TULSA, Okla. — The case against the 45-year-old prime suspect in the slayings of three Tulsa-area Girl Scouts is only getting stronger over time, authorities say, with newly released DNA test results again pointing straight towards him.
Gene Leroy Hart, who died in 1979 while in prison on unrelated charges, was acquitted of the murders two years earlier of 8-year-old Lori Farmer, 9-year-old Michele Guse and 10-year-old Denise Milner in Camp Scott near Locust Grove.
But more than four decades later, the latest DNA tests in the case, while officially inconclusive, strongly suggest Hart’s involvement, officials say, while ruling out several other potential suspects.
Keep scrolling through our 7-part podcast series chronicling the 1977 Oklahoma Girl Scout murders
Mayes County Sheriff Mike Reed said: “Unless something new comes to light, something comes to light that we are not aware of, I am satisfied of the culpability and involvement of Hart in this case.”
Reed said the DNA test results have been known since 2019, part of an effort to raise private funds from Mayes County residents to have the evidence re-examined.
However, he did not make them public until the families of the victims asked him to do so as part of an upcoming ABC News documentary series on the case.
The four-part series, which will premiere on Hulu, is set to premiere around the 45th anniversary of the Crimes on June 13, although no official release date has been announced.
The Tulsa World also participated in the series.
Reed, who spoke at length with ABC, said the latest DNA tests have yielded several partial profiles of the killer.
No full DNA profile was ever developed in the case, so officially the test results are considered “inconclusive”.
But inconclusive doesn’t mean useless, Reed said, and partial profiles can be used to weed out suspects.
Reed said authorities initially interviewed more than 130 potential suspects in the case, and more names have surfaced over the years.
Over time, DNA was taken from potential suspects.
The latest tests eliminated several people who had not been eliminated before, he said.
In fact, Reed added, at this point, with the exception of Hart, “there are no suspects connected to this case who have not been ruled out in one way or another, whether they are DNA, alibi, polygraph test, whatever.”
Meanwhile, significantly, the latest tests couldn’t rule out Hart, whose DNA matched the partial profiles, Reed said.
A previous DNA effort, in 1989, also produced a partial profile matching Hart.
Officials said at the time that only 1 in 7,700 Native American men would have matched the profile.
Reed said the latest DNA tests are most likely the last to be done in the case, as verifiable evidence has been nearly exhausted.
He said you can never rule out “touch DNA” – or DNA from skin cells left over from human touch.
But the collection and preservation of evidence in the 1970s was not done with the care and precision that would make tactile DNA valuable in this case, he said. Each piece of evidence has likely collected skin cells from dozens of people over the years.
Reed said the only reason he decided to revisit the decades-old case was because the families asked him to after he was elected in 2012.
He shared the DNA results with them in 2019 and only recently decided to make them public at their request.
It was also at their request that Reed, who had previously declined to do interviews on the case, appeared on the ABC News series.
Even without DNA, he added, the case against Hart remains rock solid.
“Everything else I’ve been able to see and look at and dissect points to that,” Reed said. “And that actually carries more weight to me.”
Although satisfied with Hart’s guilt, he remains open to new information.
“My ears are open and I will listen to what everyone has to say.”
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