Lori Ann Farmer was going to have her birthday party the following week. She was going to turn 9. She was a pretty girl, but her mother said she was so much more than that. She loved her siblings and having those siblings around her. Her family had 5 kids in 7 yrs. Her mother was an only child. Her father just had 1 sister. They both wanted to have a lot of children because of that. Lori was excited to go to the girl scout camp. She had been deciding between going to Girl Scout Camp or the Tulsa area YMCA.
Doris Denise Milner – taught herself to read, write, and do math when she was 4 yrs old. She was very social & loved meeting new people. Her mother describes how she would always end up having to wait for Denise to finish her conversations with others wherever she went. And at night, at bedtime, would tell her mother, ”But I just have to tell you 1 more thing…” before going to bed. She was excited about going to the camp the days leading up to it. But then after some friends of hers backed out of going the day before she changed her mind. Her mother said to just try it out, and if she didn’t like it, she would come get her. After all, she had worked hard to sell the Girl Scout cookies she needed to be able to go.
Michele Heather Guse went to Camp Scott the previous year, and was excited to go back again. She said she was going to miss her family, but she wanted to experience all the fun she had the prior year again. Michele was very concerned though about her African violets, and wanted to make sure her family would water them for her while she was gone. She was also described as a very active and athletic girl.
Carla Wilhite was a camp counselor, who first went to Camp Scott in 1971. She described the first couple days kids would be homesick, but then you felt like you were home. Making memories and friendships. After the 1st summer, she knew she wanted to go back every summer. And, in 1977 it was the first year she was hired to be a counselor there. She was 15 years old, and said she wore a lot of overalls in her younger years. She described Denise Milner as one of the quiet girls, and an old soul. Wanted to make sure that she found friendships while at the camp. She saw Michele as an athletic little girl and described Lori as a “skinny mini”, and was also quiet. She was very surprised that 3 quiet girls decided to share a tent with one another.
Michelle Hoffman was also a camp counselor in 1977. One of her jobs was to get the girls on the buses and get them ready to leave for the camp. She saw Denise with her mom and saw that she clearly didn’t want to leave. She introduced herself to her and said that she could sit with her on the bus, which she did, and then her mother got on the bus before they left and asked her to please call her if she decided she wanted to leave, and she would come get her.
The different clusters, or units were dispersed about a couple hundred feet from one another. But it was hard to see that because of the dense woods surrounding them. Cookie trail is off the main highway in locust grove, OK. To get in, it is a long, gravel road, backwoods style. Very different feel to it than that of being in the city. Getting into the camp is described as going back in time by one reporter.
It was very hot that day. After everyone chose their tents and had a chance to settle in, they went up to the great hall for dinner. Sometime during dinner, a big storm came in & it was raining real hard. They couldn’t play or sing out on the porch, so instead they sang in the great hall. Finally the rain slowed enough to hike back down to their units. They dried off the best they could. The girls were still active & giggling. Some were homesick, they tried to comfort them. There were 10 campsites in Camp Scott, all were named after Native American Tribes. Lori, Denise, and Michele were in Camp Kiowa. This particular camp consisted of 7 campers tents, 1 counselors tent, a large campfire circle, the showers/latrine building. Typically it was 4 girls to a tent. But due to a mix-up, there were only 3 girls in tent 7 for the night. The 4th girl was currently in the wrong camp, and due to the weather, she wouldn’t be brought to Camp Kiowa until the following day. To pass the time, since it was raining, and they were unable to leave the tent to do any other activities, Lori, Denise, and Michele wrote letters to their families.
At some time before 10 pm on June 12, 1977, the counselor of Comanche camp saw a light in the forest moving north towards Kiowa camp but she was not sure what it was. Then around 10 pm, Dee Elder made a tent check of Kiowa camp and determined everything and everyone was fine. Two hours later, at around midnight, Carla Wilhite, after hearing some girls giggling and carrying on near the latrines, escorted those girls from the toilets to their tents.
Carla next describes that in the early morning hours, at approximately 1:30am, she had heard a sound she couldn’t make out as one she had never heard before. She didn’t recognize it as an animal. Carla said the noise was coming from an area near their unit. There is a little road that goes out away from the unit and that was where she heard the noise. She started to go over to investigate to see what it was with her flashlight. Gotta say, at 15 she was a lot braver than I would have been at her age. She discovered that when she would face the location of the sound it would stop. But when she turned her back to it, the sound would start again. She did the back & forth thing about 2 or 3 times. She explains in the documentary that she can hear it just as clear in her head these many years later as she did that night. She also appeared visibly upset about it. The sound was described as something in between a growl and a moan. To this day, she has never heard anything like it. She was scared and thought something might jump out from the woods at her. So she went back to the counselors’ tent. Carla harbors regret and guilt for not going to check out the sound more closely. Though given the nature of the crime, I’m not sure how well that would have worked out for her.
