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1977 Northeast Oklahoma Girl Scout murders case gets fresh look in wake of 'McGirt' ruling

Fox Nation

The horrific 1977 Mayes County Girl Scout Murders are unforgettable for many Oklahomans. Now, the case is getting a fresh look.

Cherokee citizen Faith Phillips, acting on a tip, presented her findings at the Tribal Self-Governance Conference in Tulsa.

Phillips is a Cherokee novelist and screenwriter living in Locust Grove. She's also got a legal background — which is how she got a tip from a former Mayes County Sheriff about the person who allegedly committed the gruesome murders.

"While he was sheriff, he obtained a confession from a man in prison named Buddy Bristol," Phillips said. "Buddy Bristol said that he had gone with several others to the campsite that night and he was there. One of the other men murdered the little girls, and the other men who he named are still living in the community today."

She recently presented the four part docuseries streaming online on Fox Nation at a tribal sovereignty conference in Tulsa. In the film produced with Cherokee filmmaker Jeremy Charles, Pursuit Films and Texas Crew Productions, she revealed new information about the case.

The person who was tried and found not guilty of the murders was a Cherokee man named Gene Hart. Phillips said the FBI hasn't closed the case, but it is inactive.

A fresh investigation has been opened by Cherokee Nation law enforcement. That's due to the landmark ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma in 2020. One of the men Phillips says confessed is Native — and because the crime occurred in Locust Grove on the Cherokee Nation reservation — it's now being investigated by Cherokee Marshals.

"I think the Cherokees traditionally had been painted as not being interested in justice in this case," Phillips said. "At the time of the trial, you have to keep in mind, you know, these poor families are grieving the sudden and tragic loss of their daughters and there were some Cherokee activists outside of the courthouse protesting because they absolutely were convinced that Gene Hart had been railroaded by the state in the investigation, that they had focused only on him, and it was an unjust accusation and that he wasn't guilty."

Phillips recognizes this is a sensitive topic for the victims' families.

While she said she doesn't want to speak for them, they've told her they're interested in the truth.

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Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
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