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 9:54 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
updated 7:24 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
updated 1:44 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
updated 8:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 3:22 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 6:34 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT