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Hell in the Heartland: Murder, Meth, and the Case of Two Missing Girls

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  1,201 ratings  ·  219 reviews
The 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, 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 ne
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 28th 2020 by Berkley
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Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,201 ratings  ·  219 reviews

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Jul 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Hell in the Heartland is a deep dive into the disappearance of two teen girls from the scene of a double homicide in the small town of Welch in Craig Country and was once one of Oklahoma’s most haunting and enduring mysteries. But while a recent break in the cold case provided some answers, there's still much more to this story than most people know. Lauria spent the night of December 29, 1999, at best friend Ashley’s home to celebrate Ashley’s sixteenth birthday. Early on the morning of Decembe ...more
Ellen Gail
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars. Really tough to sort out my feelings on this one.

This is a case I've been aware of for years - it's tragic and horrible and the day the news broke that they made arrests in the case I literally cried. I expected to feel the same cathartic emotion when reading Hell in the Heartland. That's what the power of true crime is - to highlight the worst of humanity and (even in unsolved cases) show the hope inherent. For me, it's not about the graphic details or tragedy rubber-necking. It's ta
Valerity (Val)
I felt something familiar as I read this book, following along as the tension was building. It seemed like I’d heard of some of the main victims before, but I needn’t have worried, the story was totally new to me. It was a horrific story indeed, and one that kept me involved, reading as various agencies and the author investigated over the years, trying to find out for certain who had committed the awful crimes. The mother of the young lady who was staying over on the night the crimes happened, ...more
Louise Wilson
Jul 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
On December 30th 1999, in rural Oklahoma, sixteen year old Ashley Freeman and her best friend, Lauria Bible, we're having a sleepover. The next morning the Freeman family trailer was in flames and the two girls were missing. While rumours of drug debts revenge and police collusion abandoned in the years that followed, the case remained unsolved and the girls were never found.

Kathy and Danny Freeman died in the fire, Jax Miller interviewed everyone with even the slightest connection to the case a
Diane S ☔
Mar 05, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: nf-2021
Rural Oklahoma, there is a trailer fire, two bodies found, two young girls missing. So begins a long struggle to uncover the truth. A truth that is hard to find. A truth full of police incompetence from the beginning, a tangled relationship between the police and the family. A seventeen year old son of the same family shot dead the year before. A town that is poverty stricken, rumors of drugs, and still after 20 years no idea of where the girls are nor who set the fire.

Interesting in parts, an i
Jul 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Come for the unsolved mystery, but stay for the police incompetence. The book ends on a promising lead, so imagine my surprise when I saw just yesterday that the only suspect who is still alive pleaded guilty to accessory to murder.

It's December, 1999. Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible celebrate Ashley’s birthday by having a sleepover. The following morning, the two teenagers are missing and the Freeman trailer is found ablaze. As events unfold, both of Ashley’s parents are discovered shot dead be
Liz Barnsley
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 a
Sharon Huether
Aug 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A cold case involving arson, murder, kidnapping in rural Oklahoma in Dec 1999.
The Freeman family, Danny, Kathy, Shane and Ashley lived in a trailer in a remote area.
Shane had trouble with the law. In 1998 he was shot and killed by a police officer. The family was
going to sue the Police Dept. for wrongful death of their son.
It was the night before the trial was to begin that the trailer was set on fire.

Danny and Kathy were shot and killed before the fire. Daughter Ashley and her friend Lauria w
Sep 22, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I love true crime, but I found the writing style to be over-the-top ridiculous. There was entirely too much talk about "the prairie" and the story lacked cohesion, and substance. I didn't mind that the writer inserted themselves into the story; but I felt that the book was more about their experience researching the story than it was really about what happened to the family involved. The poetic asides took me out of the experience and the references to the writer's panic attacks seemed unnecessa ...more
Feb 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
"Somewhere out there, closure might be found after all this time."

I think it's good, with True Crime, to stare it right in the face. We shouldn't avert our eyes to the crimes and the injustices that people have suffered. We should hold them to the light, hold those guilty accountable even if more time has passed those those who were killed had been alive. But the truth can only come to light if information is shared. And what a tangle of horrible information and screw ups this whole case is.

