Powered by Bravenet Bravenet Blog

Thursday, June 14th 2007

2:18 AM

 Print this page
Tulsa World.com  
Mom keeps low profile on girls' murder anniversary

by: DAVID HARPER World Staff Writer

Bettye Milner is going to try to treat Wednesday like any other weekday.

"I'll be working tomorrow," she said. "It's easier for me if I go about it like it was any other day."

But Wednesday marks a horrible anniversary for Milner and two other families. It was 30 years ago that her 10-year-old daughter, Doris Denise Milner; Lori Lee Farmer, 8; and Michele Guse, 9, were raped and murdered at Camp Scott near Locust Grove.

The crime was one of the most horrific in Oklahoma history, but no one has ever been convicted of the June 13, 1977, Girl Scout murders.

Gene Leroy Hart was tried and acquitted of the killings in 1979. He died of a heart attack later that year while in prison for an unrelated conviction.

The case has gained fresh publicity recently because a new DNA analysis has been conducted, with the test results forwarded to Mayes County District Attorney Gene Haynes, who has not yet announced the results.

Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Division Director Jon Loffi said Tuesday that by law Haynes' office is the only entity authorized to release the information.

Milner said Tuesday that she has not heard what the tests showed but that she has been told that the families of the victims will be the first to know.

She hopes to hear the results within a week or two.

An FBI test on DNA samples taken from a pillowcase in 1989 was described as inconclusive.

According to reports concerning the 1989 testing, three of five aspects of DNA from the murder scene matched those of body fluids taken from Hart, an American Indian. Only one in 7,700 American Indians would match the samples, as Hart reportedly did.

But since only three of the five samples matched, the results were deemed inconclusive.

A 2002 effort by the OSBI to extract more DNA from the pillowcase reportedly was not successful.

The latest DNA sample was taken from one of the victims. The new test, which allows male DNA to be separated from female DNA, was done at a private lab in Texas.

On the 30th anniversary of the crimes, attorney Garvin Isaacs, who represented Hart at the 1979 trial, still believes that Hart is innocent.

Isaacs, now 62, stressed Tuesday that "I feel terrible for the families of the girls. I always have. I have kids myself. But Gene Leroy Hart did not kill anyone."

Instead, Isaacs said Hart was framed and that the jury reached the correct verdict after reviewing the evidence.

S.M. "Buddy" Fallis, who prosecuted the case, has a decidedly different view.

Fallis was Tulsa County district attorney at the time but was brought in as the lead prosecutor in the Hart case because of his experience.

Fallis, now 72, said Tuesday that he is still convinced of Hart's guilt.

Even if the DNA evidence points to another person, Fallis will believe that Hart was also at the scene and involved in the crimes, he said.

At the trial, jurors were told that Hart had more than 300 years to go in prison on unrelated charges, Fallis said, adding that that knowledge may have contributed to the jury's acquitting him.

In June 1966, Hart had abducted two pregnant women from a Tulsa club and raped one of them outside of the city. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three concurrent 10-year prison terms, but he was paroled after 28 months.

In June 1969, Hart was arrested in Tulsa on four counts of first-degree burglary. This time he pleaded innocent but was found guilty and sentenced to a maximum of 305 years in prison. Hart escaped in 1973 while he was being held in Mayes County for a post-conviction relief hearing.

He was formally charged with the Camp Scott murders on June 23, 1977, and was captured in the Cookson Hills in southern Cherokee County on April 6, 1978.

Milner, a lab technician at Hillcrest Medical Center, said she is no expert on the intricacies of DNA evidence.

Now 62, she said some degree of closure would be provided if the new tests implicate Hart. She said she hopes the results don't lead to more uncertainty, "which would leave us hanging for the rest of our lives."

Milner said she periodically visits with Lori Lee's mother, Sheri Farmer, but she said it has been a long time since she has heard from anyone in Michele's family.

Milner, who still lives where she did at the time of her daughter's death, said that at first, "I couldn't get my mind around it. I needed to stay close to where she was. I needed to touch her belongings."

