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Who was Girl Scout Murders suspect Gene Leroy Hart?

Yasmine Leung May 17, 2022
screenshot, YouTube - Merc Docs

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Gene Leroy Hart was acquitted in 1979 of charges relating to the murder of three girl scouts but Tulsa World claims new DNA reports suggest he was involved.

Hulu’s upcoming true-crime docuseries, Keeper Of The Ashes: The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders, sees actress and Oklahoma-native Kristin Chenoweth return to her home state to investigate the mystery surrounding the murder of three young girls in 1977 during their first night at Camp Scott.

Scheduled to air on Tuesday, 24 May, the documentary has reignited media interest in chief suspect Gene Leroy Hart, who was arrested but later acquitted of the murders. New DNA testing, however, “strongly suggests Hart’s involvement, while eliminating several other potential suspects” Tulsa World states.

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Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders explained

In June 1977, the bodies of three girl scouts aged between eight and ten – Lori Lee Farmer, Doris Denise Milner, and Michele Heather Guse – were found in the woods near their camp tent.

Fingerprints on the bodies and a red torch, as well as two footprints of differing sizes, were found at the scene. No official suspects were identified but Medium reports the press believed escaped convict Hart was involved.

Police dogs eventually discovered a cave near Hart’s childhood home with the words “The killer was here. Bye bye fools. 77–6–17” written on the wall.

Hart remained on the run for another year, a manhunt that allegedly cost authorities $1.25 million in today’s currency, before he was arrested in a cabin on 6 April 1978. His murder trial began on 19 March 1979.

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DNA testing results have existed since 2019

Mayes County Sheriff Mike Reed claims that, more than 40 years after the murders, new DNA testing – although inconclusive –- points to a connection with Hart.

Reed said: “Unless something new comes up, something brought to light we are not aware of, I am convinced of Hart’s guilt and involvement in this case.”

DNA had been collected from potential suspects over the years but the latest test has excluded all suspects except Hart.

The DNA results have reportedly been known since 2019 but were only made public recently after the victims’ families asked for them to be used as part of the docuseries.

Reed only revisited the case at the families’ request after he was elected in 2012.

Who was Gene Leroy Hart?

Born 27 November 1943, Hart was 34 years old at the time of the deaths. A Native American, he was raised about a mile from Camp Scott.

Before the girl scout incident, Hart had been convicted of rape, kidnapping and burglary after he abducted two pregnant woman outside a nightclub in 1966, Strange Outdoors reports. He was handed a 305-year sentence but escaped Mayes County Jail in 1973.

Hart was subsequently charged with three first-degree murders for the deaths of the Girl Scouts but was acquitted on 30 March 1979 due to lack of evidence. DNA testing was not available at the time.

He was, however, sent back to jail for his previous convictions and died in jail of a heart attack on 4 June 1979.

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Yasmine is a third-year Anthropology and Media student at Goldsmiths University with a new obsession with League of Legends, despite being really bad. She's always on social media keeping on top of the latest news and trends and is HITC’s expert in Korean pop culture. She also loves music, TV and fashion - her favourite things to write about.