I re
Jun 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley-arcs
Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction for the arc of Hell In Heartland.

December 30, 1999, in Oklahoma USA, Ashley Freeman who was 16 and her best friend, Lauria, were having a sleepover. next morning, the Freeman family trailer was in flames and both girls were missing.
the case unfortunately remain unsolved and the girls were never found....

In 2015, the Author of this book Jax Miller decided in which to travel to Oklahoma to find out what really happened on that night in 1
Sep 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: real-crime
Hell in the Heartland – Inept Policing

Jax Miller has investigated and published a true crime book, that looks at an unsolved missing – murder case in Oklahoma from 1999. At first read I thought I was reading a thriller, because some of what happened in this case seems unbelievable.

Miller takes a deep dive into how two teenage girls went missing, from a burnt-out mobile home. As the local police department and sheriff were not on good terms with the family, they called in the state police to run
Nov 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime
A husband and wife die in a mobile home fire in Oklahoma. Their daughter and her friend are missing. A year before their son was killed by a police officer. The case has been unsolved for over 20 years. A crime reporter who has been interested in the case decides to travel to Oklahoma and learn more about the case. What she finds is an impoverished area that is dominated by drugs and corrupt police. Interesting story. I was surprised that the reporter didnt actually solve the case.
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Born and raised in northeast Oklahoma, I was just a few years younger than Lauria (pronounced Laura) Bible and Ashley Freeman when they were reported missing in the rural community of Welch, OK. This baffling crime has long haunted me, and many other Oklahomans, from the moment this story of a sleepover gone awry was broadcast on the local news in late 1999.

Like most places, Oklahoma has two sides. Oklahomans in general are some of the friendliest, open people you will ever meet. We take pride
Jul 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
I didn't realize it at first but as I started reading it I discovered I had listened to a podcast a few months back about this very story. This book gave me so much more insight than the podcast did. I had no idea there was so much corruption, ineptitude and potential cover-ups involved. This is definitely a case of real life being stranger than fiction.

Crime writer, Jax Miller, has immersed herself fully into the case about the Freeman trailer fire that killed Kathy and Danny Freeman and the m
May 17, 2020 rated it liked it
The publisher’s blurb reads “S-Town meets I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” referencing two outstanding true crime hits of the past couple of years (the first a podcast and the second a nonfiction book about a woman’s obsessive search for the identity of the Golden State Killer). I loved both of those, so I was happy to receive a copy of Jax Miller’s true crime account of this case titled Hell in the Heartland: Murder, Meth, and the Case of Two Missing Girls (from Berkley Publishing and NetGalley in re ...more
Jill Meyer
Jul 30, 2020 rated it liked it
“Hell in the Heartland” is an apt title for Jax Miller’s book about brutal life and brutal loss in northeast Oklahoma. The case she examines began in 1999 with the murder of a couple, Kathy and Danny Freeman, in a trailer fire (after having been murdered by gunfire) and disappearance (and assumed death) of two 16 year old girls. The story has everything the reader might assume, from meth making and distribution, to local and state cops who are not diligent in their duties to make a thorough inve ...more
Crystal Zavala
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, audio, librofm
I'm predicting that Hell in the Heartland will be my favorite true crime book of 2020!

I have heard of the missing girls - Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible, but I hadn't heard any updates in quite some time. Jax Miller became fascinated with the Freeman/Bible case and started investigating. At some point during a sleepover at Ashley Freeman's house in 1999, the home catches fire, and when the police arrive it is discovered that Ashley's parents have been murdered and Ashley and Lauria are missing.
Charlene Intriago
First off, I have to say I didn't know anything about this case or this book until I was reading a list of the weekly top ten reads for a book store in Oklahoma. It sounded intriguing and I was able to get it from one of my online libraries.