After 30 years, Milner said, she can't bear to visit her daughter's gravesite and hasn't done so since around the time of the funeral.

"I can't take it," she said. "I've been to the cemetery and tried to psyche myself up to go see it, but I cannot face going to her grave."

On Tuesday, Milner was looking after her 6-month-old grandchild and getting ready to go to work when her memory was drawn back to that horrid day 30 years ago.

She said she keeps a "low-profile" these days. "It just feels like there's nothing left to say anymore.

"Nothing's changed," she said. "It's just the same thing. We haven't learned anything new. There are no new suspects."

62 Comment(s) / Post Comment

Wednesday, June 6th 2007

12:02 PM

Girl Scout Murder Case DNA Results Given To DA

KOTV - 6/6/2007 11:29 AM - Updated 6/6/2007 12:02 PM

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has handed over the findings of a new DNA test on a 30-year-old Girl Scout murder case to the Mayes County District Attorney. A Texas lab performed a new type of test on the remaining DNA sample from the scene. Those tests are complete and now are in the hands of the DA.

OSBI officials caution, the sample may be too old or too small for an accurate ID. The sample could point to Gene Hart, who was acquitted of the crime decades ago or it could point to another suspect entirely.

The Mayes County DA will decide when to release those results. There is no word on when that will happen.

21 Comment(s) / Post Comment

Friday, June 1st 2007

7:00 AM

DNA Lab Results Completed

KOTV - 6/1/2007 6:15 AM - Updated 6/1/2007 6:59 AM

DNA results from a 30-year-old triple murder case are back in Oklahoma. A lab in Texas finished analyzing the sample from the Girl Scout murders and sent the results to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation for verification.

The DNA sample may be too old or too small for an accurate ID. The sample could point to Gene Hart who was acquitted of the crime decades ago, or it could point to another suspect entirely.

The lab will turn over the results to the Mayes County District Attorney next week. It will be up to the Mayes County District Attorney whether to make the results public or not.

20 Comment(s) / Post Comment

Wednesday, May 30th 2007

7:14 PM

The Daily Times - Pryor, OK 5-24-07

New DNA tests planned in 1977 Girl Scout killings

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A DNA sample taken from one of three Girl Scouts who were sexually assaulted and killed nearly three decades ago will be tested in an attempt to bring closure to the case.
Samples from victims are generally a combination of both male and female DNA, with the greater amount being female, said Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Jessica Brown. A new test allows male part to be isolated from the female, Brown said.
“It’s very specific to the male,” Brown said.

When the private laboratory returns the results, later this week at the earliest, OSBI biologists would then prepare a report to be given to Mayes County District Attorney Gene Haynes, Brown said. Haynes is the only person allowed to release the findings, Brown said.
Haynes did not immediately return a telephone message left at his office Wednesday.

Brown said the OSBI received a federal grant to conduct additional tests on cold cases, and chose to use part of it to test DNA related to the unsolved killings of three Girl Scouts, Lori Lee Farmer, 8, of Tulsa; Michele Guse, 9, of Broken Arrow; and Doris Denise Milner, 10, of Tulsa, who were found dead June 13, 1977, at Camp Scott near Locust Grove.

Ideally, Brown said the testing would provide a profile that could be matched to a person by using a computer-based database. A certain amount of DNA is needed to create a profile.
“We had very little left, but we think enough for this testing,” Brown said.

Gene Leroy Hart, who was escaped from prison at the time of the killings, was acquitted on murder charges in the slayings in 1979 and died later that year of a heart attack after being returned to prison.

An FBI test on DNA samples from a semen-stained pillowcase in 1989 were inconclusive, and an attempt to test the pillowcase again in 2002 determined there was no evidence left on it.


17 Comment(s) / Post Comment

Wednesday, May 30th 2007

2:50 PM

KFOR-TV Oklahoma City 5-25-07

MSN Tracking Image

The Girl Scout murders revisited

LINDA CAVANAUGH REPORTING OKLAHOMA CITY -- There is new information on a haunting event that changed our state. It was a stormy June night thirty years ago at Camp Scott near Locust Grove. A killer committed one of the most heinous crimes in Oklahoma history. Three girl scouts, on their first night at camp, were taken from tent number eight.