At 2 a.m., one of the girl scouts in tent 6 saw someone pull the tent flap back and shine a light inside. She couldn’t discern the features of the person, she just described seeing the silhouette of a large individual. The flap closed again, and the unidentified person went away. Supposedly, several girls described items having gone missing from their tents during the overnight.
At 3 a.m., a girl in the Cherokee Unit heard a scream coming from the direction of the Kiowa group. A girl in the Quapaw Unit also heard someone cry out, “Mama! Mama!” and thought she recognized the voice being Lori Farmer’s, as she had attended camp with her once before. She knew that Lori sometimes had nightmares, so she dismissed it and went back to sleep. I imagine in retrospect, that she likely feels guilty about not going to check on her, or getting a counselor to do so.
At 6am, the next morning, Carla’s alarm went off, she grabbed a pair of her glasses, and as she was walking out of the Kiowa unit towards the showers, she saw something in the road to her right. What she saw was a couple of sleeping bags on the ground. Her first thought was that she better pick them up, get them unrolled so they could dry out. As she got closer she could see the figure of a young girl partially on and partially off the road. The girl was nude from the waist down and as she got closer she could see the girl was dead. She initially thought the child may have got scared in the night & ran into a tree and died. She recognizes now it was a crazy thought, but she couldn’t make sense of what she was seeing. She went back & woke up the other 2 counselors, Dee & Susan, letting them know there was a dead child in the road, and that they needed to do a headcount of their kids.They actually went into each tent and reached out to physically touch each bed to make sure there was a child in it. Then Susan told Carla there’s nobody in tent 7.They were short 3 children.Carla ran to the camp director’s house on site and her husband was there as well. Richard, the director’s husband, was an emergency room nurse. He ran towards the scene. By the time Carla got back down to the scene where Richard already was, he had already found that inside each of the other 2 sleeping bags, they each contained the body of a young girl. Richard used a separate sleeping bag to cover the lower, exposed half of Denise’s body from onlookers. So now there are a total of 3 dead girls, 1 in each sleeping bag, and the body near them, half on the road, half off of it. He said they looked like they had been murdered. Carla realized at this point, it was something that had been intentionally done, not an accident after all. She said everything after that felt very surreal to her. Mostly because this was not something that was supposed to happen at girl scout camp.
Carla said the counselors had decided that they needed to find a way to get the children away from Kiowa, but had to do so without bringing them by the bodies.So, they woke the kids up, and pretended to be mad at them for keeping them up all night. And as a punishment they were going to make them go on a morning hike. Some of the girls went to Inspiration Point, others went to the craft hut. They were just trying to divert them away from the campsite.
Highway Patrol Officer Harold Berry was the first law enforcement officer at the scene and found one set of boot prints leading from Kiowa camp to the spot where the body was. The general scene was not secured until much later. A couple deputies arrived, along with the sheriff at the time, Glen “Pete” Weaver. All stationed around the sleeping bags, on the ground, under a tree, near the pathway. After about 45mins to an hour, more local deputies and police officers began showing up to Camp Scott. By 8am on June 13th, Sheriff Weaver knew he would need the assistance of a larger force and requested help from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI).
While this was going on, the executive director of the camp had arranged for the buses to come back to pick up all the girls at the camp and take them back to tulsa.
The media had begun to swarm and were stationed everywhere on the roads leading up to the camp. And the reporters would try to corner any officer at the scene for information about what they saw, or what had happened. Michael Wheat described them as “vermin or coyotes around a dead body”. The front gate was closed off and the police weren’t letting any reporters into the camp, except for Michael Wheat that is. The only thing any reporters really knew that first day was that 3 girl scouts were dead inside the camp. In the days following, more information started to leak, and news broadcasts began to tell the tale of 3 horrific murders, of 3 young girls, and the sheriff was saying that they had no suspects in their murders. He did however tell reporters that their bodies were found approximately 150ft from their tent. He also let it be known that there was no indication that they were dragged, were likely killed inside & carried from their tent. And admits there were signs of sexual assault. Does it seem strange to anyone else how much information is being shared this early on with the media by the sheriff, or law enforcement in general?
