The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders of 1977
Camp Scott was once an innocent retreat for Girl Scouts resting within over four hundred wooded acres in Locust Grove that could accommodate 140 campers and 30 staff members. Now, it remains abandoned. Forgotten and falling apart, Camp Scott remains the perfect example of something good gone horribly wrong.
A seemingly “magical” place for these girls in uniform in and around Oklahoma to traverse to once a year, Camp Scott was created by and for the Girl Scouts of America to help girls enjoy themselves while they camped. The so-called “Cookie Trail” road led into the heart of the camp, where ten camping units were scattered across the acreage set aside for the young girls.
In the year 1977, Camp Scott was celebrating 49 years of encouraging Girl Scouts to enjoy the outdoors. It was set to be another year, as the camp staff thought of it. The Girl Scouts would arrive on June 12th and pick their cabin groups before turning their attention to fun pre-planned activities. It’s how it had worked for the past 48 years – but this year it’s different.
Three young girls would be brutally murdered the very next day after their initial arrival.
Lori Lee Farmer, 8; Michele Guse, 9; and Doris Denise Milner, 10 had quickly become friends after arriving to Camp Scott on June 12th, 1977. They shared common interests, enjoyed each other’s company, and bonded in the outdoors – exactly what counselors at Camp Scott wanted Girl Scouts to do. Farmer and Miller had come from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Guse had come from Broken Arrow.
Regardless, the three girls chose to be each other’s roommates. They would only share a tent — #8, known as Kiowa – for one fatal night.
You see, a couple of months prior to the camp’s yearly get-together, the counselors had arrived to talk about and plan the summer for the 140 girls who would be showing up within the next few weeks. They had brought donuts, taking the time to talk amongst themselves and catch up on work needed before the opening. However, a counselor found that her cabin had been broken into while they were outside. The donuts had been stolen, with a handwritten note left in its place.
“Three campers will soon be murdered.”
The counselors shrugged it off, thinking it was some sort of prank. The note was thrown away, forgotten about until after what would occur the first – and last – night there.
Fast forward to shortly before the murders, when a couple of other counselors were slightly worried about two strange men lurking on the borders of Camp Scott. They, however, also shrugged off the incident – believing that they were men who were hiking to the nearby area. A couple of soon-to-be former campers claimed they saw a man in army boots hanging out near the latrines at dusk before bed.
It was shortly after one in the morning on June 13th, 1977 when camp counselor Carla Willhite woke up to the sound of a strange noise – something she later described as a cross between a frog and a bullhorn. She quickly woke up a second counselor, asking if they had heard the noise as well. The other counselor replied no, rolling back to sleep.
Carla wasn’t comfortable. She went outside, drowsy, with a flashlight in hand. Each time she flashed it, the sound stopped suddenly. She went back to bed, figuring investigating some “animal” outside wasn’t worth giving up sleep.
At around two in the morning, a young Girl Scout in tent #7 woke up when her tent flap was lifted up. She watched – eyes wide – as a light flashed in. She could only see the silhouette of what she described as a “large man” who peered in for a moment before walking away. The camper blinked furiously, wondering if she was dreaming. He had vanished just as quickly as he had appeared.
At around three in the morning, another girl woke up when she heard a feminine scream coming from tent #8. The scream belonged to Lori Lee Farmer – one of the aforementioned victims in this crime. According to the unnamed camper, Lori screamed “Mamma, Mamma!” before going silent. The camper knew Lori from previous years at camp; she knew Lori suffered from occasional nightmares, so she ignored the cries for help and went back to sleep.
At around six in the morning, Carla Willhite discovered the bodies of the three young girls while she was on her way to the showers. She found three sleeping bags – one green, one floral, and one plaid – laying haphazardly in an open clearing. She lifted the floral sleeping bag, and to her horror discovered the body of Doris Denise Milner. She was nude from the waist down, with her hands tied behind her back.
Carla, horrified, alerted the camp counselor Barbara Day. Day and her husband, Richard, ran to the site and confirmed that the young ten-year-old was indeed dead. It was Day who lifted the other two sleeping bags, discovering the murdered bodies of Lori Lee Farmer and Michele Guse by her side.
Lori and Michele had been struck in the tent, dying rather quickly from blunt force trauma. There was evidence that Michele had been horrifically raped afterwards. Doris met a similar end, being strangled after a massive blow to the head. She had been sexually assaulted, as well. It was determined through autopsy and DNA swabbing that Lori, unlike Michele and Doris, had not been sexually molested due to the lack of seminal fluid.
The blood on the tent floor had been wiped with mattresses by the attackers with intent of cleaning up behind them. A red and white 9-volt flashlight, black duct tape, a gag, rope, and two photos of unidentified women were left behind at the crime scene. The women were in the photos would later be identified only after being plastered in several newspapers.
All the evidence pointed to the main suspect: Gene Leroy Hart, a Cherokee Native American born and raised in the area. In 1966, eleven years prior to this incident, Hart confessed to kidnapping and sodomizing two pregnant women. He was found guilty in court, being sentenced to 28 months behind bars. In 1970, he was convicted once more for several cases of burglary – in which he was sentenced to a term of 308 years.
That’s how fucked up the American judicial system is, people. Kidnap and rape two pregnant women? A little over two years. Bust into a couple houses afterwards? Three centuries.
Regardless, Hart escaped prison three years into his sentence. He remained at large when these three murders occurred. He was apprehended ten months after Camp Scott had been marked with blood, and the sheriff of the county claimed he was “100% certain” that Hart had done the crime.
But, not so fast. Hart had a vasectomy done years prior to the incident. How could there have been two victims with seminal fluid if Hart was indeed the killer?
With a jury of 6 men and 6 women finding him not guilty due to lack of evidence, Hart was acquitted of the Girl Scout murders but sent back to prison to live out the rest of his 308 year life sentence. Hart, however, did die a few weeks afterwards.
He died due to a heart attack on June 4th, 1979, after lifting weights and jogging around the prison exercise yard. The autopsy showed that the vasectomy surgery, the one that had kept him from being charged for the brutal murders of those three young girls, had not been entirely successful after all.
The case, being so old, will most likely never be solved. Forensic testing has been used multiple times since, but the evidence is just too old to work with. The murderer of these three girls — Lori Lee Farmer, 8; Michele Guse, 9; and Doris Denise Milner, 10 — will most likely never be truly known.
That 49th year was the last for Camp Scott, too. It was abandoned shortly after the murders, and no Girl Scout has camped along the “Cookie Trail” road ever since.