How The Alleged Suspect In The Girl Scout Murder Case From Hulu's Keeper Of The Ashes Was Acquitted

In June 1977, three girls — Michelle Guse, 9; Lori Farmer, 8; and Doris Miller, 10 — were at Camp Scott in Oklahoma for summer camp. The three Girl Scouts shared a tent that was located near the shower area and farthest from the camp counselor's tent. On the morning of June 13, a counselor found the girls deceased. According to ATI, two of the girls had been raped; Milner died of strangulation, while Guse and Farmer were beaten to death.

Authorities conducted interviews and reviewed the crime scene, as well as the pieces of evidence. Police dogs searched the crime scene area, and investigators were led to a location two miles from the campsite where they found photos of women, glasses that were taken from Camp Scott, and flashlight batteries.

The crime is the subject of a documentary series from Hulu titled "Keeper of the Ashes," and it features Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth, who revealed that she was scheduled to attend Camp Scott that same summer but was unable to do so at the last minute due to being sick (via Playbill).

The main suspect

Further investigation led detectives to link a man named Gene Leroy Hart to the items located two miles from the campsite. There was a cave nearby that had writing on the wall that read, "The killer was here. Bye bye fools. 77-6-17," per ATI. Several suspects were investigated in regard to the crime, but they were eliminated as the perpetrator, but Hart remained on their radar.

Hart had been a fugitive since 1973 at the time of the Oklahoma Girl Scout murders. He escaped from the Mayes County Jail, where he was incarcerated for abducting and raping two pregnant women in 1966, as reported by Strange Outdoors. Detectives were able to track Hart, and he was arrested for the murder of the three Girl Scouts. When asked whether he did it, he replied, "You'll never pin it on me." The trial for the Girl Scout murders began in March 1979, and investigators were confident that Hart was the man responsible for the crimes.

Gene Leroy Hart's acquittal

Gene Leroy Hart's trial made headlines on both the local and national news. It was revealed that there were a few instances of suspicious activity at Camp Scott prior to the Girl Scout murders, including burglaries and slashed tents. In addition, a threatening message was left at the camp in the form of a note, according to KOCO 5 News. Hart's defense attorney's stated that the pieces of evidence found at the scene — such as fingerprints, footprints, swabs, and hair strands — couldn't be conclusively linked to him. Furthermore, his attorneys alleged that he was framed because he was a Native American Cherokee.

As reported by Strange Outdoors, it took six hours for the jury to deliberate, and they came up with a "not guilty" verdict. Despite the result, Hart was sent back to jail for his prior unrelated abduction and rape convictions. He died in jail of a heart attack in 1979 (via ATI).

DNA evidence related to the Girl Scout murders was again tested with new technology and the results were made public in 2022. A sheriff who has been working on the case for several years revealed that the results eliminated all other suspects except Hart, and his DNA profile matched the partial profile from the crime scene, per News on 6.