South Dakota Girls, Gone Missing in 1971, Finally Found

| by Allison Geller

More than four decades ago, two South Dakota teenagers drove off a country road on their way to an end-of-school party, meeting their untimely deaths in a creek below. That was the end of their tragic story—until now.

Authorities unearthed the remains of the two young women last fall when a drought lowered the water level in the rural Union County creek, bringing the 1960 Studebaker into the light, the Associated Press reports.

An eerie time capsule, the investigators founds photographs and clothing in the car, all well-preserved—clues about the young lives of 17-year-old Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson. The Vermillion High School students were identified by DNA evidence and their personal items, including Miller’s driver’s license, found in her purse.

The long mystery even led to a man’s wrongful arrest. In 2004 authorities unearthed apparently unrelated bones and personal items at the Union County farm of David Lykken, a classmate of the girls. That reopened a cold case that had been shut for nearly forty years.

Evidence points away from theories that the teens had been drinking, or that their deaths were the result of a crime or foul play.

"It's consistent with a car accident," said Attorney General Marty Jackley. "To start with, the forensic pathology and anthropology reports indicate that there's no type of injury that would be consistent with or caused by foul play or inappropriate conduct."

After a long search for the missing girls turned up nothing, the families will now finally have closure. The families will receive the girls' remains for a proper burial.

Jackson's father, Oscar, died just five days before the car was found.

"If you look at that obituary, it indicates one of the saddest parts of Oscar's life is not knowing about the disappearance of his daughter Pam," Jackley said.

Other family members were present at the news conference. Jackley read a statement from them: "Our day has come through this journey for answers pertaining to our sister Sherry and dear friend Pam, for we will be able to finish the last chapter of this journey."

Sources: Associated Press