That being said, I really liked her writing style. It clicked with me on the first page. I also liked the way she chronicled the story. In the beginning I'm thinking the county sheriff's really bungled this one. Then it looked like it went higher up to the Ok
The Book Club
Jul 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Hell in the Heartland is a deep dive into a double homicide committed in the small town of Welch, in Craig County and the disappearance of the two teen girls Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman. The night of the 29th of December 1999 the girls were having a sleepover in the Freeman’s trailer to celebrate Ashley’s birthday. The following morning a neighbour calls the emergency services to report that the trailer was on fire. The police pretty soon declared that it was arson and then managed to recove ...more
thereadingowlvina (Elvina Ulrich)
What It's About: On a cold December 1999, in the small town Welch, Oklahoma, a trailer home goes up in flames and was completely destroyed by the fire. Two bodies with gunshot wound were recovered in the trailer. However, the police could not locate two sixteen year-old and best friends, Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman, whose disappearances sparked an extensive search and baffled the police for 18 years. Although an arrest was made in 2018, the whereabouts of Lauria and Ashley still remain u ...more
Aug 05, 2020 rated it liked it
What a mangled mess of a mystery. It's a convoluted tale, but less because of the structure of the book and more because there are so many stories, so many suspects, so many red herrings and dead ends. It's less a story about what happened than a story about trying to figure out what happened. What comes through, though, so strongly, is a story of law-enforcement incompetence, or worse. Even if only half of the law-enforcement errors described here are accurate, it's...a lot. It's enough that ar ...more
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Hell in the Heartland, Jax Miller, 4/5 🔥

A stranger than fiction true crime case from Oklahoma that has stumped authorities for 2 decades. On December 30 1999 Ashley Freeman was having a sleepover at home with her best friend Lauria Bible. The next morning, her trailer was in flames, the girls missing and 2 decades of rumours about revenge, drugs and police collusion followed. This book drops tomorrow and is worth the order!

Wow. This was gripping, gritty read. I find True Crime has to toe a very
E.C. Frey
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Haunting and maddening

I struggled with this story. True crime is one thing, but the heartbreak for these beautiful young girls and what they probably endured is immeasurable. The author’s prose is beautiful and the book almost reads like a memoir so it pulls the reader in. I can only imagine the struggling hope in all the years of living this story. As a mother, who would not be in awe of Lorene Bible’s strength and incredible love. This is a gut wrenching story. The only issue I had was a sligh
Aug 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, crime
This book is for sure NOT on the Oklahoma Tourism Board's recommended reading list. My takeaways after reading this:

If you make it to age 45 in this part of Oklahoma, you are living on borrowed time.
Everyone is either murdered, dies from drugs or drug related illness, or is killed in a terrible accident. Everyone.
The EPA Superfund site at Picher might be the closest thing to a tourist attraction that part of the country has.
Even without the crimes this book docume
Nov 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very well written. It was hard not to feel for the mother of one of the missing girls. The extent of the police issues will shock the reader.
Dee Dee G
Nov 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I remember when these murders happened. I had no idea how much police messed this case up until reading this book. It’s mind boggling.
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book!

This very well researched and ultimately very sad book examines a number of factors not just about this specific missing girl case, but about the sad realities of rural Oklahoma. Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible's disappearance, and in all likelihood murders, have been on Jax Miller's radar for years, and now she has pulled all her leads, evidence, and interviews together to try and bring attention to this cold case. The families o
Stephanie Pennington
3.5 ⭐️. Very interesting/sad subject, I love true crime this one just jumped around a lot but still a good read maybe just a hard subject to grasp.
Jan Thorne
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure of the reason, but I did not know anything about this case until reading this book. I learned a lot about the geographical area and the heartbreaking case itself. I enjoyed the author's style and related to a lot of her anxiety issues. I would read more true crime by Jax, if she continues along that genre. ...more
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Jax Miller is an American author. She wrote her first novel, Freedom’s Child, in her twenties while hitchhiking across America, winning the 2016 Grand Prix des Lectrices de Elle and earning several CWA Dagger nominations. She has received acclaim from the New York Times, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, and many more. She now works in the true-crime genre, having penned her much-anticipated book and act ...more

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27 likes · 10 comments
“I come to Oklahoma, thinking that it’ll be hard to write about the dead, but it has proven harder to write about the living, about those who’ll have to read themselves through my eyes.” 1 likes
“She has with her an air of hard times and menthol.” 0 likes
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