Real Names: Danny Glen and Kathy Eleta Freeman
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Vinita, Oklahoma
Date: December 29, 1999
Details: On December 29, 1999, Danny and Kathy Freeman celebrated their daughter Ashley's sixteenth birthday with her best friend, Lauria Bible, who spent the night. Sometime during the night or early morning hours of December 30, 1999, a fire erupted inside their mobile home. A concerned neighbor called the fire department at 5:30am on the morning of December 30, 1999. Lauria's parents and the police immediately canvassed the rubble for signs of the Freemans and Lauria. Kathy was found dead, but Danny's and the girls' bodies were nowhere to be found. An autopsy determined that Kathy had been shot to death. Arson investigators determined that the fire had been deliberately set.
Police theorized that Danny killed Kathy and abducted Ashley and Lauria. The next day, Lauria's parents went to the rubble, hoping to find a clue. After just five minutes, they were shocked to discover something that investigators had missed: another body, burned almost beyond recognition. It was identified as Danny's; he had also been shot to death at close range with a shotgun.
Ashley and Lauria's bodies weren't among Danny's, nor were they anywhere in the vicinity. However, another search of the property turned up an important clue: Lauria's purse, which was left behind with her driver's license and $200 inside. This suggested that she and Ashley might have been abducted. It also led police to rule out robbery as a motive since the money was left behind.
There were no suspects in the case, but three months before his death, Danny had told his brother, Dwayne Vancil, that should anything happen to him, to look into the Craig County Sheriff's Department. The alleged feud between the department and the Freemans began when Danny's son, Shane, was shot and killed by a deputy after he stole a truck and a neighbor's gun. Although the shooting was ruled justifiable, Danny was planning to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the department just before the fire. The sheriff's deputies volunteered to remove themselves from the investigation and turn the matter over to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The deputies cooperated and passed polygraph tests. The Sheriff's Office was later ruled out as being involved in the case.
Another theory speculated that Danny was a small-time drug trafficker. According to an informant, he had met with two unidentified men two weeks before the murders. One was apparently not welcome there. However, that theory did not fit well with the girls' disappearance. It would seem unlikely that the killers would abduct them and not just kill them at the scene.
Others believed Ashley killed her parents because of friction between her and Danny, but authorities believed that the girls couldn't have hidden out for long if that theory was to be believed. Lauria's family also does not believe that either girl would be capable of murder.
No trace of Lauria or Ashley has ever been found. The murders of Danny and Kathy remain unsolved. There is a $50,000 reward offered in the case.
Suspects: The Vinita police were investigated but cleared of any involvement in the case. The drug dealing theory has not been ruled out, but seems unlikely. The one of Ashley murdering her parents and fleeing with Lauria has not been ruled out either.
- This case first aired on the July 3, 2001 episode.
- This case was also profiled on America’s Most Wanted, Disappeared, and Vanished with Beth Holloway during the investigation.
- It was also documented on Cold Case Files after it was partially resolved.
Results: Unresolved. Death row inmate Jeremy Jones later confessed to killing the Freemans, then abducting and killing the girls before dumping their bodies in an abandoned Kansas mine. However, he later recanted and claimed that he had made up the story for better privileges in prison.
In December 2017, new investigators discovered investigative notes from the original investigation that had apparently been lost. The investigators immediately began to follow new leads as a result of these notes. On April 23, 2018, it was announced that an arrest had been made in the case: Ronnie Dean Busick was arrested and charged with the murders of Lauria, Ashley, Danny, and Kathy. He was also charged with the girls' abduction and arson of the Freemans' mobile home. Two other suspects, Warren Phillip Welch and David Pennington, were also identified as being involved in the case; however, they died before they could be arrested.
Disturbingly, investigators believe that Lauria and Ashley were kept alive for several days following their disappearances, before they were killed. Their bodies have not been recovered. Witnesses have come forward, claiming to have seen Polaroid photographs of them after they were abducted. Other witnesses have also told police that all three men have previously made statements implicating themselves in the abduction/murders.
In July 2020, Busick pleaded guilty to his involvement in the murders and was sentenced to ten years in prison. Sadly, no trace of Lauria or Ashley has been found.
- Danny and Kathy Freeman on Unsolved.com
- Danny and Kathy Freeman on Wikipedia
- Welch family wants answers - January 11, 1999
- Suspect arrested in 1999 disappearance of Welch girls, murders of one girl's parents - April 23, 2018
- Charges filed in 18-year-old northeast Oklahoma slayings - April 23, 2018
- Investigator outlines bloody details provided by convict in Welch girls case - October 1, 2020
- Danny and Kathy Freeman on Find a Grave