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S2 / EP19: Camp Scott: Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders

Updated: Oct 13

I made the mistake of first reading about this case while staying in an Airbnb. Sleeping in an unfamiliar place, in an unfamiliar city I'd never been to, was not the best environment to read about a horrific crime that occurred in the middle of a forest! This case is one of the more frightening cases I've read about...


Camping has always been seen as a generally safe activity - other than the possibility of encountering wildlife, no one goes camping with the idea that something horrible is going to happen in the middle of the woods, and in 1977, the parents and girls of the Girl Scouts of Oklahoma thought that year's camping trip would be no different.


When you listen to this podcast, think about the terrain that the investigators had to work with - scouring a tree-filled forest and sifting for evidence through dirt and leaves could not have been an easy task. Not to mention that the during the night of the murders, it had rained, which also could've damaged or washed away critical evidence.


Be sure to find and connect with me on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok!


Photo sources:

Tent (ranker.com)

Tent with fire pit (people.com)

Michele Guse: Last photo taken at bus (reddit.com)

Camp maps (girlscoutmurders.com)

Graphic/Colored map of campground (abandonedok.com)

Gene Hart being arrested (NYDailyNews.com)

Gene Hart in suit (theoklahoman.com)

Investigators at the crime scene (allthatsinteresting.com)

Sleeping bags where girls were found (Twitter @investigatingcrimes)

Flashlight/Glasses evidence photos: (girlscoutmurders.com)

Transcribed Episode / S2 EP19: Camp Scott Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders


[Host]

This podcast discusses crimes against children and may not be suitable for some listeners - listener discretion is advised. Be sure to head over to thecrimeshack.com for all available episodes, merchandise, and show notes, and subscribe to us for free wherever you get your podcasts. As you know it takes a lot of research and time to keep this podcast going, you can help this show by purchasing merchandise, joining my Patreon, or just by Buying Me a Coffee. My podcast is currently sponsor-less, and any support from my listeners is much appreciated!


[Intro Music Begins/Ends]


[Host]

Ahh camping...we’ve all done it right? Now maybe you’ve never camped a day in your life and the notion of sleeping in a tent surrounded by the elements, getting dirty, possibly not having access to a shower...is not your idea of a good time. I personally love to camp, and love nature and have many fond memories of summer camp as a child - I think many of us can say that we’ve done something similar in our lifetimes. One thing I did not get involved in as a child was being a Girl Scout. I know many of you listening have experienced being a part of that organization or of the Boy Scouts, and can attest to the many outings that they would take to impart different skillsets and outdoor experiences to its members.


But this episode of The Crime Shack isn’t about the virtues and skills that the Scouts can install in you. No, this episode that I’m going to be sharing involves a Girl Scout camping trip that went horribly wrong. This case is a chilling tale that will touch on our innate fears of being secluded in a wooded forest at night and hearing eerie sounds around you - not knowing if it’s an animal scurrying about, or something much, much worse. So turn off your lights and grab your flashlights, because we’ll be heading deep into the Ozark mountains of Oklahoma...


It was a beautiful sunny, warm day that Sunday June 12, 1977. Camp Scott in Locust Grove Oklahoma - a small community with a population of about 1000 people - was preparing for the arrival of more than 130 campers that afternoon. It was the opening day of Camp Scott, and campers, their parents and counselors were arriving at the Girl Scout Headquarters in Tulsa Oklahoma to meet the buses that would transport them to Camp Scott.


Camp Scott first opened on August 11, 1928 as “Camp Ma-Del-Co” and was owned by the Tulsa Scout Council. The camp sits on a total of 410 acres of land and lies in an unincorporated area of Mayes County within the Ozark Mountains of Oklahoma. The camp is located just west of main highway 82 and is situated about .9 miles off of a private dirt road on a secluded, heavily wooded property.


A few years after the camp opened, the name was changed to “Camp Scott” and by 1977 it was being run by the Magic Empire Council of Girl Scouts - one of 331 councils chartered by the Girl Scouts of USA. Activities such as swimming, archery and leadership skills were included at the camp.


