1971 Disappearance Of Two Teenage Girls May Have Finally Been Solved

    April 15, 2014
    Zach Walton
    Comments are off for this post.

The 1971 disappearance of two teenage girls from Vermillion, South Dakota hasn’t been on the public radar for more than 40 years. After all, even the families of the two girls would have given up after not hearing anything for more than four decades. Now those same family members may be able to find closure if remains found this month indeed belonged to the girls.

News 4 KTIV is reporting that South Dakota authorities have scheduled a press conference for this afternoon in which they will discuss remains found last year. The remains were found in a Studebaker pulled from a creek after flooding followed by a drought unveiled the decades-old car. The remains were consistent with the story of how the two girls, Pam Jackson and Cheryl Miller, disappeared in 1971 after leaving for a party in the same car. Not wanting to leave anything up to chance, however, the authorities had the remains examined by forensic experts at the University of North Texas.

Generally speaking, the family and authorities assume foul play when persons have been missing for this long. That appears to not have been the case in this particular incident though. The authorities report that the car was in third gear when it was recovered from the creek. In other words, the missing girls were likely involved in a tragic car accident that left them at the bottom of a creek. Of course, we can’t know for sure until the authorities release the forensic results. The remains could even belong to somebody else entirely, but all evidence at this point points to the remains belonging to the two girls.

Here’s raw video of the car after it was pulled from the creek bed. The visible damage makes it appear that whoever was in the vehicle did not live after impact:

If you want more details on the original case, here’s a TomoNews reenactment of the night the two girls vanished and the subsequent discovery of the car:

Update: Argus Leader Crime Reporter John Hult was at the press conference where the authorities announced that the two girls died in a car accident. There was no evidence of foul play or alcohol:

Image via TomoNews US/YouTube

  • Vicki

    Why was the creek not dragged at that time. What about tire tracks. Sounds to me that the police did a bad job searching. The boys said that the car was behind them and then disappeared. That would have been the first place to look. At least the family’s have found them. No thanks to the police.

    • tjirish34

      How do you know anyone knew where the girls were going? The boys story is the last time the girls were seen. You don’t know how far away they drove from there. How about don’t drive in 3rd gear at night on an isolated road in a 1960 Studebaker POS car. From another story it was estimated from the wreckage. Doubtful both girls lived from impact. So this is really about finding the remains and giving the family closure knowing what happened.

      • tjirish34

        BTW I assure you alot of missing people missing today. The worst is feared of foul play. But alot of them had similar situations as this story. There is a famous story from 2000 in Florida.6 teenage kids disappeared in Florida in 1975. What’s sad is some of the teens being typical teens had domestic issues and talked about running away from home etc… They disappeared in a van one nite and the parents all thought they ran away and begged them to let them know they were OK. In 2000 a construction crew doing work on a turnpike found an upside down van in a drainage ditch off the turnpike. The van had been underwater for 15 years and all 6 skeletons were inside from an accident. This kind of story has happened many times before. If you search for the story online you will find a link.

        • missiemeghan

          My mom knows a man who died just like this. He was on his way to his wedding. Everyone thought he had jilted his bride. He was found behind the wheel of his car a decade later in a nearby river. His wedding tuxedo was still hanging on a hook in the back.

        • Eric Benson

          Tjirish – To answer the question you asked Vicki… I grew up in South Dakota and this was a very famous case in that state. The facts were these: Cheryl and Pam were headed to an end of the year party their class was holding at a gravel pit. They stopped to ask some boys in their class for directions and the boys said to follow them. At one point the boys realized they had missed the turn and so they turned around only to realize the girls were no longer behind them, So there was a point A where the boys had last seen these girls and a point B where they realized the girls were no longer there. The creek should obviously been searched between those two points.
          Why that wasn’t done, who knows? If it had been this case would have been solved all those years ago.

          • Vicki

            Thank you

      • meangreen1

        Hey tjirish34! He knows because he said he knows, you got that Wise guy? Huh? I can’t hear you!

      • Vicki

        You need to read the article. The boys said the girls ask them directions to the party and they said to follow them and when they looked back the girls car was gone. Who knows what gear they drove in. Maybe on impact the gear got hit and shifted into 3rd. What I do know is if there was a pond/creek body of water in the area or close to it and young girls didn’t come home and the car was not found, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know to check it as one of the possibilities. I am sure the people involved knew where the party was at. Had they checked the water this would have been over a long time ago for the family’s. Bad police work.

  • Donnie

    its good that they found them, but sad for the family

  • Dante Poe

    don’t text and drive.

    • kianna

      That is true, but in this case,texting didn’t exist back then :P.

      • TheGuy

        I think Dante Poe meant to say “don’t type letters and drive”

        • Blanche Quizno

          Yeah, they found the remains of a manual typewriter in the front seat – one of the strangest things they’ve ever seen. Only part of the paper remained in the carriage – on it, a few letters could still be made out: “April Fools” O_O

    • Dan

      I think Dante is an insensitive prick.

      • Gary J. Kunich

        I agree. My son was killed by a distracted driver. Those jokes are like a dagger to the heart. And shame on him for making light of this tragedy. Glad the families can have some closure.

  • jim

    they were following a couple of their guy friends to a party and disappeared and the police couldn’t walk the route they took? worst job of investigating i have i’ve heard about

  • Karmah

    I can’t imagine the eternal heartbreak the parents went through never knowing what happened to their daughters.

    • Donna (Wilkinson) Erdman

      If these girls were teens 40 years ago, then the chances are pretty good their parents are still alive. As the mother of an 18-year-old girl, I can’t possibly imagine spending 40+ years never knowing what happened to my daughter. Forty years of imagining the worst… Now they must grieve all over again. Grief mixed with relief that there’s finally an answer. God bless them all.

    • Donna (Wilkinson) Erdman

      I just read that Jackson’s father died only five days before the car was found. His obituary stated that his biggest sorrow was not knowing what happened to his daughter. For those of us who believe in Heaven, I’m sure hers was the first face he saw when he got there. They’ll never be separated again.

  • Ariel

    LMAO this guy asked about tire track!! LMAO it happened decades ago!!

    • dragonwych

      LMAO, genius. He was talking about tire tracks at the time of the disappearance. Duh.

  • adele0283

    Come on. There was NO evidence where the car left the road? No smashed/broken down brush, no skid or tire marks, none of the usual signs of that type of accident? How closely did they actually search the roads on the routes these girls supposedly traveled? Even 43 years ago, I am sure they had plenty of evidence somewhere. A Studebaker was a heavy boat of a car that would of made one hell of a footprint traveling over a wild patch of brush on the side of the road. Too bad the one girls father wasn’t around long enough to get closure.