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Chad Hunter
Cherokee Phoenix 

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s top marshal says he’s assigned an investigator to look into potential new information surrounding the 1977 slayings of three Girl Scouts during a camping trip near Locust Grove.

“We’ve had some information come to our office related to the Girl Scout murders,” Marshal Service Director Shannon Buhl told tribal leaders Sept. 29 during a monthly report. “So I’ve assigned him to run some of that down. He’s one of my MMIP investigators – missing and murdered indigenous people.”

On June 13, 1977, the bodies of Lori Lee Farmer, 8, of Tulsa, Michelle Guse, 9, of Broken Arrow, and Doris Denise Milner, 10, of Tulsa, were discovered at Camp Scott near Locust Grove after they had been abducted from their tent during the night.

Prison escapee Gene Leroy Hart, a man noted at the time as being of Cherokee descent, was later arrested and charged with murder and rape in the case, but was acquitted at trial in 1979 and died of an apparent heart attack two months later in prison, where he was serving a more than 300-year sentence for previous rape and kidnapping convictions.

In 2011, film director John Russell pointed to convicted murderer Karl Lee Myers as the killer. Russell said in 1979 Myers confessed to him personally about the Girl Scout murders.

“He confessed three times to six murders in the northeast Oklahoma area. He also confessed once to the Camp Scott murders,” Russell said in 2011.

Myers, 64, died in prison in 2012 while serving an unrelated first-degree murder conviction on death row.

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In 2014, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation’s cold case unit sent more than 200 items to a private lab for updated forensic testing.

“The Girl Scouts’ murder investigation has been one of the most extensive investigations in OSBI’s 89-year history,” then-OSBI Director Stan Florence said at the time. “When I became director three years ago, I authorized a comprehensive review of the entire case to identify any possible leads we may further develop and explore additional scientific measures that could draw a clear conclusion to the case.”

Buhl said the Cherokee Nation became involved following the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling in 2020. McGirt and a subsequent state-level case, Hogner v. Oklahoma, gave the Cherokee Nation and federal government jurisdiction over crimes involving Indians throughout the reservation. The state of Oklahoma now has jurisdiction over crimes only involving non-Indians. 

“Once McGirt happened, stuff that was normally the state’s jurisdiction … is now ours if there’s a Native American victim,” Buhl said. “So there’s a Native American victim in the Girl Scout murders. So that scene now becomes part of our missing and murdered investigation that we’re looking into.”

Pre-McGirt, Buhl said he had one missing and murdered case.

“The moment McGirt was decided, I got 14,” he said. “So we have a person that’s assigned to handle those cases.”

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This article was originally published in the Cherokee Phoenix.