A main thoroughfare, Cookie Trail Road, which was a dirt road, ran through the campground and was surrounded by small creeks on the east, west and south. The nearest incorporated town of Locust Grove was just a little over 3 miles away. The camp was set up with 11 sub-camps, each with Native American tribal names, and there were seven main buildings within the camp: the Directors office, the Great Hall, a health center, a rangers house, staff house, a cook's cabin, a red barn and a swimming pool. Each sub-camp had about 7-8 large canvas tents set up on wooden platforms that could house about 4 individuals per tent, and the tents were set around stone-encircled campfires. The canvases that covered each tent had a slit down the front for the entrance with the back closed in and a wood plank floor. The counselors had their own separate tents at each sub-camp and the remaining staff members stayed in the Staff House.


The platform tents were not evenly spaced within each sub-camp and the sub-camps were not placed equally along the Cookie trail. Some were further apart than the next. The Kiowa sub-camp sat furthest west and was more isolated from the Cookie Trail than the other sub-camps.


Back at Girl Scout Headquarters in Tulsa, 9 year old Michele Guse was excited about this year’s trip to Camp Scott. Michele had been to the camp the year prior, and now a veteran camper, was looking forward to the upcoming 2 weeks. Michele was an athletic girl who enjoyed playing sports and was a member of a local soccer team. She had a younger brother named Michael and had an intense fascination for gardening. With her short brunette hair tucked under a white sun hat, she instructed her parents before boarding the bus that day to “please water the African violets.” Her parents, Dick and GeorgeAnn Guse, assured her that they would.


Lori Lee Farmer would be the youngest girl at Camp Scott that year. Lori was the oldest of five children in the Farmer family. A pretty girl with long blonde hair, she was mature for her age and at 8 years old she had just completed the fourth grade and was doing so well in school that she’d been able to advance a grade. Lori had been torn between attending Camp Scott that year or going to a camp sponsored by the Tulsa Area YMCA. It was a tough decision to make, so Lori asked her mother Sherri to decide for her. Sherri chose Camp Scott, a decision that she would come to regret for the rest of her life. Lori would be celebrating her 9th birthday just 5 days into her first week at Camp Scott, and her parents Sherri and Charles Farmer and her sister had promised to come up to camp to celebrate it with her.


10 year old Doris Denise Milner, who was called by her middle name “Denise”, was a straight-A award winning student who had just been accepted into the prestigious Carver middle school, a magnet, blue ribbon school in Tulsa. As she awaited the arrival of the buses, Denise was experiencing the “first camp” jitters. Denise struggled with the thought of having to leave her mother and her 5 year old sister. This would be Denise’s first Girl Scout Camping trip and she was a bit nervous about going. She told her mother Betty that she wasn’t sure she wanted to go, but Bettye convinced her she should try it, that it would make her more independent and if she didn’t like it, she could always call her and she’d come to pick her up.


The buses had finally arrived and everyone gathered around them to begin to board. 15 year old Michelle Hoffman was another veteran camper, having attended Camp Scott during the last six years.


Michelle would recall her first experience attending Camp Scott: “My first year at Camp Scott I remember going ‘Whoa!’ — because it is so dark, dark, dark in those woods at night. If you’ve never been camping in a platform tent in the deep woods, it’s a little intimidating. After your first time there, you get it. You’re just prepared. It’s going to be dark.”


Her seventh year at the camp, however, would be much different as Michelle was now too old to be a camper and she was selected to be an aide to the camp director. As the parking lot swarmed with campers, Michelle spotted shy Denise Milner, and made her way over to the girl. Michelle recognized that Denise was one of the only African American girls in the group and wanted to make sure she felt encouraged about the trip.


Michelle approached Denise and her mother and introduced herself. Bettye explained to Michelle that Denise was feeling nervous and home-sick, and Michelle reassured them both that everything was going to be great and that Denise could ride up in the front of the bus with her. As they got on the bus and took their seats towards the front, Bettye hopped on quickly to say goodbye and to ask Michelle if she could call her if Denise was still homesick the next day.