Current Sheriff Mike Reed details using some photos from the scene to describe what he thought happened to the girls on that first night of camp. He believes, much like the sheriff, that the girls were likely killed inside the tent. He said there were blood stains to both flaps of the A-framed tent where they met in the middle. The center piece of wood where the 2 flaps come together also had smeared blood transfer about midway up. Sheriff Reed demonstrated how he believed the person or persons involved in the killing likely put the girls inside the sleeping bag, and carried the bag over their shoulder, much like Santa Claus toting his bag of presents. He said the girls weighed approximately 60-70lbs each, so it wouldn’t have been that difficult to transport them 150ft from their tent, one by one. Also, the way the bodies were so low in the sleeping bags it was as gravity pulled them to the bottom. And,the upper half of the sleeping bags were somewhat cinched together.
Parents of girl scouts at the camp were not made aware of all of the details of what had taken place at the camp, and were only advised that they needed to pick up their child or children at the Magic Empire Council Building in Tulsa at 10am. They were only getting the information the media was reporting, and no names of the deceased at this point had been released to the public. So, imagine being a parent, knowing something bad had taken place at the camp, so bad that all the girls are being brought back to where they had boarded the same buses just the day before. You don’t know if it involves your daughter or not, because like I mentioned, no names have been released to the public. It’s a chaotic scene, and to make matters worse, the buses were delayed an hour from their original, planned arrival time. The girls returning home know nothing about why they are returning and all these parents know is that 3 unnamed girls are dead, and it could quite possibly be theirs.
Lori Lee Farmer’s father, Bo, had just finished working an overnight shift at the local emergency room, where he worked as an ER Doctor, when he was called to the nurse’s station for a phone call. The call was from the camp director, Barbara Day, informing him that something terrible had happened and his daughter, Lori was dead. No other details were provided to him about how she died, or that she was murdered. He came home, with a partner from the hospital, to inform his wife, Sheri, about Lori’s death. Actually they called her “Lo” for short. She said she could already tell by his expression that something was wrong and when they asked her to sit down, she told them “no”, because she knew whatever it was, it was going to “change everything”. He told her, “Lori died in the night”, and she said everything did change after that.
Denise Milner, who’s real name was Doris, but she preferred Denise, didn’t want to go to the camp after she found out her friends had changed their minds about going. But, as I mentioned earlier, her mother wanted her to try it out and then if she didn’t like it, she could come home. It seems, daughter was right in this instance. But, what was probably even more of a premonition, was when Kassie, Denise’s younger sister, who was 5 at the time, asked their mother after Denise boarded the bus, the question of “what happens when people die?” Clearly caught off guard, her mother asked her why she was asking. And Kassie responded by saying because “tomorrow everybody’s gonna die.” The following day, after the death of Denise, the director had a hard time tracking down her mother, Bettye. They finally found her at the school that she was working at, called her into the school office, and told her the news about the deaths of the 3 girls, and that Denise was one of them. That was really it. It wasn’t until she came home from work, later that day, that she had a cousin that called the medical examiner, that she found out that Denise had been strangled. More specifically, Doris Milner had been bound and her mouth was stuffed with a pre-made gag. She was sexually assaulted, bludgeoned, and strangled to death.
There’s not much information on the notification of Michelle Guse’s family.
There was actually some backlash at Barbara Day, the director of Camp Scott, and at the Magic Empire Council, who owned the campgrounds, as they reportedly contacted their insurance company & attorney first, before contacting the police or any of the families of the slain girls. And, the families weren’t told the details surrounding their daughter’s deaths, just that they had died. That information was either learned, as the general public found out, through the local news media on t.v., or as Bettye Milner found out, from the medical examiner’s office. As with other details of the case, it was just handled poorly.
Michael Wheat, was a reporter for “The Pryor Jeffersonian”, a weekly newspaper, circulation of about 5,000. His job for the paper was to chase cop cars, ambulances, fire trucks, anything or anyone that could possibly lead to a story. He got a call at about 7am when he got a phone call from the Pryor Police dispatcher, telling him to get his camera and go to Camp Scott. He drove about 15 miles from his house to the camp. He went through the camp gate where police officers were stationed. They actually waved him on thru. When he got further onto the camp grounds, counselors pointed him in the direction he should go. He could hear the children singing after parking and getting out of his car. He went around taking photos of the crime scene, and objects surrounding the scene: a pair of prescription eyeglasses, rope, a modified flashlight, hair brushes, just anything on the ground in the area. Then, the sheriff wanted him to take photos inside of tent 7. Now, as I mentioned earlier, the tent was A-framed, the flaps had been pulled back, and there were 2 wooden posts for support, located at the front and rear of the tent, in the center, where the “A” is at its peak. There were 4 metal cots inside, 2 to the left, 2 to the right, one in front of the other. The girls partially unpacked belongings were on the floor beside their beds. It appears from the photos that it was a partially unpacked suitcase, duffel, and book bag. The sheets from most of the mattresses had been removed. Those sheets were later found stuffed inside the sleeping bags with the girls bodies, as they were used to wipe up some of the blood from inside the tent. He took photos of the cots, the footprints on the floor, saying he stepped on the footprints with his Hushpuppies shoes. He also describes in the documentary that he didn’t have a good feeling being in the tent. And, almost 45 years later, it still comes back to haunt him. Not surprising, considering what just took place there.
