VINITA — Quadruple-murder suspect Ronnie Busick “could walk away looking like a hero” if he would tell authorities what happened the night when Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman disappeared, his attorney said at his competency hearing Friday.
The trouble is, he doesn’t remember, said Gretchen Mosley, the attorney.
A jury of three men and three women, along with two alternates, was chosen Friday to decide whether Busick is competent to stand trial in the slayings of Danny and Kathy Freemen and the kidnapping and presumed deaths of their daughter, Ashley, and her best friend, Lauria Bible.
Several jury candidates said they had already formed an opinion and were excused during 4½ hours of questioning to seat the jury.
The competency hearing resumes on Wednesday.
During opening statements, Mosley told the jurors Busick’s legal defense team has tried to get a story from him about what happened on Dec. 30, 1999.
The girls were 16 when they disappeared from the Freeman residence in Welch on the night Kathy and Danny Freeman were fatally shot and their mobile home was set on fire.
Busick made “some type of admission” during an interrogation by authorities, “but he can’t remember it,” his attorney said.
Mosley said Busick “wishes he knew something, but he doesn’t.”
District Attorney Matt Ballard countered: “He learned keeping his mouth shut kept him out of prison.”
Busick, wearing street clothes, repeatedly looked to the front of the courtroom, where the Bible family was seated. The family reacted in disbelief at Mosley’s heroism comment.
Gilbert Martinez, a San Antonio, Texas, neuropsychologist, testified about a gunshot wound to the head that Busick sustained in 1978.
“It penetrated the brain material, and fragments went to other parts of his brain,” Martinez testified.
He said Busick went through a battery of tests for six to seven hours and that his IQ was in the low-average range.
While he was able to understand information, Martinez said, “his processing speed is pretty low,” and “he will fill in the blanks on things he can’t remember.”
“He is not competent to understand all the complexities of trial,” Martinez said.
Ballard questioned the tests during his cross-examination.
Martinez said he has been paid around $12,000 for his work, not including travel and testimony on Friday.
On Wednesday, two other competency examination reports will be presented — from the state and the Oklahoma Forensic Center.
Prosecutors also implicated in the killings two other suspects, Warren Phillip Welch II and David Pennington, both now deceased. Welch died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, and Pennington died a drug-related death.
Authorities believe that Ashley and Lauria, teenage best friends, were kidnapped, tied up, raped and held in a mobile home in Picher for a “matter of days” before being strangled, according to an arrest affidavit filed in Busick’s case.
Busick has denied any involvement in their disappearance or knowledge of the whereabouts of the girls’ remains. He is in an isolated cell in the Craig County jail with bail set at $1 million.