The buses quickly piled up with excited campers and staff and they departed for Camp Scott. Camp songs filled the 45 minute drive, but Denise remained fairly quiet for the trip, preferring to stare out the bus window as the scenery changed from busy city streets to rugged thick forests.


The buses made a final turn up a private road and onto Cookie Trail Road. When they arrived to Camp Scott, the campers and staff rushed out of the buses and were provided instructions to their assigned tents.


Those campers who’d attended Camp Scott before and were familiar with the camp setup, quickly ran to their designated tents. Michelle Hoffman, who had stayed with Denise, personally brought Denise to her assigned campground, Kiowa. She was told that she was assigned to Tent No. 8 along with two other girls. A registration mix-up had left an extra bunk in the tent empty so it would just be the three girls. The tents in Kiowa sub-camp were oriented in a semi-circle and Tent No. 8 was the furthest tent from the others, as well as the furthest from the counselors tent, but it was the closest to the bathrooms. The view from the counselors tent to Tent No. 8 was also partially obstructed by the camp’s shower building.


Counselors Carla Wilhite and Susan Emery, both 18 years old, and 20 year old Dee Elder, were assigned to Kiowa camp and had the task of looking after 27 campers.


Lori Farmer and Michele Guse would also be joining Denise Milner in Tent #8. Denise’s nervousness faded when she met Lori and Michele and they quickly became friends. Counselor Carla Wilhite would later recall that the girls in Tent No. 8 were “three of the quietest kids” but that the tent was “just as loud and lively” as the others.

Carla had also recalled some strange incidents that happened about two months prior to the beginning of Camp Scott, in April. The camp held an on-site orientation training session where camp counselors were required to attend. Counselor Michelle Hoffman discovered that her and her roommates' tent had been ransacked by someone, and doughnuts that she’d left on the table next to her bed were missing. Inside of the empty doughnut box were a few pieces of tiny steno notebook paper. On the paper was hand-written in all capital letters "We are on a mission to kill three girls in tent one." It was signed by “The Killer,” and had an effigy of a man hanging from a tree by his neck. Frightened by the letter, Michelle showed the director the note, but the director dismissed it as a prank and threw the note away.

In another incident during orientation, Carla had hurt her back lifting sailboats and slept for a bit after being given Tylenol and Codeine. When she woke, she headed down to Cedar Lodge, a tent near the Red Barn, on the east side of Cookie Trail Rd where a campout was being held. Carla had intended to go sleep in the staff house after she ate, because she couldn’t sleep on the floor in one of the tents and she didn’t want to be at the infirmary by herself.

That night when she was asleep in the staff house, Carla heard a strange scratching noise behind the staff house on the screen of the enclosed patio. It sounded as if someone’s body had rubbed up against the screen. Carla assumed it was a camper playing a prank and she yelled out “Who’s there?” but got no response, and heard footsteps walking away. She lay back down and listened for a while when she heard more footsteps. She then got up and looked out the front window thinking it was maybe the camp’s dog, Sally. When she looked out the window she could see Sally running from across the way from the Rangers House - Sally was barking and growling. Carla looked around but didn’t see what Sally had been barking at - but it scared her enough that she grabbed her blanket and ran across to another building where she knew another counselor was and had them come and sit with her until she fell back asleep.

Also during the orientation, one of the tent canvases sustained a six inch tear in it. A counselor thought it may have been caused by the weather but wasn’t sure.

It was around 6pm on the first night of camp and the campers were finishing up dinner and heading back to their tents when a thunderstorm rolled into the campground and it began to pour. The girls quickly ran to their assigned tents and spent the rest of the evening chatting, laughing, and writing letters to their parents before heading off to sleep.

Lori Farmer wrote a letter to her family:

“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 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.”

Denise, who was still suffering from a bout of homesickness, also took out some stationary and wrote:


[Documentary: Someone Cry for the Children / Denise's Mom Bettye Reading Denise's Letter]

“Dear Mom, I don’t like camp. It’s awful. The first day it rained. I have three new friends named Glenda, Lori, Michelle. Michelle and Lori are my roommates. Mom, I don’t want to stay at camp for two weeks. I want to come home and see Kassie and everybody.” She signed it: “Your loving child, Denise Milner.”


