Investigators examine mine shaft in Picher area for remains of Welch girls

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Investigators start new search for missing Welch girls, Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman, on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019 in Picher, Okla. (KTUL photo)

PICHER, Okla. (KTUL) -- It's one of the biggest mysteries in northeast Oklahoma -- what happened to Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman?

Nearly 20 years later, a new lead in the search for their remains has led investigators to a mine shaft in the Picher area.

It’s the latest break in the disappearance of Bible and Freeman.

"People were seen driving out of here that should never have been down in here," said Lorene Bible.

Nearly 20 years ago, someone claims they saw murder suspects Phil Welch and David Pennington leave this area, and now, Bible can only look on hoping she finally gets answers.

"Just hoping that there's somebody out there that decides that today is the day that they know something and say, 'Hey, it may not be this one, but you can go to this one,'" said Bible.

Today, members of the Tulsa Police Dive Team dropped a camera into the shaft filled with water nearly 200 feet down using a monitor up top to capture images to be analyzed.

"It's not impossible. I'm not saying that but it's not easy either, in other words, you can engineer your way through it and do it," said Ed Keheley.

Keheley is an expert on the mine shafts in the Picher area.

He says there are hundreds of mines in Picher, and they plan on investigating more as the tips come in.

"What we’re trying to determine is if this particular mine shaft is feasible or accessible for a future search," said Keheley.

For Bible, she's just thankful no one is giving up the search, just as she will never give up.

Investigators continue to encourage anyone with information about the girls' disappearance to please come forward.