People started locking their doors. Gun sales skyrocketed. Parents wouldn't let their kids go off to camp.  Oklahoma has lost its innocence.  The case has remained open for all these years, but word of a new development may solve the mystery of the Girl Scout murders.  

Sheri Farmer holds a precious reminder of her daughter. "I've met two new friends; Michelle Guse and Denise Milner," Sherri says as she reads a letter from her daughter. It was eight-year-old Lori's first letter home from camp. It was written with only hours to live. "I'm sharing a tent with them. We're sleeping on cots," the letter reads. "I couldn't wait to write. Love, Lori."

It would be Lori's last letter. Before dawn, Lori's body and those of her tent mates would be found. They were stuffed into their sleeping bags; now their coffins. They were savagely raped, beaten, and strangled. Former Highway Patrolman Harold Berry was one of the first on the scene. Berry says, "You're not ready to drive up on something like that and find three little girls. That's something I'll take to my grave."

Eight-year-old Lori Farmer, nine-year-old, Michele Guse and 10-year-old, Denise Milner had been taken from their tent during the darkness of the night. Their murders sparked a manhunt unlike any in state history. Six hundred volunteers combed the heavily wooded area looking for the murderer. The state's main suspect was Gene Leroy Hart; a Native American man with hundreds of friends and relatives in the area; very effectively hiding him until an informant squealed.

"It was a tar paper shack. The living room had his weight machine where he was lifting weights," says OSBI Agent, Harvey Pratt.  "I ran around to the front of the house and they had him lying on the ground." Seconds after the capture, Pratt took photos to prove Hart hadn't been harmed. "He was a very powerful man and he didn't seem to be shocked or intimidated," Pratt explains. "He smoked a cigarette. I just thought he was very controlled almost to the point of indifference."

An anonymous donor hired Attorney Garvin Isaacs to defend Hart. Garvin says, "He was humorous, personable, and intelligent; well read." "Gene Hart was a troubled, if not a mentally ill man," says former OSBI Agent and Chief Inspector on the case, Dick Wilkerson He says Hart was an escapee; a convicted rapist.

Hart had brutally assaulted two pregnant women and the manner in which Hart raped and sodomized those women was eerily similar to the Girl Scout murders.  Wilkerson says all the evidence pointed to Hart. "I know that I worked 185 "who done it" homicides and this was the strongest one I ever saw." Wilkerson says.  Garvin Isaacs maintains his client was framed. "Yes, yes he was," Garvin says. "There's a footprint in the blood on the floor where the little girls were murdered. And the footprint is a size 10 and Hart's feet are like 11.5. And there's a thumb print on the flashlight, and that's not Hart's. You can't shrink your foot and you can't change your fingerprints."

It was up to a jury to decide and they did. They acquitted Hart. Wilkerson says Harts friends and family came through for him.  "I would submit to you that one could not have convicted Gene Hart in Mayes County if you had a videotape of the crime," Wilkerson says. "Even though I had been in law enforcement for a number of years, this was the first time I saw the system fail and it was devastating to me. I had never seen the system fail." Garvin Isaacs says, "People were ready to lynch Hart, and us for representing him, until they found out what the truth was about some of this. Then I think people were really disturbed.  People are still disturbed by what happened over here." Hart was returned to prison to continue serving over 300 years on prior convictions.

Within weeks, still in his thirties, Hart died of a heart attack at McAlester. And so, the Girl Scout murders have officially remained an open case, but now a new development could shed light on the thirty year murder mystery. 

A new type of DNA test, being conducted right now, has the potential to prove once and for all whether Hart was the killer, or whether the real murderer is still out there. Ryan Porter, OSBI Criminologist, says, "It is exciting. I worked a case, a 20-year-old rape and homicide, where we were able to determine the DNA matched the suspect. He was tried and convicted on a 20-year-old rape and homicide." Will this new DNA test prove Hart to be the sole murderer? Wilkerson says, "Unquestionably; unquestionably."  Or would the DNA clear Hart? Isaacs says, "It would. No doubt in my mind. If somebody says it doesn't clear him, somebody has planted more evidence."