[Host]

It was between the hours of 8 and 10pm, when a counselor, who was staying in the Comanche sub-camp - the camp next to and just south of Kiowa camp - saw a dim, amber light moving through the woods heading towards Kiowa camp. She didn’t think too much of it and ignored it, as campers would often get up to go to the bathrooms in the middle of the night.

At 10pm counselor Dee Elder of Kiowa camp walked around to do her tent-check for the night. Everyone was in their respective tents and everything seemed to be in order.

At around midnight, counselor Carla Wilhite heard the girls from the tents giggling and making noise around the bathrooms. She got up, went to talk to the girls and to escort them back to their beds, then headed back to her own tent.

At 1:30am Carl is again woken up by giggling coming from Tent #6. She points her flashlight at the tent and yells over at the girls to quiet down. Carla tells Dee Elder they should get up and go check on them. On their way over to the tent, both of them hear a low gutteral sound coming from the woods behind the tents. Carla shone a light on the woods and the sound stopped. She assumed it was an animal and the two headed back to their tent to try to get some sleep.

During the documentary “Someone Cry for the Children” which aired in 1994, Carla relayed what she had heard that night:

[Carla Wilhite]

"I woke up and I heard a noise coming from an area kind of off the road by our tent. It was kind of intermittent, it wasn't continuous. Something like a cross between a frog and a bullhorn or something - it was low and kind of guttural. It wasn't language, it didn't really seem human. It didn't sound like any animal I'd ever heard."


[Host]

It was around the same time that Carla and Dee heard the guttural sounds that other people in the campground had reported hearing moaning sounds coming from the direction of Tent No. 8.

About 30 minutes later, a camper in tent #7 in Kiowa camp was woken up when a figure with a flashlight opened the entrance flap to their tent and shined a light in the tent. The person quickly closed the flap and left.

At around 3am, a camper heard a single scream coming from the area of tent #8. Around the same time, another camper heard someone crying out, "Momma, Momma."

After that strange first night, Carla Wilhite’s alarm went off just before dawn around 6am the next morning. She scuffled out of her tent and headed to the staff house to shower so she could take advantage of the warm water before all the girls woke up. She headed towards Cookie Trail and up towards the direction of the Quapaw sub-camp which was next to the Staff house.

As Carla walked up Cookie Trail, she spotted something up ahead at the fork of the trail, just south of Quapaw sub-camp and off to the side of the road. As she got closer she saw what looked like some sort of bags. She figured that someone must have dropped off some stray luggage that hadn’t made it to the campsites. She continued walking closer to the bags when she suddenly stopped and realized in horror that what she thought was luggage was actually a sleeping bag, and on top of the sleeping bag lay the body of a young girl. The girl was lying face up and she was naked from the waist down….and she wasn’t moving.

Carla thought an accident had happened and ran back to the counselor tent to wake up counselors Dee and Susan and to notify the staff of the discovery. The counselors then quickly checked in the other tents. When Dee checked tent #8 she realized that all three girls were missing from the tent.

Carla ran to get the camp nurse and to locate the camp director Barbara Day. When Carla brought both women back to the scene, the nurse immediately checked the girl for vitals, but it was clear that the girl, who was later identified as 10 year old Denise Milner, was dead. There were injuries to Denise’s head and her hands were tied behind her back.

Barbara’s husband Richard Day was the next to arrive on the scene. Richard would soon discover that what lay before them was much worse than they thought. He noticed that there were two other sleeping bags lying near Denise’s body. When he went to pick up the bags, they were heavy, it was obvious there was something inside of them and they all knew that three girls from Kiowa camp were missing. He knelt down and felt on top of the bags and could feel that there was a body in each bag. Richard didn’t open the bags but told Barbara to contact police.

Barbara Day called an emergency number she had programmed in her phone and told them she needed three ambulances as there were three dead children.

Officer Harold Berry was the first officer to the scene, at around 7:30am. By 8am, Sheriff Glen “Pete” Weaver was on the scene and requested the help from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation or OSBI.

Michael Wilkerson, the lead agent for OSBI had recalled they found when they arrived at the crime scene: