Forty years ago, a heinous crime was committed at the expense of three innocent young girls. Until now, the investigation had devolved into a cold case with little promise of restitution.
The innocents, three girl scouts between the ages of 8 and 10, were all raped, then brutally murdered while at a two-week Girl Scout camp in Oklahoma. With a surprisingly insufficient amount of evidence to work with, police began their search for the person responsible.
The main suspect in the early part of the investigation, Gene Leroy Hart, was arrested and placed on trial in 1979. A jury acquitted the man — who was a previously convicted rapist and fugitive — on the basis of insufficient evidence and the possibility that he had been framed.
Hart suffered a heart attack and died shortly after the sentencing hearing. He was in jail at the time, serving out his remaining sentence for his previous crime and escape.
Since Hart’s death, a number of leads have popped up to no avail. One of the most notable such leads surfaced in July 2011.
A filmmaker and ex-convict, John Russell Penn, came forward with information he had gathered from personal conversations while incarcerated.
Using his insider information, Penn wished to film a dramatized retelling of the events surrounding the case. He hoped his film would reveal the true criminal. However, the film has remained in pre-production for the past six years; an early trailer can be seen below.
The information he provided the police during the film’s inception has seemingly led to nothing helpful. When police received the information in 2011, a spokesperson said, “This is a lead like any other lead we have gotten over the 30 plus years and we are going to run it out the best we can and go from there.”
The absence of closure for the triple rape/homicide has taken a toll on the girls’ families. One can only imagine the pain endured while seeking out the person responsible for such an unspeakable crime. Yet one mother has not stopped in the pursuit of justice.
Sheri Farmer, mother of the 9-year-old victim Lori Farmer, has been the most public voice during the past 40 years.
She has responded to news sources regarding a number of leads, including Penn’s film. In her most recent interview with People Magazine she claims, “I would like to know who did this.”
The subject of this most recent interview is regarding the potential for new DNA testing on some of the preserved pieces of evidence.
The most remarkable part of this story is not necessarily the evidence itself, but the circumstances surrounding the DNA testing. In order for these tests to even be conducted, $30,000 had to be raised.
Sheriff Mike Reed was responsible for this act of fundraising, gathering the Mayes County community together in the name of generosity and justice. He has united his community in the hope that this DNA testing will lead to the identity of the killer.
Sheri Farmer maintains this same hope, as she has done for the past 40 years. Such a commitment to the truth is something that should not be written off — especially under these most unfortunate of circumstances.
We hope that our next report on the case will reveal definitive evidence, and the closure that comes with it. Until such a time, we wish both the families and the victims peace.
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