Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman, both 16, have been missing for more than two decades

By Christine Pelisek
Updated June 04, 2021 09:46 AM
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lauria bible and ashley freeman
Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman
| Credit: Courtesy Lorene Bible

Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman, both 16, were best friends, inseparable since the two attended kindergarten together in rural Oklahoma. So it wasn't a surprise on Dec. 29, 1999, when they got together to celebrate Ashley's birthday with a cake and a sleepover at the Freeman family's mobile home.

"It was Ashley's birthday, and she wanted Lauria to come to her house," Lauria's mom Lorene tells PEOPLE. "You'd never think something was going to happen."

But something terrible did happen. 

Firefighters were called to the mobile home the following morning and came upon a horrific scene. A fire had destroyed the Freemans' trailer and the bodies of Ashley's parents, Danny and Kathy, were found inside. Both had been fatally shot. 

lorene bible
Lorene Bible
| Credit: Discovery, Inc.

But Lauria and Ashley were missing — and they haven't been seen since. The tragic mystery is explored in the Monday, June 7, episode of People Magazine Investigates: Bible Belt Massacre, airing at 10 ET/9 CT on Investigation Discovery and streaming on discovery+. (An exclusive clip is shown below.)

"[Former America's Most Wanted host] John Walsh told me at the very beginning of this, that I had to decide whether I was going to hide in the closet or I was going to be Lauria's voice, and I decided I was going to be Lauria's voice," Lorene, 61, says. "And since I made that choice, that's what keeps me going." 

Over the years, Lorene conducted her own investigation into what happened to the teens. She got some answers in the summer of 2020, when Ronnie Busick, 69, pleaded guilty to being an accessory to the murders of Ashley's parents.

Investigators alleged Busick along with two other men, Phil Welch and David Pennington — both of whom have since died — murdered Ashley's parents over a drug debt and then kidnapped the teens, killing them days later. Busick has denied any involvement in the kidnapping and murders of the girls.

bibl and freeman murder suspects
David Pennington; Phil Welch; Ronnie Busick

Lorene's focus has since turned to finding her daughter's remains.

In April, she went to a dig site after a tip indicated the girl's were possibly buried there. But, like so many other clues, the dig site was a dead end.

Still, Lorene remains undeterred.

"Even though it didn't turn out anything that day, it puts it out there for everybody to know, 'Hey, we're still looking for these two girls," she says. "And people will Facebook our page and tell us stuff that they remember from 20 years ago: 'Maybe you need to go look here.' Or, 'Back in the day, my parents were into the drug scene and this is the people that they were around.'"

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"You just wait for that one time that you get the right text, or the right conversation, that will lead us to where the girls are," she adds. "We're fighting for Lauria. But we know when we find Lauria, we'll find Ashley. So, then we'll bring both girls home."

People Magazine Investigates: Bible Belt Massacre, airs Monday, June 7, at 10 ET/9 CT on Investigation Discovery and streams on discovery+.