THE GIRL SCOUT MURDERS
The “Magic Empire” was created for Girls Scouts to camp and enjoy the wonders of the great outdoors. No one could have guessed it would become the scene of the unsolved Girl Scout Murders and end in utter ruins.
Camp Scott, located in Locust Grove MI, had been a retreat for Girl Scouts and Brownies since 1928. Its 410 wooded acres could accommodate 140 campers and 30 staff. The ‘Cookie Trail’ road led to ten camping units scattered throughout the beautiful park.
Two Months Before The Girl Scout Murders
Two months before the murders in 1977, during a training session, a counselors’ tent was ransacked and a note was left behind in a doughnut box. In the hand-written note, the writer declared that three campers would be murdered. The note was dismissed as a prank and trashed.
On the night of June 13, 1977, three girls were pulled from their Kiowa tent, bludgeoned, strangled, and sexually assaulted and left on a trail. Two were buried in their sleeping bags and another left, partially clothed, nearby.
Lori Lee Farmer, 8, of Tulsa, Michele Guse, 9, of Broken Arrow, and Doris Denise Milner, 10, of Tulsa were discovered by camp counselor, Carla Willhite, while she was on her way to the showers at 6:00 a.m.
Coming From Tulsa
On the day before the murders, the girls loaded a bus at the headquarters in Tulsa. Campers traveled 40 miles east of Tulsa to Camp Scott to begin a two-week stay. Activities would include things like hiking, crafting, swimming in Snake Creek, singing around a campfire, gathering at the Red Barn for play, and many others.
The young campers were allowed to choose their tent buddies. The 14 foot by 12 foot tent bases were constructed of wood and covered in canvas and contained four bunks.
Kiowa tent number 7 was the most remote tent in the unit and in the camp. It couldn’t be seen from the counselors’ tent.
Before, and during 1977, Camp Scott had no lights in the wooden platform tents. Aside from the campers’ flashlights, the only light source provided at the camp units were the kerosene lanterns which were lit at night. These lanterns hung only at the bathrooms.
Slightly passed midnight, camp counselor, Carla Willhite was awakened by a strange noise. Not quite human and not quite animal. Carla woke another counselor in her tent, Dee Elder, and asked if she had heard the strange sound. She said she hadn’t. Carla went outside to survey the woods. Each time she flashed her light, the sound stopped. She walked all of the tents. Everything was quiet so she went back to bed.
Three Dead Campers
The next morning, around 6:00 am, Carla headed toward the shower. She came across a horrific sight. Three dead little girls!
The Camp Director, Barbara Day, was alerted at once. She and her husband Richard ran to the sight. They immediately determined that Doris Milner was dead. The law was called at once. They had three dead children on their hands.
The Murders Revealed
Tape, rope, a gag and a flashlight were collected from the scene.
It was determined that Michele Guse and Lori Farmer, the youngest victim and the youngest camper at Camp Scott, had been struck and killed in the tent and that Doris Milner had been taken into the woods and killed there. Blood on the wooden floor was wiped by the killer with mattress covers and towels. The bloody materials were then stuffed into the sleeping bags.
The other young campers were quickly put on buses that morning and sent back to Tulsa, not knowing why they were leaving. People were beginning to hear the news of the murders, but no victims’ names, so parents did not know if their girls were going to be stepping off the bus or not.
Autopsy results confirmed the killer, or killers, murdered with horrific violence.
Doris Milner had died of strangulation. There were also indications that she had been sexually assaulted. Lacerations of the genitalia and fragments of leaves and other debris were found.
Michele Guse was killed from beatings to her head. Her wounds were located on the back of her head, as well as the sides. There were also indications that she had been sexually assaulted, both vaginally and anally.
Lori Farmer also died from blows to the head. She too appeared to have been sexually assaulted. All tape and cord were removed from her body,
Clues From The Crimes
Military boot footprints were found on the grounds and in the victims’ tent. The killer had walked into the Kiowa counselors’ tent and had stolen a purse and some eyeglasses.
Results from the Medical Examiner’s Office revealed the discovery of seminal fluid.
Crime scene materials were found in a cave not far from the camp. Tape, plastic from a garbage bag similar to that wrapped around the flashlight found next to the girls, two photos of women, eyeglasses and a newspaper that was from the same edition as the piece discovered in the flashlight left next to the girls’ bodies.
Enter Gene Leroy Hart – A Person Of Interest
The women in the photos were identified after they appeared in several newspapers. A prison guard had taken the pictures at a wedding. Gene Leroy Hart had developed the photos when he was serving prison time for kidnapping and first degree rape convictions in 1966.
Hart was paroled in 1969. Soon after, he was tried for four Tulsa burglaries and sentenced to 50 years of prison time.
The Wilkersons wrote that in 1973 Hart was moved to the Mayes County Jail to “appear for post-conviction relief involving the rape-kidnapping charges imposed in 1966.” He escaped with another inmate and had been eluding law enforcement for the past four years.
Hart Was Diligently Pursued
Hart, a Cherokee Native American, born and raised in Locust Grove, was diligently pursued, especially after connecting him to the photos found in the cave that also contained items stolen from Camp Scott. He was known to be in the Locust Grove area.
Ten months later he was apprehended from a home in the Cookson Hills area.
With a jury of six men and six women, the trial began in March 1979 in the Mayes County Courthouse in Pryor. The jury could not find conclusive, indisputable evidence against Hart. He was acquitted in April.
A unanimous opinion of the jury was that Hart may not be innocent and they believe this heinous crime must have been committed by more than one person.
The defense attorney for Hart said that the footprint in the girls’ tent didn’t fit Hart’s and neither did the thumbprint on the flashlight.
Within in weeks of being returned to prison for his previous crimes, Hart was dead. He was 35 years old. Autopsy results reported that he had died of a massive heart attack and that the vasectomy surgery had not been successful.
This Oklahoma murder mystery remains unsolved.
No Girl Scouts ever took the Cookie Trail to Camp Scott again. It is now private property owned by a local citizen. The tents and platforms are gone. The Red Barn stands in ruins.
credit – red dirt report | tulsaworld.com