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Coroner: Remains from Oklahoma lake match genders, ages of six missing people

By Michael Martinez, CNN
updated 12:10 PM EDT, Sun October 13, 2013
Sheriff's deputies found two cars submerged in Oklahoma's Foss Lake in September 2013, and DNA tests recently confirmed that the human remains inside those cars matched the descriptions of six people who went missing in 1969 and 1970. The state Medical Examiner's Office said the victims died from drowning and their deaths were accidental. Sheriff's deputies found two cars submerged in Oklahoma's Foss Lake in September 2013, and DNA tests recently confirmed that the human remains inside those cars matched the descriptions of six people who went missing in 1969 and 1970. The state Medical Examiner's Office said the victims died from drowning and their deaths were accidental.
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Bodies, cars found in Oklahoma lake
Bodies, cars found in Oklahoma lake
Bodies, cars found in Oklahoma lake
Bodies, cars found in Oklahoma lake
Bodies, cars found in Oklahoma lake
Bodies, cars found in Oklahoma lake
Bodies, cars found in Oklahoma lake
Bodies, cars found in Oklahoma lake
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Remains in one car belong to two teen boys and a teen girl, coroner says
  • Remains in a second car belong to 'elderly' man, adult woman, adult man
  • Those findings match the general description of cars carrying three people each
  • Both cars and their occupants disappeared separately more than 40 years ago

(CNN) -- Human remains from an Oklahoma lake match the general description of three teenagers who went missing in a car in 1970, but investigators are awaiting results from DNA testing to confirm their identities, the state medical examiner's office said Thursday.

The medical examiner's analysis also shows that the remains from a second car match the genders and adult age of three occupants in another car that went missing in 1969, according to the medical examiner's office. DNA results are also pending in that case.

In an extraordinary discovery last month, both vehicles were found when a state highway patrol trooper was training with new sonar equipment on Foss Lake and came upon the two submerged cars, with remains of three people in each of them.

The findings provoked western Oklahoma residents to wonder whether two mysteries each involving three missing people in a car -- occurring separately more than 40 years ago -- may have finally been solved.

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The Oklahoma medical examiner has determined the driver of a 1969 blue Camaro was a male teenager, and the remains of two persons found in the back seat were those of a female teenager and another male teenager, said Amy Elliott, chief administrative officer for the medical examiner's office.

Those findings match the vehicle type, gender and age range of three teens who disappeared in 1970 when 16-year-old Jimmy Williams of Sayre, Oklahoma, drove his car with Thomas Rios and Leah Johnson, both 18, as passengers.

The three friends went missing the night of November 20, 1970, when they went for a ride around Sayre in Williams' 1969 blue Camaro with a white top, according to the Doe Network, a volunteer organization that helps law enforcement solve cold cases.

Williams bought the used Camaro just six days before he went missing, and the muscle car was the envy of teenage boys at the time, said Dayva Spitzer, publisher of the Sayre Record and Beckham County Democrat newspaper.

Johnson was Native American and, according to Spitzer, was said to be a descendent of Sitting Bull, the legendary Indian chief who led warriors who defeated George Custer in the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. Local residents regarded Johnson as an Indian princess, Spitzer said.

Williams and his two passengers were supposed to go to a football game, but they may have gone hunting instead, Spitzer said. Williams was a hunter, Spitzer said, and in fact, two rifles were found, rusted and corroded, in the Camaro.

Diver, trooper recount discovery

The medical examiner's office said Thursday that the other vehicle found in the lake was a green 1952 Chevrolet -- the same make of vehicle in which John Alva Porter, then 69, was traveling in with Cleburn Hammack, 42, and Nora Marie Duncan, 58, on April 8, 1969, when they all went missing, according to authorities.

National Missing and Unidentified Persons System clarified Thursday that Hammack was the third person traveling in the car -- not a sibling of Porter's whom NamUs initially identified as Alrie Porter, said spokesman J. Todd Matthews.

Porter, Duncan and Hammack were last seen "when their 1953 green Chevrolet car was given a push to help it get started," according to a July 1969 newspaper article published in Oklahoma and provided by Matthews.

"A report from Mrs. Duncan's brother gave the sheriff's department the clue about the push, but as of (Monday) afternoon the person supplying the push was not known," the 1969 article said.

The medical examiner's office, however, said Thursday the vehicle was a 1952 Chevy, and the remains inside it belonged to an "elderly" man, an adult female and an adult man. The coroner didn't provide information on whether those remains were found in the front or back seats.

"Family reference sample DNA has been collected from all of the presumed families and it has been sent to a DNA reference laboratory," Elliott said in a statement.

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