June 13th, 1977 was the opening day of Camp Scott, a Girl Scout camp in Locust Grove, Oklahoma which was starting its 49th season. It would also be its last… as the next morning, a camp counselor found three young campers brutally murdered in their tent.
Nearly 40 years later, one of the most heinous crimes in modern Oklahoma history, the case is still considered open and unsolved.
Two months before camp opened, the counselors were on-site for a training session. One of the tents was ransacked and a hand-written note was left behind, promising that three campers would be murdered. In a time before the camp-set slasher flick, the note was considered a joke and thrown away.
A week prior to the murders, a nearby rancher reported his house had been burglarized, and it was later determined that some of the stolen goods were likely used in the crimes.
On the night of June 12th, counselors reported seeing two men in army boots behind the tents. But nothing could prepare them for the scene that was discovered on the morning of June 14th.
Counselor Carla Willhite woke around midnight, hearing strange guttural sounds, but a quick check of the camp revealed nothing amiss. When she woke again at 6am, Carla found Lori Lee Farmer, eight, Michele Guse, nine, and Doris Milner, ten, dead, dragged from their tents and left on a trail.
The camp was quickly evacuated, and the scene contained. Tape, rope, a gag, and flashlight were all collected from the scene. Milner died from strangulation; Guse and Farmer died from beatings; all three had been sexually abused.
Items stolen from the camp were found in a nearby cave, along with photos and other evidence that eventually led investigators to name Gene Leroy Hart as their prime suspect. Hart had a long history of violence, with convictions for burglary, rape, and kidnapping to his name. He had escaped prison several years before the murders, and it would be another ten months before Hart would be apprehended.
In 1979, Hart went on trial for the triple murder, but he was acquitted. Jury members had said that they didn’t necessarily believe him to be innocent; they just didn’t believe that the case against Hart had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Some on the jury thought that the crimes had to have been committed by multiple people. Hart returned to prison anyway, to finish out a previous sentence, as well as additional time for the escape. Two months later, Hart died of a heart attack.
Over the decades, as technology improved, evidence has been tested and re-tested. Unfortunately, all tests have been inconclusive, and the evidence has deteriorated so much that it may never lead to a suspect.
The camp never reopened after the murders. It was essentially abandoned as it stood, and remains a chilling reminder of the shocking tragedy.