A seemingly straightforward camping trip for a group of Girl Scouts at Camp Scott in Mayes County, Oklahoma, turned into a nightmare when three young girls were murdered. Hulu’s four-part docuseries titled ‘Keeper of the Ashes: The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders’ chronicles what happened in the case and shines a light on the victims: Lori Farmer, Doris Milner, and Michele Guse. So, if you’re wondering what exactly happened that night in June 1977, we’ve got you covered.
How Did Lori Farmer, Doris Milner, and Michele Guse Die?
Lori Farmer, who was just days from her ninth birthday, was excited to be spending two weeks on a camping trip with the Girl Scouts. Also present among the 140 scouts that headed out that day was Doris Milner, who was attending for the first time after selling enough cookies. While the 10-year-old’s friends ultimately decided against attending, she was still excited to go on the trip. The two girls were assigned to sleep in the same tent as Michele Guse, a shy and athletic 9-year-old. The girls got to know each other better on July 12, 1977.
However, the following morning, at around 6 am, Carla Sue Wilhite, a camp counselor, noticed three sleeping bags about 150 yards from the three girls’ tent. Carla first saw Doris before finding Lori and Michele stuffed in their sleeping bags. Autopsies later revealed that Doris suffered a wound to her head and died by strangulation. On the other hand, Lori and Michele died due to blunt force trauma. The authorities stated that the girls were sexually molested.
Who Killed Lori Farmer, Doris Milner, and Michele Guse?
Once the bodies were discovered, the authorities descended on the campsite and learned that pretty much anyone could have walked in later in the night. While the gates were locked, the front entrance was not guarded after 11 pm on June 12, 1977. The same went for the side gate near the Kiowa unit (the victims were a part of this group). At the crime scene, the authorities found a flashlight as well as a roll of duct tape that was used on the three young girls.
The authorities found blood on the flap, floor, and mattresses inside the tent. A palm print was spotted that was later deemed to belong to an investigator. Furthermore, there was a bloody shoeprint inside. At the time, the police believed that Lori and Michele were killed inside the tent while Doris was carried or asked to walk outside to where the bodies were eventually found.
In the days after the murder, the authorities came across a cave a few miles from the campsite that had evidence connected to the crime scene. By then, the police had already begun looking for their suspect: Gene Leroy “Sonny” Hart. He was previously convicted of kidnapping and raping two pregnant women, serving time for it. At the time of the incident, he had been eluding authorities after escaping prison; he was sentenced to over 300 years for burglary.
The hunt for Sonny ended about ten months later when he was arrested in April 1978. At trial, the prosecution presented biological evidence that pointed to Sonny as the killer but didn’t conclusively link him to the case. Furthermore, the bloody shoeprint was too small to have been Sonny’s. Ultimately, he was acquitted of the three murders in 1979. Sonny died a few months later while in prison for the burglary conviction.
Then, in May 2022, the authorities announced that DNA testing conducted in 2019 led to the conclusion that Sonny was the only person from the suspect list that couldn’t be excluded as the killer. While he wasn’t alive to be brought to justice, the announcement brought some closure to the victims’ families and lent credence to the investigators’ original theory that Sonny was the killer.
Read More: How Did Gene Leroy “Sonny” Hart Die?