People Magazine Investigates is examining the disappearance of two teenagers, Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman, who were presumed to have been murdered shortly after Ashely’s parents, Danny and Kathy Freeman, were also killed at their home in Welch, Oklahoma.
This shocking case remains largely unresolved. The police believe that Ronnie Busick, Warren Welch, and David Pennington were guilty of the murders, but only one of those men has ever been charged. And the bodies of Lauria and Ashley have yet to be recovered.
On December 29, 1999, 16-year-old Lauria Bible went for a sleepover at her best friend, 16-year-old Ashley Freeman’s mobile home. In the early hours of December 30, a passer-by spotted that the home on fire and called the Fire Brigade.
The firefighters uncovered a particularly grisly scene once they’d gotten the flames under control; they found the remains of Ashley’s parents, Danny and Kathy, both of whom had been shot dead at close range. And disturbingly, there was no sign of the two teenage girls.
Multiple searches for Lauria and Ashley yielded no clues about what had happened to them. Still, the police quickly concluded that they had been kidnapped and subsequently murdered by the same individuals who had killed Danny and Kathy Freeman.
Ronnie Busick was arrested 2 decades later
The case lay cold for nearly 20 years, until 2018, when the police arrested Ronnie Busick. Along with two accomplices, Warren Welch and David Pennington, Busick is suspected of playing a role in the murders and kidnapping.
Welch and Pennington have both died and were never charged. But in July 2020, Busick pleaded guilty to being an accessory to first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Danny and Kathy Freeman, the burning of their home, and the abduction and presumed murders of the two girls.
The police believe that Welch, Pennington, and Busick killed the Freemans because Danny had an unpaid drug debt. They also believe that Ashley and Lauria had tried to flee the scene but were abducted and held captive, tortured, and raped for two weeks before they were killed.
As part of his plea deal, Busick agreed to help investigators locate the remains of Ashley and Lauria. He told them that the girls had been held in Welch’s cellar for two weeks, and he provided an address where he thought they were buried. But, unfortunately, a search turned up nothing.
Busick was sentenced to 15 years for the crimes; 5 of those years were suspended, meaning he will spend 10 years behind bars. Busick was in poor health at the time of sentencing, and he is not expected to survive the 10 years.
More from People Magazine Investigates
Follow the links to read about more murders profiled on People Magazine Investigates.
Rodney Reed was convicted of murdering teenager Stacey Stites in rural Texas in 1996. However, in a case shrouded in racial tension and prejudice, there is growing doubt that Reed’s conviction was deserved.
LeeAnna Warner was just 5 years old when she vanished while walking home from a friend’s house in Chisholm, Minnesota. The police assumed she was abducted and murdered, but no killer has ever been charged.
People Magazine Investigates: Bible Belt Massacre airs at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.