On December 30th, 1999, in rural Oklahoma, 16-year-old Ashley Freeman and her best friend, Lauria Bible, were having a sleepover. The next morning, the Freeman family trailer was in flames and both girls were missing.
While rumours of drug debts, revenge killings, and police corruption abounded in the years that followed, the case remained unsolved and the girls were never found.
In 2016, crime writer Jax Miller travelled to Oklahoma to discover what really happened. What she unearthed was shocking. These forgotten towns were wild, lawless, and home to some very dark secrets.
Finally, in April 2018, the first arrests were made… could justice finally be in sight for the girls and their families?
My latest foray into the true crime genre came in the form of this book from Jax Miller, who, as comes across in this beautifully written narrative, spent a lot of time and emotional energy looking into the sad case of missing girls Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible.
I knew a little about the case from other sources but here was a writer who invested an awful lot of herself into trying to get to the truth and that comes across in every passing chapter – her relationship with Lauria’s mother is an anchor throughout and both these women in different ways are absolute forces of nature.
Hell In The Heartland offers a lot of insight, looking at every angle when it comes to the possibilities of what happened to the girls, but more importantly for this reader, tells us who they were, tells us of the huge impact on the loved ones left behind and, indeed, on the author herself.
Some of what happened in the investigation will have you shaking your head, but the strength of this story comes in the way Jax Miller describes this setting, it’s people, its beliefs, the often wild community that sets the backdrop to this melancholy story of two young women who never got the chance to live their lives through and find out who they were.
There has now been an arrest and, much like Jax Miller I imagine, I leave this story with the hope that the families of Ashley and Lauria, will finally find some closure and some peace. I hope this review leads more people to this extraordinary story told by a writer who with the power of words will put you right there. Don’t look away. Ashley and Lauria deserve our attention.