|City/Town: • Locust Grove|
|Location Class: • Amusement Park|
|Year Built: • 1928 | Year Abandoned: • June 13, 1977|
|Status: • Endangered|
|Photojournalist: • AbandonedOK Team • Billy Dixon • David Linde • Johnny Fletcher|
First opening on August 11, 1928 as Camp Ma-Del-Co and running for just a two-week period. Costs ran at either $5.00 for the first five days or $9.00 for the entire ten-day stay. The camp and the 240-acres it sits on were owned by the Tulsa Scout Council, there were a total of twenty buildings on the property at the time of opening complete with plumbing and running water. Camp activities included swimming, CPR training, archery, pathfinding, bridge building, bird study, insect life, and leadership skills. Just a few short years later it got the name Camp Scott, it would keep this until and well after its closing.
Over the next almost five decades the camp held numerous events including the Rancho Festival, Water Carnival, and Oklahoma Academy of Science’s annual meeting and even at one point holding the State Conference of 1947. Continuing to teach kids vital skills and the greatness of the outdoors, attendance was all but low with attendance reaching 4,606 girls attending the camp in 1957 alone. In 1977, Camp Scott was celebrating its 49th year as a keystone of the Tulsa-based Magic Empire Girl Scout Council when tragedy struck.
In April of 1977 during an on-site cadet weekend, camp aide Michelle Hoffman found her and her campmates’ tent ransacked and some donuts that she had brought from home, emptied. In the empty box with the crumbs, she found a few pieces of tiny steno notebook paper with strange and threatening words written on them. On two or three pages was the word “kill” repeatedly written over and over again. Written on a fourth page was something even more threatening, “We’re on a mission to kill three girls.” Hoffman, concerned about the strange occurrence took the note to the camp director, who said she would check into it. She later learned that a group of girls at camp that weekend had supposedly confessed to doing the incident. Because summer camps are rife with ghost stories and such, the note was assumed to be a prank and discarded.
June 12, 1977, was the opening day of Camp Scott, hundreds of girls were dropped off by their parents for what they thought would be days of fun and the outdoors. Around 6 pm a thunderstorm hit the Mayes County area, and everyone throughout the camp huddled into their tents. In Tent #7 located within the Kiowa Camp area were three campers, Lori Lee Farmer (8 yo), Doris Denise Milner (10 yo), both native Tulsans, and Michele Guse (9 yo) of Broken Arrow.
“Dear Mom and Dad and Misti and Jo and Chad and Kathy. We’re just getting ready to go to bed. It’s 7:45. We’re at the beginning of a storm and having a lot of fun. I’ve met two new friends, Michele Guse and Denise Milner. I’m sharing a tent with them. It’s started raining on the way back from dinner. We’re sleeping on cots. I couldn’t wait to write. We’re all riding letters now ’cause there’s hardly anything else to do. With love, Lori” — Final letter from Lori Farmer
At around 6 a.m. the following morning, a camp counselor on her way to the shower found one of the victims’ body in her sleeping bag on the trail to the showers. The frightening discovery was soon made, all three girls in tent #7 had been murdered. Their bodies had been left on a trail leading to the showers, about 150 yards from their tent. Two of the girls were bludgeoned to death and the third being strangled, and horrifically sexually assaulted. Between 2:30 and 3 a.m. on June 13, a landowner heard “quite a bit” of traffic on a remote road near the camp. A red flashlight found on top of one of the girls’ bodies displayed a fingerprint on the lens, but it has never been identified, as well as a footprint from a 9.5 shoe size was also found in the blood in the tent.
Word to other camps all across the state such as Camp Red Rock spread quickly and security was increased at all other locations. All of the girls at Camp Scott were sheltered from the news and evacuated from the property and brought to Tulsa for their parents to pick them up. The Magic Empire Council, owner of Camp Scott at the time came under immediate fire for contacting their insurance provider and attorney before notifying the parents of the deceased of what had happened to their children. Camp Scott quickly became a massive crime scene with the entire property scattered with police and the FBI. The case sparked the largest manhunts in Oklahoma history having over six hundred volunteers coming out to search and costing over $100,000. After bringing in tracking dogs, police believed they had located the murder weapon on June 16, publicly revealing it to have been a crowbar. While no suspects had been officially identified yet, the press were already speculating that an escaped convict by the name of Gene Leroy Hart may have been involved. Police had also located a cave around a few miles away that appeared to have had someone living in it. Inside the cave were eyeglasses stolen from Camp Scott, duct tape that matched the tape found at the scene, a flashlight battery, and two photographs featuring three women that investigators linked to Hart. The cave was a few hundred feet from a cellar and foundation that had been Gene Hart’s childhood home. Writing on the wall of another nearby cave read, “The killer was here. Bye bye fools. 77–6–17″.
Gene Leroy Hart had been convicted in Mayes County of kidnapping and sexually assaulting two pregnant women. He was taken into prison on 10-15-1966 and given two ten-year sentences to be served concurrently. In 1973 he had escaped with two other inmates from Mayes County Jail, remnants of his childhood home being only a few miles from the Camp Scott site speculation of him being the murderer spread like wildfire. And by the end of the month, Gene Leroy Hart was charged with first-degree murder. On July 30, 1977 using the American Indian Movement as a spokesperson, Hart denied having any role in the girls’ deaths but said he would continue running out of fear that if he were to surrender he would “have the hell shot out of him.”
Hart was arrested finally found and arrested ten months later on April 6, 1978 at the home of a Cherokee medicine man after a local tip came in about his whereabouts. He was deemed fit to stand trial which was slated to start on March 19, 1979. Although the local sheriff thought Hart to be “one thousand percent” guilty a local jury acquitted him of the charges and he was found innocent on March 31, 1979. Hart would return to prison at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary serving 145 to 305 years for his previous crimes of rape, kidnapping and burglary, charges unrelated to the Girl Scout slayings. The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders is still to this day an unsolved crime in rural Mayes County, Oklahoma. On June 4, 1979 after only being back in prison for a little over a month Gene Leroy Hart collapsed from a heart attack and was pronounced dead at the McAlester Regional Hospital.
June 13th, 1977 was the last day that Camp Scott was open after nearly 50 years of hosting Girl Scouts, it closed its doors and never reopened. Two of the families later sued the Magic Empire Council and its insurer in a $5 million alleged negligence action. The civil trial included discussion of the notes from April 1977 would be brought up among evidence cited in trying to prove the Girl Scouts should have been alert in advance to possible danger. As the fact that tent #7 lay 86-yards from the counselors’ tent. The defense suggested that the future of summer camping, in general, hung in the balance. In 1985, by a 9–3 vote, jurors sided with the camp. Magic Empire Council decided to sell the entire property and remnants of the camp buildings in 1988
Richard Guse, the father of Michele Guse, went on to help the state legislature pass the Oklahoma Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights and the Oklahoma Victims’ Compensation Board. Sheri Farmer, the mother of Lori Farmer, went on to found the Oklahoma Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children a support group to help those grieving.
Article by AOK Photojournalist Emily Cowan.
We want to give a huge thanks to Kevin Weaver over at GirlScoutMurders.com for giving us a personal tour and his help researching.
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