The evidence suggested the crime had been planned in advance. The gag on Doris was pre-sown and the killer had also brought along nylon rope and duct tape for binding the victims. Semen was found on each body, and a red flashlight was found next to them. There was a hair caught in the duct tape that did not belong to any of the three girls.
Strangely enough, just two months prior, a camp counselor discovered that her belongings had been ransacked and an empty box of donuts left behind. It was likely the donuts were eaten. Inside the box, a note had been left that said, “We are on a mission to kill three girls in tent one.” The camp director treated the message as a joke. Other staff would report hearing noises around Camp Scott, with dogs often being on alert. One of the things I thought about when reading about this message is that on the map, tent 7 would have been the 1st tent in the Kiowa section of the camp if counting from top to bottom. But the Girl Scouts numbered the tents 1-7 from bottom to top. Also, I want to point out that many people who have told the story of the girl scout murders will refer to the tent of the murdered girls as tent 8, not 7. That is because they are including the camp counselors tent in their count. However, for our podcast, and in the eyes of those who investigated the murders, it is referred to as tent number 7.
Based on the evidence at the scene, the killer likely approached from the rear of Tent 7 and unhooked the back flaps to gain entry. Investigators believed that Lori and Michelle were both bludgeoned to death inside the tent, judging by blood spatter on the canvas walls and wooden floor. They were both sexually assaulted. The killer tried to clean up the blood using bed sheets, but one single boot print was left behind, a size 9.5. No fingerprints were found inside the tent.
The autopsy found that the weapons used were held in both the left and right hands of the killer or killers. It was also evident that more than one weapon was used in the bludgeoning of all 3, and two different knots had been used in tying up the girls. There were those that believed the presence of two differently tied knots meant there were possibly two killers, as opposed to one. A fingerprint was found on the lens of the flashlight near the tent, but it was never identified. The rope and tape left behind at the scene had recently been stolen from a farm a mile from Camp Scott. The farmer, Jack Shroff, had an alibi and also passed a voluntary lie detector test. So, he was ruled out as a suspect in the killings. The OSBI quickly eliminated all obvious males as suspects including Richard Day, the camp director’s husband and camp ranger Ben Woodward. There was another suspect, however, that law enforcement would target in on that they believed was a solid suspect in the case.
Accessed June, 2022. The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders https://truecrimeandchill.com/season-2/the-oklahoma-girl-scout-murders/
Accessed June, 2022. The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders Unsolved http://www.girlscoutmurders.com/index.html
Accessed June, 2022. New York Times June 17, 1977 http://www.girlscoutmurders.com/images/funerals_for_girls_1.jpg
Accessed June, 2022. Remembering Michele http://www.girlscoutmurders.com/images/G_michelle_1.jpg
Accessed June, 2022. Remembering Lori http://www.girlscoutmurders.com/images/G_article8.jpg
Accessed June, 2022. Remembering Denise http://www.girlscoutmurders.com/images/G_article22.jpg
Accessed June, 2022. Leroy Hart Trial to Begin Monday http://www.girlscoutmurders.com/images/trial_to_begin_1.jpg
Accessed June, 2022. Unsolved Mysteries: Horror at Camp Scott: The Girl Scout Murders https://medium.com/the-mystery-box/horror-at-camp-scott-the-girl-scout-murders-78195eb3eb49
Accessed June, 2022. Dark Ideas https://darkideas.net/true-crime-articles/wrongful-conviction/the-oklahoma-girl-scout-murders/
Accessed June, 2022. Saturday Oklahoman and Times http://girlscoutmurders.com/images/WISE_GRIMSLEY_secret_book_deal_1_file.jpg
Accessed June, 2022. Murder Mystery: The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders https://www.aymag.com/murder-mystery-the-oklahoma-girl-scout-murders/
Accessed June, 2022. AbandonedOK Camp Scott https://abandonedok.com/camp-scott/
Accessed June, 2022. Girl Scout Murders: DNA Closes The Case 45 Years Later https://www.news9.com/story/6279dba06e504b0726fcb888/girl-scout-murders:-dna-closes-the-case-45-years-later-
Accessed June, 2022. Keeper of the Ashes: The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders https://www.hulu.com/series/keeper-of-the-ashes-the-oklahoma-girl-scout-murders-ef3c55e1-0799-4432-a0fd-868d29566a7e
Accessed June, 2022. African Violets https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streptocarpus_sect._Saintpaulia