Unsolved Mysteries of the World
The Girl Scout Murders S01E12
This is Unsolved Mysteries of the World Season One Episode Twelve, The Girl Scout Murders
Under starry skies, roasting marshmellows, laughing, singing, and telling tales of unspeakable horrors in the dark – its all part of the camp experience.
But only one night into camp at Camp Scott in Locust Grove Oklahoma, the nightmares of the dark turned into reality.
On the hot, sticky morning of June 13, 1977, campers were awakened by the horrified screams of a counselor who discovered the bloodied bodies of three children. The girls — Lori Lee Farmer, 8, of Tulsa; Michelle Guse, 9, of Broken Arrow; and Doris Denise Milner, 10, of Tulsa — had been abducted from their tents in the night and murdered. Their small bodies were found bloodied, bound and stuffed inside their sleeping bags 140 yards from their tent on the western edge of the camp.
The horrific scene would later inspire movies like 1980s Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp and continually haunt the community.
The camp closed the next day and never reopened. Its ghostly shells of cabins, washrooms, and play structures still remain, whispering the haunting memory of a horrific past.
Camp across America would forever be changed as no one was everq convicted of the crimes.
The story begins three months before the fateful start to summer camp with an ominous note that suggests the crimes were planned and premeditated.
Michelle Hoffman, who was an aide at the June 1977 camp session, was at Camp Scott for a special Girl Scout cadet weekend in April. While there someone got into her tent when they were away on a training session.
"Our bags had been scattered all over the tent and some outside," she says. A box of donuts Michelle had brought from home had been emptied and among the donut crumbs she found a note on a small steno notepad. The first couple of pages were written Kill, Kill, Kill over and over again. Then on one page “We're on a mission to kill three girls”
The note was disregarded as a prank by other girls at the camp and dismissed.
On the first day of Camp in June, the skies turned violent and raging thunderstorm echoed above. Campers huddled in their tents. The tents provided adequate shelter and were about 12-by-14 feet, with canvas sides that could be rolled up, sat on wooden platforms and held four cots for sleeping.
Sharing tent #8 in the Kiowa section of girl scout campers were Lori Lee Farmer, 8, Doris Denise Milner, 10, and Michelle Heather Guse, 9.
Sometime during the night, all three were sexually assaulted, bludgeoned and strangled to death, then stuffed into their sleeping bags and dumped only 140 metres away on a trail near the camp's showers.
The gruesome discovery was made by Camp Councillor Carla Wilhite at 6am as she made her way to the showers. Her discovery promptly caused much chaos and the entire Camp was in a state of shock. Children were not told of the incident, and were quickly hushed, as chartered buses took them home only after one night at Summer Camp. Not chancing any other incidents, the entire camp was evacuated at 10am as police searched for evidence and a suspect.
After nearly 50 years of hosting Girl Scout's, the camp closed and never reopened.
Two of the girls were discovered inside their sleeping bags, while a third was laid over top of the others. She was so badly beaten, that she was nearly unrecognizable.
The crime had occurred inside tent #8 just feet away from other tents, including the camp councillor's very own. No one was awoken and no one reported anything out of the ordinary.
On June 14th, the entire wooded platform of the tent was airlifted to a crime lab. The entire floor was covered in blood. The perpetrators tried to wipe up the blood using towels and matresses and in doing so left a shoe print inside the tent on the floor. Outside of the tent, law enforcement discover a totally different shoe print suggesting that perhaps two or more people may have been involved.
The evidence somehow finds its way to the press outraging those in charge of the investigation. A large manhunt begins and a man of no fixed address is found sleeping in his car just seven miles north of the camp. Police arrest him, take him in for questioning, but later release him as they believe he had nothing to do with the incident.
A red flashlight with a piece of newspaper inside it, a roll of duct tape, and a nylon rope were then found close to the bodies and considered the property of whomever did this horrible deed. They were catalogued and stored as evidence. Finger prints are also lifted from the small bodies along with a single hair, that was determined to be from a Native American. Along side the tent were a pair of women's glasses and glass case that belonged to one of the campers. Authorities believed they were part of the evidence and were removed and tagged.
Meanwhile, a group of highly trained sniffer dogs nicknamed The Wonder Dogs from Pennsylvania were on site. They indicated the perpetrators must have walked past or near the camp councillors tent first, and then toward tent #8. The dogs made their way into the woods and lost scent.
Investigators were also focusing on the children and camp staff. Counselors and some of the scouts later told of eerie happenings during the night. There were strange noises — like a frog or a bullhorn — and one camper was sure she heard a scream and cries. Another would recall that she saw a shadowy figure shine a flashlight into her tent.
Men working at the camp were interviewed and released. Investigators then turn their attention to a nearby ranch where the owner reported a robbery just days prior. Jack Schroff, who owned the ranch was questioned and even took a polygraph test to which he passed. A newspaper article ran the story, and by the way it was written, it appeared as if Schroff was the guilty party. He received death threats and harassing phone calls and ended up in the hospital under mental distress.
Sheriff Pete Weaver announces he had found the murder weapon and has three solid prints on a crowbar. The district attorney on the case denies the evidence was found and the media begins another sensationalistic story.
The tracking dogs follow scent to a pond near the Schroff Ranch and the pond is drug but nothing is found. There is rumour now that a local medicine man has put a curse on the investigation and on the tracking dogs and said they will soon die. One died of heat stroke later that day, while another inexplicably dashed out into the road and was stuck by a vehicle, killing the K9.
