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The Return of a Tragic Anniversary

It's now been thirty-nine years since a terrible crime shocked my home state and especially my hometown. It hit very close to home for a variety of reasons, and continues to do so for a variety of others. I didn't want to let this anniversary pass without observing it.

On June 13, 1977, three young Girl Scouts (eight, nine, and ten years old) were found sexually assaulted and murdered outside of their tent at the Girl Scout property Camp Scott near Locust Grove, Oklahoma. The case was complicated by racial/ethnic tensions, because the victims were white and black, and the only official suspect, Gene Leroy Hart, was Cherokee. After a complicated and dramatic manhunt, Hart was tried but eventually found innocent. Since then, the case has remained unsolved, the fodder for local legends, suggestions of bizarre occult and ritual connections, and various conspiracy theories. The Girl Scout camp remains closed to this day. (Chilling photos of the abandoned site are posted here at AbandonedOK.) My past posts about the case can be found here.

The long-rumored movie supposedly designed to name an alternative murder suspect, Candles, is currently listed at IMDB as in pre-production for 2017 release, but I remain skeptical that it will happen. It's been listed as in pre-production for five years now, and each year the release date is updated. That said, a 2017 release does make sense, as it will be the fortieth anniversary of the tragedy.

I recently discovered that the best-known documentary on the Girl Scout murders, Someone Cry for the Children, is now available in six parts on YouTube. It's well worth watching. (Yes, that's Johnny Cash providing some of the narration for the film.) Part 1 is here.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 14th, 2016 02:05 am (UTC)
Wow. That is a really intense story. It would be terrifying to have that happen so close to home.
Jun. 14th, 2016 02:03 pm (UTC)
"Intense" is the perfect word. From a child's perspective, it was very frightening, but I vividly remember how everyone's parents were haunted by this, too. I see now how many decisions made for us as kids -- by schools, by clubs, by individual groups of parents -- were divided into "before" and "after" this event.

Part of me regretted bringing this up just now, when we have so many current tragic stories in the news to break our hearts, but it means a lot that these girls aren't forgotten.
Jun. 14th, 2016 10:49 am (UTC)
Such a sad thing, and then for it to lead to the closing of the camp makes it even sadder. And while the documentary sounds intriguing, I don't know if a movie would grab my interest.
Jun. 14th, 2016 02:14 pm (UTC)
Yes, the closed camp is tragic in its own right, like a monument to a loss of innocence. I vividly remember how my own camp experience was impacted by this: a full fence surrounding the place, a 24/7 guard at the one and only gate, and leaders/mothers in the cabin with us. (I'm not complaining -- I fully understand why families and organizations felt the need for this security after a nightmare like these killings in our backyard -- but these measures kept the murders in our minds in a constant way. It was as if our secure world overnight had been rendered permanently unsafe.)

I agree with you about the movie. The filmmaker has claimed he's using this as a vehicle for proposing his own alternate suspect, but it sounds like a gimmick to me. If he ever knew something useful about the crimes, the right thing to do would have been to talk immediately to anyone/everyone who would listen, not use it as a hook to sell tickets. Apparently this has dragged on so long that the suspect in question has died, which adds a layer of futility to the whole thing, too. (Not that knowing the truth is ever futile, of course, but it's a little late for the justice system to step in if the suspect is deceased.)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )