• Hell in the Heartland

  • Murder, Meth, and the Case of Two Missing Girls
  • By: Jax Miller
  • Narrated by: Amy Landon
  • Length: 11 hrs and 40 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (190 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"There is, in the best of us, a search for the truth, to serve the living and dead alike.... Jax Miller is one of those people and Hell in the Heartland is one of those books." (Robert Graysmith, New York Times best-selling author of Zodiac)

As seen in:

  • Marie Claire's "Best True Crime Books of 2020"
  • HuffPost 
  • OK! Magazine 
  • CrimeReads 
  • LitHub's "Best New Summer Books" 

S-Town meets I'll Be Gone in the Dark in this 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, possible police cover-up, and an unimaginable truth....

On December 30, 1999, in rural Oklahoma, 16-year-old Ashley Freeman and her best friend, Lauria Bible, were having a sleepover. The next morning, the Freeman family trailer was in flames and both girls were missing.

While rumors of drug debts, revenge, and police corruption abounded in the years that followed, the case remained unsolved, and the girls were never found.

In 2015, crime writer Jax Miller - who had been haunted by the case - decided to travel to Oklahoma to find out what really happened on that winter night in 1999 and why the story was still simmering more than 15 years later. What she found was more than she could have ever bargained for: Evidence of jaw-dropping levels of police negligence, entire communities ravaged by methamphetamine addiction, and a series of interconnected murders with an ominously familiar pattern.

These forgotten towns were wild, lawless, and home to some very dark secrets.

©2020 Jax Miller (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Jax Miller's Hell in the Heartland is the kind of 300 page book that would take a 300 page blurb to do it justice. There is, in the best of us, a search for the truth, to serve the living and dead alike, an obsessiveness that means never giving up, to balance the scale and give the dead their due. In the modern tradition of I'll be Gone in the Dark, Jax Miller is one of those people and Hell in the Heartland is one of those books." (Robert Graysmith, New York Times best-selling author of Zodiac)

"The title of Jax Miller's book is, believe me, no exaggeration. This writer marched straight into a piece of Oklahoma that can fairly be called Hell and didn't come out until she'd covered every track leading to and from an ice cold crime and relentlessly covered a whole lot of nasty possibilities. Murder and Meth are only the beginning. If this is the Heartland I'm taking a detour." (Beverly Lowry, author of Who Killed These Girls?

"A top-notch true crime work shot through with desperation, paranoia, and regret. Reading this book feels like running headlong into danger, and Miller's writing is haunted and haunting. It's a patchwork of broken dreams, of secrets and lies, of trouble under the surface. Mesmerizing, raw, evocative, unforgettable." (William Boyle, author of A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself)

What listeners say about Hell in the Heartland

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Hard to stay engaged

After watching the HLN special by the same name, I was really looking forward to this book. Unfortunately, it just wasn't as good. Maybe if Jax had done the narration, her on tv passion/ demeanor would have shown through.

I had a hard time staying engaged and re-listened to several chapters.

4 people found this helpful

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Remember it's unsolved

this book had good reviews so I purchased it, its not bad but went off track several times, of course it's unsolved but leaves you feeling hopeless and extremely bitter towards our justice system, (which is horrible.) I don't like leaving negative reviews, especially when an author puts years of work into it but I can't say this is a great true crimes book, it's not.

3 people found this helpful

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Nice to listen to in the background...

Love the narrator, but the telling of the story felt disconnected to me, and I wasn't a fan of the way the author would detail so much unnecessary information like personifying locations, etc. The actual story of the crimes committed, the missing girls, the interviews with living relatives, etc, is captivating... I just don't think the author did the story justice when every few paragraphs it seemed like their focus was on themselves and their own wounded past. This audio book is a good background listen, where you can be doing other things and only half paying attention and still get all the information you need about the cases.

1 person found this helpful

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Interesting Story - Difficult to Read

I enjoyed learning more about this case, which has been part of the lives of all Northeast Oklahomans. I had the impression the author added a lot of details in order to lengthen the book for publication, but that is only conjecture. Suffice it to say there were a lot of details which were of questionable importance to the story.

Ms. Miller's honesty regarding her own battles lend value to the telling of the story.

1 person found this helpful

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Very good and informative read

This book holds a special place for me since it happened about 15 miles from my house. The book starts with circumstances the year before the fire and ends with the current events. I remember when this happened and in the last several years I i hadn't herd anything about it till last summer and when i found out about the book I anticipated its arrival. Let me say that it's worth the wait

1 person found this helpful

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Riveting

This is a true story that took place about 15 miles from my home! Gave me much more insight into the actual crime. I knew several of the people mentioned in the book. Well written & performed!
Thank you Jax Miller

1 person found this helpful

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Is a book still considered non-fiction with so much dramatization?

I have such mixed emotions about this book, which covers a trailer fire, murdered parents, and two missing girls—Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible.

On one hand, this book has it all—police corruption, meth addiction, small town rumors and secrets, fear and fearlessness with a touch of religious fervor. The story is an important one and should be heard. On the other hand, I felt like this book was much more about the author’s journey than the story of what happened in December 1999.

Jax Miller is a talented writer and should get credit to the two-decade’s worth of work she’s done in documenting this long, twisted tale. However, I felt the dramatized descriptions of the landscape and flowery language describing her feelings overshadowed the story itself.

As a native Oklahoma, I was finishing up my college degree at the University of Oklahoma when Ashley and Lauria went missing. The name of “Lauria Bible” was familiar to me when I started the book, which made sense as I read about her mother’s relentless campaign to bring the girls home. Likewise, this book also explained why Ashley’s name had been lost, along with her family, in my memories.

I have friends from Vinita, and I have possibly even walked along the streets where Ashley and Lauria once walked. I am from a small southwestern Oklahoma town, much like the one these girls lived their short 16 years. I understand how communities like these operate.

And this is why the book didn’t hit right to me. I feel the author romanticized Oklahoma at the expense of reality. More of the book focused on the setting—which were described in more vivid colors, smells, textures, and sights—than the two young ladies at the heart of this tragedy.

If you read this book, go into it understanding that Miller, although a talented writer, is telling HER story of experiencing the investigation. It is an outsiders view and is colored through that lens.

I wish more time was devoted to the reality of the culture of Oklahoma—then and now. A fly-over state in the heart of our country, Oklahoma, ranks in the top 3 for incarcerations, 2nd in the nation on divorce rates, 48th in healthcare, 42nd in education, and ranks in the bottom 10 states for child well-being.

What happened to Ashley and Lauria was horrific. They should not be forgotten. Just don’t let the beautiful descriptions of the land in this book hide the reality of the work that still needs to be done in the state.

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Midwest part of country

Being that I live so close to where this all occurred it was fascinating to hear details that we never saw in the news or read about in the paper. Truly a great book.

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Great read!

If you liked I'll Be Gone in the Dark, you'll love this! if I didn't know better, I would think they were written by the same author.

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Rumor's

I lived in Commerce and worked in Vinita Ok. when they murders occurred. I heard the rumors from the very beginning from some of my ex's family that was friends of many in that Meth. circle of NE Ok and SE Ks. I also knew one of this ex's that lived in Miami Ok at the tine and also was friends in that circle. Hearing what happened to the girls and that they was in the Chat pit's. But I didn't know to go to with just rumor's and not first hand knowledge. I always felt guilty for not going to the police was my rumor's. But this book verified everything I heard it the tine about then police corruption and why everyone involved was so scared. My heart goes out to the family's and I hope they find some solence in the knowledge that God has him on his care. I hope that they can remember the bone's of their final resting place is not the girls final home, but that's heaven is.

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