Skip to main content

Four decades later, disappearance of 2 missing S.D. girls blamed on fatal wreck

By Michael Martinez, CNN
updated 7:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Cheryl Miller, left, and Pamela Jackson were 17-year-old high school students when they disappeared in 1971. They were driving to a party at a gravel pit near Beresford, South Dakota. Investigators have put their case to rest, declaring the girls died in a car accident, with no signs of foul play. Cheryl Miller, left, and Pamela Jackson were 17-year-old high school students when they disappeared in 1971. They were driving to a party at a gravel pit near Beresford, South Dakota. Investigators have put their case to rest, declaring the girls died in a car accident, with no signs of foul play.
HIDE CAPTION
South Dakota cold case closed
South Dakota cold case closed
South Dakota cold case closed
South Dakota cold case closed
South Dakota cold case closed
South Dakota cold case closed
South Dakota cold case closed
South Dakota cold case closed
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Authorities confirm the identities of two sets of remains found last year in a car
  • Investigators also conclude the two girls died in a car accident, with no signs of foul play
  • Cheryl Miller and Pamela Jackson disappeared in 1971
  • Their remains were found last September in their mud-caked car in a creek

(CNN) -- South Dakota investigators have put to rest a 42-year-old cold case about two missing 17-year-old girls, declaring they died in a car accident that ended in a creek at night in 1971, with no signs of foul play.

Cheryl Miller and Pamela Jackson were high school students when they disappeared May 29, 1971, while driving to a party at a gravel pit.

It took 42 years for their car to be discovered -- last September -- just a half-mile from the girls' intended destination near Beresford, South Dakota. Last year's weather -- a wet spring followed by strong creek currents and then a drought -- caused the car to become visible and recovered, caked in mud, authorities said.

Subsequent DNA, forensic and anthropological analyses confirmed the identities of the two sets of remains found in the car and also concluded that the girls' deaths were accidental, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley told reporters Tuesday.

Cold case from 1971 is finally solved

Their 1960 Studebaker Lark's ignition and headlights were turned on, and the transmission was in the top, or third, gear, Jackley said. Their clothing contained bones and remnants of shoes were found, and no evidence of alcohol was found in the car, he said.

"No evidence indicates that there was foul play. This would appear to indicate an accident," Jackley said.

The announcement "brings a closure" and gives the families "some answers," Jackley said. The families will now be able to collect the two girls' remains, he added.

The attorney general said investigators don't know what caused the accident, but he noted that one car tire was damaged, though authorities don't know whether a blowout caused that. He also cited how the tread on the tires were low.

Jackley showed reporters some of the personal belongings found in the car, including two classmate notes and Miller's purse.

Kay Brock, Jackson's sister, told CNN affiliate KSFY that the DNA confirmation finally ended the long uncertainty.

"I'm relieved to have no foul play," Brock told the station. "It's nice to have a permanent answer after 42 years."

Taken: The coldest case ever solved

Police get break in missing girls' cold case from 1975

Arrest in 40-year-old murder case

CNN's Josh Levs contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:45 PM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
ISIS has published a video titled "A second message to America," showing the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff.
updated 9:35 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Three Americans detained in North Korea spoke out about their conditions and pleaded for U.S. help in interviews with CNN.
Hundreds of jihadis in Syria are from abroad -- which countries have the biggest problem?
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
CNN attends a funeral where mourners keep their distance.
updated 5:13 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Libyan militia members have apparently turned the abandoned U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, into a water park.
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
A few miles south of the town of Starobeshevo in eastern Ukraine, a group of men in uniform is slumped under a tree.
updated 9:25 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Beijing says only candidates approved by a nominating committee can run for Hong Kong's chief executive, prompting criticism.
updated 4:23 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
He should be toddling around a playground. Instead, his tiny hands grip an AK-47.
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
In a major breach of privacy, a hacker leaked a series of pictures allegedly showing Jennifer Lawrence and other female celebrities in the nude.
Instead of weaving garments sold in the West, children should be in school
According to the International Labour Organization, there are 168 million child laborers around the world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT