Women Missing Since 1970s Found in Submerged Car After Creek Dried Up in Drought

Cold case investigation finds women decades after mysterious disappearance.

April 16, 2014— -- The mysterious disappearance of two teenage girls on their way to a college party in rural South Dakota in May 1971 was solved more than 40 years after the incident when their bodies were found in a creek, police said.

Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson, both 17, were on their way to an end-of-the-year school party at a gravel pit in Clay County, South Dakota, when they went missing, according to the Associated Press.

Family members and friends searched the area, including a nearby creek, looking for the car the girls were driving or any sign of them, but found nothing. Friends said the girls had not been drinking.

"They were searching and they simply didn't find it," Attorney General Marty Jackley said at a news conference on Tuesday, according to the AP.

Jackley said that police were finally able to close the cold case investigation opened in 2004, but only after other false starts. Police had previously torn up the farm of a classmate of the girls who is in prison on unrelated rape charges. They found bones and purses and other items but were not able to connect them to the girls.

In the fall of 2013, as the creek in Clay County dried up due to drought, a bystander noticed a tire sticking out of the water and notified police, who located the car the girls had been driving.

The women's bodies were found inside the car -- their belongings frozen in time. Jackley said there was no sign of foul play and that tests run on the women's DNA along with well-preserved clothing, purse and even Miller's drivers license to help identify them.

"It's consistent with a car accident," Jackley concluded. "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."