How Did Camp Scott Murders Suspect Gene Leroy “Sonny” Hart Die? – What was supposed to be a joyful camping trip for a Girl Scout group turned terrible one night in June 1977 when three young girls were discovered dead. ‘Keeper of the Ashes: The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders,’ a four-part Hulu docuseries, dives into the lasting story of this difficult case and Gene Leroy “Sonny” Hart, who remained the top suspect until his acquittal.
We’ve got you covered if you’re curious about what happened to him.
Gene Leroy “Sonny” Hart: Who Was He?
A party of Girl Scouts left on June 12, 1977, for a two-week summer camp at Camp Scott near Locust Grove, Oklahoma. The discovery of three dead bodies, 8-year-old Lori Lee Farmer, 9-year-old Michele Heather Guse, and 10-year-old Doris Denise Milner, turned an exhilarating first night for the 140 scouts into a terrible ordeal the next morning. The group was sent to Kiowa Unit tent 8 for the night.
Carla Sue Wilhite, a camp counsellor, heard groaning sounds at 1:30 a.m. on June 13 and investigated. While she was close to tent 8, she didn’t notice anything unusual and returned to her tent.
A girl in another unit heard a scream an hour and a half later, while another from a third unit thought she heard Lori scream for her mother. Carla discovered three sleeping bags around 150 yards from tent 8 around 6 a.m. Carla made a horrible discovery.
Lori, Michele, and Denise were all killed. Lori and Michelle died from blunt force injuries, but Denise died from strangulation and a hit to the head. The girls had been sexually assaulted, and it was later revealed. Authorities discovered a roll of duct tape used on the girls as well as a flashlight at the crime site.
To keep the batteries from rattling, a newspaper was shoved into the flashlight, and the light itself was covered with masking tape. When the authorities searched into parolees and outpatients with a history of such crimes, they discovered Gene Leroy “Sonny” Hart, whose mother resided near the campground. Sonny rocketed to the top of the suspect list in a flash.
He was a brilliant football player in high school before turning to crime as a Cherokee Indian raised by his mother. Sonny kidnapped two pregnant ladies from a nightclub parking lot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June 1966.
Sonny subsequently admitted to the kidnapping, as well as rapping and sodomising the women, and received three 10-year sentences. He was, however, released after only 28 months on parole. Sonny then began breaking into people’s homes, and on his fourth attempt, he was apprehended.
Because he was on parole, the court sentenced him to more than 300 years in prison. Sonny was transported to a county jail in Pryor, Oklahoma, in 1973, but he escaped and remained on the loose until the Oklahoma Girl Scout murders.
Hunters discovered a cave approximately three miles from the campsite a few days after the three girls were killed. It appeared that someone resided inside, prompting a police call. Authorities discovered a newspaper with the same date and edition as the one discovered at the crime scene.
After that, a pair of sunglasses were identified as belonging to a camp counsellor who had gone missing. Furthermore, images of two women were discovered, and it appeared that Sonny took them while incarcerated in Granite.
Nonetheless, catching Sonny proved more tougher than expected. “The killer was here,” read a letter inscribed on the cave’s wall. “Goodbye, fools.” Not only that, but Sonny’s family believed he was innocent and worked to keep him hidden from the cops. With the help of an informant, he was finally apprehended in April 1978. Sonny was discovered in Cookson Hills, Oklahoma, in a cabin.
What Caused Gene Leroy “Sonny” Hart’s Death?
The authorities possessed seminal fluid as proof, but this was before DNA, and Sonny had previously had a vasectomy, so he couldn’t have generated sperm at the time. So, according to the prosecution, the procedure was not totally successful. Sonny’s blood type also matched the semen sample, but the proof wasn’t conclusive enough in the end.
The defence echoed the same points and suggested additional suspects. Sonny was found not guilty of the killings in March 1979, but he was returned to prison to serve his burglary sentence. At the age of 35, he died of a heart attack caused by clogged coronary arteries on June 4, 1979. Sonny was imprisoned at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Pittsburg County, at the time of his death.
His death was the subject of suspicion, with rumours that convicts poisoned him circulating. The findings of DNA testing performed a few years ago using advanced technology were made public in May 2022. They said that Sonny was the only person who couldn’t be ruled out as the source of the semen stain discovered on a pillowcase inside Michele’s sleeping bag.