“There is, in the best of us, a search for the truth, to serve the living and dead alike...Jax Miller is one of those people and Hell in the Heartland is one of those books.”—Robert Graysmith, New York Times bestselling author of Zodiac
As seen in Marie Claire's "Best True Crime Books of 2020" • HuffPost • OK! Magazine • CrimeReads • LitHub's "Best New Summer Books"
S-Town meets I'll Be Gone in the Dark in this stranger-than-fiction cold case from rural Oklahoma that has stumped authorities for two decades, concerning the disappearance of two teenage girls and the much larger mystery of murder, possible police cover-up, and an unimaginable truth...
On December 30, 1999, in rural Oklahoma, sixteen-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 rumors of drug debts, revenge, and police corruption abounded in the years that followed, the case remained unsolved and the girls were never found.
In 2015, crime writer Jax Miller--who had been haunted by the case--decided to travel to Oklahoma to find out what really happened on that winter night in 1999, and why the story was still simmering more than fifteen years later. What she found was more than she could have ever bargained for: evidence of jaw-dropping levels of police negligence, entire communities ravaged by methamphetamine addiction, and a series of interconnected murders with an ominously familiar pattern.
These forgotten towns were wild, lawless, and home to some very dark secrets.
Crime novelist Miller (Freedom's Child) debuts with a captivating ride through the frustrating twists, turns, and dead ends of a horrifying murder case. On Dec. 30, 1999, a suspicious fire destroyed Danny and Kathy Freeman's trailer home outside rural Welch, Okla. The Freemans' burned bodies showed that they had been shot to death, and their 16-year-old daughter, Ashley, and Ashley's best friend, Lauria Bible, who had also been in the trailer at the time, went missing. For years, the Freeman and Bible families struggled against inept investigators, drug dealers who might have had reason to kill Danny and Kathy, and a flood of false leads in their search for Ashley and Lauria. In 2015, Miller moved to Welch, where she spent four years investigating the case. She brings a heartbreaking and compassionate voice to her take on those affected by the generational poverty, environmental mining pollution, and widespread methamphetamine addiction now endemic in the region's once ore-rich mining towns. The two girls remain missing to this day, though the arrest in 2019 of a suspect, whose case is ongoing, offers some hope of resolution. This is as much an exploration of the underlying social issues that feed into a system of fear and violence as it is about the crime itself. A vivid storyteller, Miller proves herself as adept at nonfiction as fiction.
I was on the fence of buying this book, but after reading the same I decided to, because I couldn’t stop thinking of it. I’m so glad I bought and read this book. It is completely a whirlwind of emotion and sadness. With it being true crime, it took it to another level, me being able to look up the Facebook page for Lauria and see the post still being made today from her family. Everyone needs to read this. I will most likely re read it, so I can get a deeper and better understanding of it after knowing the ending. Perfectly written as well. I saw some reviews stating they disliked how the author put in her personal feelings, but I think it made the book that much better. The absolute best true crime I’ve read.