Gene Leroy Hart today was found innocent of three first-degree murder charges in the 1977 sex slayings of three Girl Scouts.
A thunderous cheer broke out from the relatives and supporters of Hart as Mayes County Court clerk Eloise Gist read the verdicts.
District Court Judge William J. Whistler immediately ordered Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers and sheriff's officers to eject about 30 of Hart's followers from the packed, 96-seat courtroom.
Mayes County Sheriff Glen H. (Pete) Weaver, who had worked for nearly two years in an effort to convict Hart on the charges, led the way in removing the supporters.
Hart wept as his attorneys, sitting on either side of him, Garvin Isaacs and Gary Pitchlynn, both of Oklahoma City, hugged him and wept.
Several feet away, the parents and grandparents of the girls who were killed also wept.
A jailhouse escapee when the crimes were committed, hart continues to serve sentences for rape, kidnaping and burglary convictions from before 1973. Immediately after the verdicts were read he was returned to the state prison at McAlester.
Hart, 35, was charged with murdering Lori Lee Farmer, 8, and Michele Guse, 9, both of Tulsa, and Doris Denise Milner, 10, of Broken Arrow.
Their bodies were found beaten, strangled and sexually molested on the first night of a week-long outing at a Girl Scout summer camp 19 miles south of Pryor, Okla.
Key law enforcement officers said they have no intention of reopening the case.
"It's not like we can go after the killer," said Ted Limke, chief inspector of the Oklahoma State Bureau of investigation. "We already had the killer."
Sheriff Weaver, saying he was "totally shoked," said his office had no plans to investigate the crime any further, adding, "This is not an unsolved crime. We had the killer here."
"It's just Mayes County justice," said Weaver's undersheriff, Al Boyer. 'I think it was an easy out for them [the jurors].
"I think the fact that the families of the victims live in Tulsa and that the jurors won't have to face them like they will the Hart family-that's what happened."
Hart's supporters had maintained throughout the two years since he was charged that Hart was a "convenient suspect."
Hart's lawyers clained in their closing arguments Thursday that their client was "railroaded," and implied, among other things, that the fact he is a Cherokee Indian was one of the major reason swhy the charges were filed in the first place.
Lawyers for Hart claimed it was not their client who killed the Girl Scouts, but a Kansas convict, Bill Stevens who is currently serving time for rape and kidnaping.
They called to the stand several witnesses who claimed to have see Stevens the morning of the killings acting nervous, dirty and with a "red stain" on his boots.
Prosecutors countered that argument by producing witnesses who showed that hair found on the bodies of the victims was not that of Stevens.
The experts testified that hair and sperm found on the girls belonged to Hart, although they admitted they could not positively compare Hart's hair with that of the hair on the bodies.
Other experts, including Dr. John MacLeod, fertility expert at Cornell University Medical Center in New York, testified that sperm found in the girls' bodies was that of the defendant.
Meanwhile, Isaacs was charged with two counts of contempt of court by Judge Whistler after the verdicts was read.
The judge accused defense lawyer Issacs of improper conduct in the courtroom and improper questioning of a prospective juror during jury selection.
A hearing was set for April 24 to consider the citations.