Judge sets date for discovery on the Preliminary Hearing Sounding Docket for only surviving suspect in the Freeman/Bible case.
VINITA – At some point, most parents have experienced split second, gut-wrenching terror when their child has disappeared from sight, but for Lorene Bible that agony has gone on since 1999, as she continues to wonder.
Law enforcement, investigators, and prosecutors believe Bible’s 16-year-old daughter Lauria and her friend Ashley Freeman were kidnapped in Welch, Ok., taken to Picher, and later murdered by three men, Phil Welch, David Pennington and Ronnie Busick, possibly over an illegal drug debt on Dec. 30, 1999. Only one of those men, Ronnie Busick, 66, of Wichita, Kansas, remains alive to face charges in Craig County District Court.
On Friday, May 11, Busick appeared in Craig County Court where Judge Rebecca J. Gore set the case for 9 a.m. on July 13 for discovery on the Preliminary Hearing Sounding Docket.
Discovery is the pre-trial procedure requiring the adverse parties to the case to disclose information essential for the preparation of the case. During the discovery process, the prosecution and defense are called on for the production of documents, depositions of potential witnesses, written interrogatories, and admissions of fact to be presented at trial.
Busick has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder for killing Ashley’s parents Kathy and Danny Freeman, and the murders of Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible. Two counts of kidnapping for the abductions of Ashley Freemen and Lauria Bible and a final count of first-degree arson for setting fire to the Freeman home after the Freemans’ murders occurred.
Busick has maintained since his arrest that he has no knowledge of the location of either Ashley Freeman or Lauria Bible. He did voluntarily meet with Lauria’s mother after his arrest but did not offer any information to help locate the two teenagers he is accused of killing.
Judge Gore was exceptionally polite and respectful to all involved as she doled out scheduling decisions for a courtroom full of defendants as Lauria’s family members waited patiently in the courtroom.
One of Bible’s family members moved to the front row of the courtroom bench as Busick was brought into the courtroom, and at one point Craig County D.A.’s Special Victims Unit Investigator Gary Stansill came in and asked to sit with the family. Stansill has been working on the cold case alongside Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Investigator Tammy Ferrari which helped to finally bring charges after 18 years.
Wearing a deep blue jumpsuit and walking with a cane, Busick was brought in the courtroom after the morning’s docket was completed by a Sheriff’s Deputy and placed in the witness stand. Busick’s appearance had changed since his last court appearance; he was clean shaven and his hair had been cut short.
Attorneys for the defendant, Gretchen Mosley and Gregg Graves with the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, gathered around Busick and as he consulted with them. Busick occasionally glanced toward the Bible family making eye contact.
Once Judge Gore announced the next court date, Busick was led back to the Craig County Jail in handcuffs after about 10 to 15 minutes inside the courtroom. He is being held in custody there on a $1 million bond.
After Busick’s brief appearance in court, Lorene Bible left the courtroom to speak with media and once again face another Mother’s Day without her beloved daughter.
FREEMAN/BIBLE CASE TIMELINE
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.