Keeper of the Ashes: docuseries about unsolved murders of girl scouts features A-lister whose life was saved by being sick

Keeper of the Ashes: heartbreaking true-crime series features Hollywood star whose life was saved for the most unexpected reason

Keeper of the Ashes: stock photo of a tent in the woods with a camp fire.
(Image credit: Stephen Salvona / EyeEm/Getty Images)

Keeper of the Ashes is a true-crime docuseries examining the tragic case of three young Oklahoma girls, found murdered after their first night at a sleep-away camp, back in 1977. The series features actor and singer Kristen Chenoweth - who might have been a victim, had things turned out differently.

Hot on the heels of shows like Only Murders in the Building and Candy, Hulu have created another series that's sure to entice those of you with a passion for crime. This particular story adds an extra layer of sadness and mystery, as the horrific murders it details remain unsolved. 

"This is a story I wish I never had to tell. It haunts me every day," she says in the trailer. "But this story, it needs to be told."  

As the terrible tragedy, known as the Oklahoma Girl Scout murders, reaches its 45th anniversary - Kristen and a whole host of people close to the investigation examine the cold case.


What are the Oklahoma Girls Scout murders?

Keeper of the Ashes is the true story of the unsolved murders of Lori Lee Farmer, 8, Doris Denise Milner, 10, and Michele Guse, 9 - told 45 years later. The young girls were brutally murdered on the first night of a weeklong camping trip at Camp Scott near Locust Grove, Oklahoma.  

The Oklahoman (opens in new tab) reports that the Magic Empire Council of Girl Scouts had owned Camp Scott, a vast property, since 1928. Week-long campouts, just like this one, were a tradition, much loved by the girl scouts. That was until that terrible night when everything changed, and the camp never reopened again.

On the morning of June 13, 1977, at 6am, the bodies of Lori, Doris Denise, and Michele were found outside their tent. 

There were many suspects along the way, but a convicted rapist and escapee from the Mayes County jail, Gene Leroy Hart, was charged with the murders on June 20, 1977. He was arrested 10 months later, 50 miles from Camp Scott, after the largest manhunt in the state's history.

His trial began on March 19, 1979, but after a nine-days of emotionally charged testimony, he was acquitted of murder. Gene then returned to Oklahoma State Penitentiary to finish off his sentence of 305 years for rape, kidnapping, and burglary convictions and parole violations.

Although it was clear he'd spend the rest of his life in jail, the 35-year-old died suddenly of a heart attack, only months after the acquittal.

In 1989, DNA evidence proved inconclusive. After multiple attempts at reopening the case, Mayes County Sheriff Mike Reed told the Tulsa World (opens in new tab), “Unless something new comes up, something brought to light we are not aware of, I am convinced where I’m sitting of Hart’s guilt and involvement in this case.”

Keeping of the Ashes seeks to reopen the investigation, including the latest technology, as well as the stories of those who worked on the case 45 years ago and ever since.

Kristen Chenoweth and the Oklahoma Girl Scout murders

Keeper of the Ashes: Kristen Chenoweth features in docuseries about the Oklahoma Girl Scout murders. stars in

(Image credit: Keeping the Ashes: The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders/Hulu)

A little-known fact about the case is that star of Wicked, Glee, Pushing Up Daisies, and countless other TV shows, movies, and stage productions Kristen is connected to the case.

"As a Girl Scout, I loved going to camp. The friendships that I made, they were like my sisters," she explains in the Keeping of the Ashes trailer. "I never once thought anything bad could happen, but I came to learn what murder was."

Saying you feel lucky for being sick sounds like a misnomer, but in Kristen's case, being ill was a twist of fate that may have saved her life. "I remember, I should have been on that trip," she says. "But I had gotten sick, and Mom said, 'You can't go.'"

That tiny twist of fate meant that she wasn't there the night of the murders. "It has stuck with me my whole life," she says. "I could have been one of them." 

How to watch Keeping the Ashes

In the US, Keeper of the Ashes: The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders will begin streaming Tuesday, May 24, only on Hulu (opens in new tab).  

For fans in the UK and around the world, sadly it's not clear when it will have an international release on Disney+ , where Hulu shows usually find a home, but in the time being you could always use a VPN.


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Aoife is Junior News Editor at woman&home.

She's an Irish journalist and writer with a background in creative writing, comedy, and TV production.

Formerly Aoife was a contributing writer at Bustle and her words can be found in the Metro, Huffpost, Delicious, Imperica, EVOKE and her poetry features in the Queer Life, Queer Love anthology.

Outside of work you might bump into her at a garden center, charity shop, hot yoga studio, lifting heavy weights, or (most likely) supping/eating some sort of delicious drink/meal.