It’s been 45 years since Lori Lee Farmer and two other Girl Scouts were murdered in Oklahoma on a routine camping trip.
At just 8 years old, Lori was the youngest of the deceased in this absolutely heartwrenching case, which is the subject of a new ABC News true crime docuseries Keeper of the Ashes: The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders coming to Hulu today.
Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth hosts the series and has a personal tie to the tragedy. Kristin not only grew up with the Girl Scouts—she was actually a member of the same troop in Oklahoma. In fact, Kristin was supposed to attend the same camp and share a tent with the three victims. But right before the trip, Kristin got sick and stayed home.
"This is a story I wish I never had to tell," Kristin said in the series' trailer. "It haunts me every day. But this story, it needs to be told."
"When I think of those three girls, I wonder what's the best way to honor them," Kristin, who was nine at the time of the murders, adds in the trailer. "That's why I'd come back home, to find answers once and for all."
A warning though: This story does not have a satisfying ending. “There’s no closure,” Kristin says. “There’s no pretty red bow at the end.”
Here's what to know about Lori Lee Farmer, and how her family keeps her spirit alive through advocacy work.
Who was Lori Lee Farmer?
Sheri Farmer, Lori’s mother, says her daughter was smart, strong, loving, and the oldest of her five children, according to News on 6.
"[Lori] loved when a new baby arrived," Sherri recalled. "She was the quintessential oldest child, and she took care of everyone."
Her father Dr. Charles “Bo” Farmer told jurors at trial that Lori was “an exceptional child. She was extremely bright.
"One day, to give you an example, we were sitting at the breakfast table... Lori was 16 months old... and just all of a sudden, she recited the Pledge of Allegiance, flawlessly," he said at trial, according to a report from the time by The Oklahoman.
He recalled his daughter doing a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle at the age of 2. She even skipped the second grade after she scored a 130 on an IQ test, and was tested at the mental age of 10.
Lor had never been to a Girls Scout summer camp. But just before her 9th birthday, Lori asked her mom Sheri if she could attend. On her very first night at the camp, Lori was sexually assaulted and murdered alongside two other girls in her tent, Michele Guse, 9, and Doris Denise Milner, 10.
Was the Oklahoma Girl Scout murder case ever solved?
Not really. The morning after the murders, camp counselor Carla Willhite found the children, according to SK Pop. The girls’ bodies were found inside their sleeping bags. Ropes, a crowbar, duct tape, and a flashlight with a partial fingerprint were found at the crime scene, according to the SK Pop report.
The murderer also left behind a note that read: “We are on a mission to kill three girls in tent one.”
Gene Leroy Hart, who had previously been convicted of kidnapping and assaulting two pregnant women, was considered a suspect at the time. He was eventually acquitted of all charges at trial but sent to prison for his earlier crimes. He died of a heart attack shortly after arriving in prison.
It was not until earlier this month that the most recent DNA testing in the case suggested that Gene Leroy Hart might be involved in the crime, according to reporting from Tulsa World. Officials said they have eliminated every potential suspect in the case—outside of Hart.
Dr. Charles “Bo” Farmer, Lori’s father, always believed Hart was responsible.
“Every bit of information we’ve gotten over the last 40 years has just continued to nail it down more and more,” Bo told Tusla World.
Where is Lori's mom, Sheri Farmer, now?
Sheri, who recently celebrated her 77th birthday, told Tulsa World that she has relied on her faith to find peace. Ahe has also been a strong advocate for crime victims' rights at a time when such legislation barely existed. Sheri recently helped with Marsy’s Law for Oklahoma, which secures timely case updates and other benefits for surviving families.
“I’m at peace, but that does not mean closure. When I sit down for my birthday with my daughters, you’ll see me laughing—and yet I am aware we’re not all there. And that’s still real. There’s no closure that will change that,” she told Tulsa World.
Where is Lori's dad, Dr. Charles “Bo” Farmer, now?
Bo and Sheri have been selective about talking to the press. But they ultimately decided to participate in the ABC News series.
“We’re getting older, for one thing,” Bo told Tulsa World. “And the reality is, somebody is going to do a documentary whether we are involved or not. So we decided we might as well entertain doing it with whoever we think will do the best job and represent us, and where we have at least some input.”
The ABC project was appealing because the four episodes would allow for more explanation, he told the paper.
Bo added: “It’s been one day after another for whatever 365 times 45 years is. You take it day by day. And you can either cowboy up and face the next day or you can fall apart.”
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