Sheri Farmer waits for the answer. "As Lori's mother, I felt like, up until the time she left to go to camp, I knew everything about her life. I washed her hair. I took her to school. And now, in death, I don't know what happened to her," Farmer says. In a closet, seldom opened, Sheri Farmer has much of the evidence collected from the crime scene. Investigators were going to throw it away. Her daughter's suitcase is still stained with the dustings of the fingerprint powder. "Here's her shirt," Farmer says. "So tiny; so tiny." 

Time has turned the blood brown. Sheri believes the killer left part of him self somewhere in this evidence, and if the current DNA being tested isn't conclusive, someday somehow the murders will be solved. "I think there's something in there that has the answer. I think there's a reason I kept it. I think there's an answer," Sheri Farmer says. But there is no answer that will compensate for the loss of a daughter. "It's when I'm watching my other children with their children and my heart aches to know that Lori didn't get to experience that," Sheri says.

The results of the DNA testing should be back by the end of this week. OSBI criminologists will analyze the report before forwarding them to Mayes County DA, Gene Haynes.

NewsChannel 4 will bring you the results as soon as we get them. They are results that may close one of the state's most notorious open cases.

Ironically, it's almost thirty years to the day that three little girls boarded a bus for their first day at camp.

54 Comment(s) / Post Comment

Wednesday, May 30th 2007

2:39 PM

Tulsa World 5-25-07

Print this page Print this page
Tulsa World.com  

Area officials watching new DNA test closely

by: RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer

The latest effort could solve the 1977 slayings of three Girls Scouts, or it could open 'a whole can of worms.'

CLAREMORE -- Improved genetic testing could provide long-sought answers in the rapes and slayings of three Girl Scouts 30 years ago near Locust Grove, a prosecutor said Thursday.

An independent laboratory being used by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation will compare DNA recovered from one of the victims with a known semen sample from Gene Leroy Hart, said Gene Haynes, the district attorney for Rogers, Mayes and Craig counties.

A prison escapee when the homicides occurred, Hart was charged in the murders in 1977 and acquitted two years later.

The only suspect in the case, Hart died in 1979 of a heart attack while in prison.

"If it comes back that it is a match from Mr. Hart, it really doesn't trigger anything else to happen," Haynes said.

"But OSBI could consider the case closed, and the victims' families perhaps would have some closure on it."

Lori Lee Farmer, 8, of Tulsa; Michele Guse, 9, of Broken Arrow; and Doris Denise Milner, 10, of Tulsa, were sexually assaulted and killed June 13, 1977, during their first night at Camp Scott near Locust Grove, about 40 miles east of Tulsa.

The OSBI received federal funds to contract an independent lab to conduct further tests on cold cases, Haynes said. Typically, victim samples combine both male and female DNA, but the new testing will differentiate male chromosomes, he said.

If a profile can be developed, it can be run through criminal databases for a potential match.

Haynes said he hasn't been told when to expect the results, which he said he likely would announce at a news conference.

"If doesn't match Hart, that just opens a whole can of worms," he said. "I guess they will know he wasn't involved or that someone else was involved with him. Then the case will have to be kept open, and who knows if it will ever be solved?"

In 2002, OSBI officials tried to extract DNA, thought to be Hart's, from a semen-stained pillowcase recovered from the crime scene. But the samples tested were insufficient and too deteriorated.

In 1989, the FBI analyzed DNA evidence from the crime scene, but the data were deemed unreliable. In that probe, three of five DNA samples matched body fluids taken from Hart.

Only one in 7,700 American Indians would match the samples from the scene, test data showed. That pointed to Hart, a Cherokee Indian, as the probable but not certain killer.

Rhett Morgan 581-8395
27 Comment(s) / Post Comment