As the parents of Lauria Bible made their way toward the burning wreck of the trailer home, there’s no way to know what was going through their minds. After all, the night before their daughter had come over for a seemingly normal sleepover with her friend – and now she was gone.
Friends Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman were both aged 16 and both hailed from Oklahoma. Ashley, in fact, resided in the tiny town of Welch, which is comprised of just 600 people. There, she lived in a trailer home with her parents, Danny and Kathy Freeman.
On December 30, 1999 – the day after Ashley’s sweet 16 – the girls had a sleepover at the Freemans’ trailer home. Little did Lauria’s mom Lorena know, however, that that was the last time she would ever see her daughter. In fact, the day was the last time anyone would ever see the girls again.
For that night tragedy struck when the Freemans’ trailer home burned to the ground. And when police officers from the Craig County Sheriff’s Department arrived on the scene, the teenagers were nowhere to be found.
Ashley’s parents, on the other hand, were both found inside the trailer, their bodies scorched from the flames. But it wasn’t the fire that had claimed their lives. In fact, the authorities discovered that they had both suffered gunshot wounds to the head.
Mr. Freeman’s body was not found straight away, either. In fact, the police didn’t spot it when they first combed the crime scene. Instead, it was Lauria’s mother and father who came across Mr. Freeman’s body the following day.
Meanwhile, the officers found Lauria’s car parked nearby, with the keys still in the ignition. Clearly, then, it had not been used as a getaway vehicle. And back in the trailer, they discovered Lauria’s purse, with $200 in cash still contained inside.
Various pieces of the puzzle surrounding the girls’ disappearance were beginning to fall into place. However, it was clear that they didn’t yet create a full picture of what had happened. And while the police had various theories regarding who might have been behind the incident, there were no solid leads.
For example, they considered the possibility that Ashley may have been responsible for the death of her parents. After all, there were reports that she didn’t get on well with her father. But police now believe that there was no way she could have stayed off the grid for so many years.
Complicating matters further, there were also rumors that Ashley’s father had been dealing marijuana. And just a fortnight before his death, he was apparently witnessed arguing with two unknown men. Nevertheless, no firm evidence could be found to back up this particular theory.
Another lead taken into consideration at the time of the murders surrounded the death of Mr. Freeman’s son, Shane, who’d been killed by police officers after stealing a truck. As a result, Mr. Freeman had intended to file a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office.
Indeed, Mr. Freeman had allegedly even warned a family member that should anything happen to him, then the Craig County Sheriff’s Department should be the first place to look for the culprits. It seemed possible, then, that the officers had a motive for silencing Mr. Freeman.
However, a judge subsequently ruled that Shane’s killing had not been unlawful given the circumstances. The officers involved in Shane’s case, meanwhile, all passed lie detector tests relating to the deaths of Shane’s parents and the disappearance of the girls.
Various criminals have also been linked to the girls’ disappearance over the years. They include death row inmate Jeremy Jones and convicted killer Tommy Lynn Sells, who have both confessed to the crime. However, with no evidence to corroborate their statements, their claims were ultimately dismissed.
In 2016 – 16 years on from the time Ashley and Lauria had last been seen – Lauria’s mother, Lorena, set up a Facebook page that she hoped would keep the case in the media spotlight and perhaps even find answers. Indeed, it’s clear that the distraught mom hasn’t given up the search for her daughter.
When she launched her new campaign for information, then, Lorena told news.com.au, “She’s been gone half her life this year. I just decided to see what social media could do. I was just hoping and thinking, after 16 years, what can we do? What other avenues haven’t I done?”
And surprisingly, this new initiative from Lorena resulted in investigators seeing a bunch of fresh leads come in from Missouri, Kansas and the girls’ native Oklahoma. As a result, multiple interviews were carried out. One potential witness was even hypnotized to retrieve memories buried deep in their subconscious. Indeed, the case became more active than it had been in a decade, with detectives encouraged by the new information flowing in.
One new connection that arose in early 2016, for instance, was to another convicted criminal, Charles Christian Krider. He’d been jailed in 2004 for the murder of Judith Schrum and was allegedly a friend of Mr. Freeman’s. As a result, he was investigated and his old property searched. However, no evidence was found to link him to the girls’ disappearance.
Nevertheless, the authorities believe that someone in the area may well know what happened to the girls. “There are still people scared of whoever did this,” Lorena told The Miami News-Record. “The fear for them is still there.”
Years on, Lorena continues to think about who her daughter might have grown up to become. Indeed, the grieving mom just wants closure now, and that’s why every six months she continues to “stir the pot” regarding Lauria’s case. Ultimately, however, no trace of Lauria Bible or Ashley Freeman has ever been seen since that fateful night in 1999 – and we may never know the truth of what happened to them.