The tracking dog's owner teases the press by saying they found solid evidence and there will be a break in the case very soon. Sheriff Weaver says they have a suspect in mind, while the district attorney suggests they have three suspects with a mountain of evidence but that the murder weapon had indeed, not been found. He also reveals that a two photographs of three women had been found and is of interest. One source says the photograph was located near the children's bodies while another said it was found in a cave, where it appeared someone was living.
The district attorney frustrated with the reporting and the rumours of in fighting amongst investigators initiates a media blackout.
The photographs turn out to be a valuable clue, as state crime laboratories determine the photos were developed by one Gene Leroy Hart, while he was incarcerated and working the photo lab of Granite Reformatory.
A man named Gene Hart was said to be near Camp Scott. Authorities know of Gene Leroy Hart as he was an escaped convict. Gene Leroy Hart had been at large since 1973 after escaping from the Mayes County Jail. He had been convicted of kidnapping and raping two pregnant women as well as four counts of first degree burglary. During his confession of the abduction and rape investigators learned he had preplanned the crime months in advance and had no plans on bringing the women, whom he took deep into the woods out alive. While one of the women was in the trunk of his car he tried on her eye glasses to see if the prescription or look fit him. For some unknown reason, however, Hart abandoned the women by a small pond. The same pond the K9 sniffer dogs had hit on. Hart was raised about a mile from Camp Scott and knew the area well.
The man hunt for Gene Leroy Hart was on and over 200 law enforcement officials along with over 400 volunteers joined in. The scene, again was utter chaos. Several of the volunteers brought firearms, while others were so intoxicated they could not function. Others were arrested for drug violations and public relations were a nightmare. Learning that Gene Hart was the prime suspect, and that he was a Native American, the American Indian Movement, AIM, stormed into the search to monitor the situation as they believed there was racial profiling.
The FBI is dispatched help with the investigation. Meanwhile, tensions are high between Native Americans and law enforcement. Gene Hart's mother proclaims that law enforcement planted evidence against her son because they have no suspect and Sheriff Weaver is corrupt and is just trying to pin it on someone.
Someone matching Gene Hart's description is seen in the vicinity of Camp Scott and K9 tracking dogs are dispatched. At first, they pick up the trail, but soon loose it. Meanwhile, the autopsies are completed and another unusual twist in the case is revealed. The three fingerprints found on the body were not fingerprints at all. Authorities refuse to answer further questions about the fingerprints. They also state that the children were not raped, however, later this is determined misinformation. They also indicate that all possible evidence from Camp Scott has been taken and that the camp will be monitored by a private security firm.
Girl Scouts across the country raise money and a $15,000 reward is offered for the capture of the person responsible for the murders.
Meanwhile back at Camp Scott, private security notices someone in the bush and they immediately go to investigate. Upon returning empty handed they find a pair of wet shoes and socks in a bag on the steps of the camp director's office. Authorities determine these were Denis Milner's.
A cave near Camp Scott is investigated and authorities find several pieces of evidence including a note written on the wall stating “77-6-17. The killer was here. Bye Bye fools.”
Two of the families, now frustrated by the investigation and the camp itself file a $3M civil action against the camp. A group known as Drug Awareness offers up a $5000 reward for the capture of Gene Hart. Tensions are high and the entire state is on edge. The Governor amps up spending and even the national guard are called in to help find Hart.
A tip then comes in that Hart is staying with a Medicine Man named Sam Pigeon in a cabin just 45 miles from Camp Scott. Hart is arrested without incident but authorities note one strange item on Hart's face. Hanging loosely on his nose, a pair of women's glasses.
On March 19th 1977 the trial began During this time, tensions rose high among the Cherokee natives and a legal fund was set up to help the defence. There were protests and near rioting from all sides but ultimately, the prosecution failed to convince the jury that Gene Hart was the murderer. He was acquitted of all charges and according to Oklahoma State Law, the trial transcripts and witness testimony were all destroyed. No physical record of the trial now exists.
But prosecutors still remain steadfast that they had their man.
The Jury ultimately had to decide Gene Hart's fate but also raised some interesting, if not frightening details.
As a convicted rapist and jail escapee, Hart still had 305 years of his 308-year sentence left to serve in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary and never saw freedom again. On June 4, 1979, he collapsed and died after about an hour of lifting weights and jogging in the prison exercise yard.
The Oklahama State Bureau of Investigation still maintains they had their man, but are not commenting on the case any further because it is still an open case.
In 1989 the FBI connected Hart to the murders using Genetic Testing.
In 2008, still determined that Gene Hart was the perpetrator, they conducted DNA testing which fingered Hart as three out of five items tested matched, but the test was ultimately deemed inconclusive because of the age of the samples.
Officials said they will attempt to retrieve sperm evidence from other articles in storage for further testing.
"I feel fairly conclusively that Hart was involved, “Says Lori Lee's father Dr. Farmer. “The only question in my mind is whether he was the only person involved,"
And when we look back at the original piece of evidence, the one discarded as a prank, the steno notepad found in the donut box months prior to the murder it does state “We're on a mission to kill three girls”
We're. Plural. Three girls were murdered.
Even if Gene Hart was one of the perpetrators, there still may be others involved and like all unsolved cases, someone, somewhere knows something. And that person should, after all these years, simply come forward to allow for a conclusion to a sad story.