Special to the Grove Sun
WELCH — For the past decade Lorene Bible has gotten up every morning praying this would be the day she learns the whereabouts of her daughter. ??
In the bitter cold early hours of Dec. 30, 1999, Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman, 16, and best friends since they were toddlers, disappeared. They had spent the night together celebrating Ashley's 16th birthday. ??When dawn broke over the twin rural communities of Welch and Bluejacket, the mobile home of Ashley's parents, Danny and Kathy Freeman, was engulfed in flames. ??
Authorities discovered the couple had been shot to death and the two teenagers were missing. ??
"On the first year anniversary I said I didn't want to be here in 10 years," Bible said. "It's been a decade. I will keep getting the word out there. Hopefully there is a person out there that will call the authorities. I hope it triggers someone to talk." ??
Efforts to reach Celeste Chandler and Lonny Freeman, Ashley's grandmother and uncle were unsuccessful. ??For years the Bibles left their Christmas tree up because they wanted Lauria to come home and take it down. It stood in the family's living room for seven years before falling apart. ??
Lorene has halfway cleaned out Lauria bedroom.
She gave away her daughter's bedroom suite to Lauria's great-niece and other mementoes to family members who want to remember Lauria. ??
Lorene believes both girls are most likely dead but any clues to their whereabouts were lost during those first crucial hours of the investigation.
"The investigation was botched from the beginning," Bible said. ??
Yellow crime tape had already marked off the charred remains of where the Freeman mobile home once stood when the Lorene and Jay Bible arrived around 8 a.m. ??
The Craig County Sheriff's office turned the investigation over to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation immediately after learning the mobile home belonged to the Freemans. ??
Telephone calls to the Craig County Sheriff's office were not returned. ??
Almost a year earlier, on Jan. 8, 1999, Shane Freeman, the teenage son of Danny and Kathy, was shot to death on a rural Craig County road by a sheriff's deputy. Shane was accused of theft and was running from authorities.
At the time of Danny and Kathy's death they had been seeking to file a civil lawsuit against the Sheriff's Department, family members confirmed. ??
David and Mark Hayes, former Craig County deputies, said they had been cleared by OSBI polygraph tests. Bible said the case was allowed to grow cold. ??
Authorities kept the Bibles and about 100 neighbors and friends at bay until 4 p.m. while they combed the mobile home looking for clues. Kathy Freeman's body was found in what was a waterbed.
She had been shot at close range. ??
On December 31, 1999, the Bibles were allowed to return to the crime scene. ??
"I first saw a big Rottweiler lying down in the rubble," Bible said. ??
When Jay and Lorene got closer the family pet appeared to be guarding the charred remains of a headless man. ??
"Jay discovered Danny Freeman's body," Bible said. "There were footprints where he had been walked on by the investigators. They walked on top of him; they just didn't look underneath their feet." ??
Bible said Danny Freeman's body was lying facing up, shoulders lying in the doorway with his feet touching the waterbed. His hands were missing. ??
The agency understands the families are upset that a family member discovered Danny Freeman, said OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown.
Brown said OSBI agents have heard and understand the families' criticisms. ??
"We have done everything possible," Brown said. ??
Bible ferociously disagrees. ??
"They said they stopped the search because the site was still hot," Bible said. "If they done everything why did they stop and say they were 100 percent sure there were no more bodies?" ??
For hours, volunteers carefully removed charred debris and painstakingly sifted it through mesh containers looking for a clue — looking for anything. ??
The Bibles think the lack of glass recovered in the fire is significant. ??
Danny Freeman had a large collection of American Indian arrowheads. Some of the artifacts were displayed behind glass in shadow boxes and hung on the residence's walls; others were in an open display, family members have reported. The arrowheads were never found. ??
Bible said flint from the arrowheads and glass shards were never recovered.
Authorities told the family the intense heat would have destroyed the flint and glass, a theory Bible disagrees with. ??
Bible thinks more than one person was involved in the slaying.
"Ashley was a strong girl," Bible said. "She was a hunter and could drop a buck 150 yards away with one shot. It seems that she could have fought off one man, but not two." ??
Jeremy Jones, 36, formerly of Miami, Okla., was convicted of murder and is on death row for the rape and slaying of Lisa Nichols, 45, of Turnerville, Ala. He also is charged with killing a Georgia teenage girl and a Louisiana woman and was a suspect or person of interest in 10 other deaths, including that of Danny and Kathy Freeman. ??
Jones confessed to Oklahoma authorities to killing the Freemans and setting their mobile home on fire, over a drug debt.
He said he took the teenagers across the border to Kansas where he said he shot them and threw their bodies into an abandoned mine.
A search of the mine area turned up nothing and Jones since has recanted his confession. ??
Bible said she believes Jones has direct knowledge of the slaying or was told by a person who was there. "He knew specific information that was not released to the media," Bible said. "He knew the type of shotgun and he knew Kathy was lying face down on the bed." ??
Brown said the OSBI has no current leads, but declined to elaborate.
A memorial service for Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the First Church of God in Vinita.