 2020. He pointed investigators to a location in the town of Picher where they searched two root cellars for the bodies, but came up with nothing.
In October 2021, investigators returned to the property in Picher, renewing their search for the girls’ remains.
In 2010, the Freeman family initiated court proceedings to have Ashley declared legally dead.
The search for the remains of Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman is ongoing, and a private reward of $50,000 is being offered for information related to the location of the girls’ bodies.
If you have any information regarding the disappearance of Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible please contact the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (800) 522-8017 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources & Further Information
News & Media Links
Case of girls missing since 1999 gets new look – USA Today 01/16
Mom Of Girl Missing Since 1999 Hopes Age Progressed Photos Will Lead To Info – NewsOn6 12/13
Graphic Polaroids Lead to Arrest in Case of Teens Missing Since 1999 – People 04/18
Disappearance of two Okla. girls stumped police for 18 years. Then they learned about the Polaroids. – The Washington Post 04/18
Missing Welch Girls: Man sentenced to 10 years in prison in girls’ disappearance – Fox 23 News 09/20
Missing Welch Girls: What we know on the 21st anniversary of the disappearance – Fox 23 News 11/20