South Dakota November 21, 2017
The Heartbreaking Case That Was Solved 40 Years After Two Girls Went Missing In South Dakota
On May 19, 1971, two girls were on their way to a party when they disappeared without a trace. More than 40 years passed without any solid leads. Finally, in 2013 this case was solved. Take a look:
Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson were looking forward to the end of the school year on May 19, 1971.
Cheryl and Pamella were good girls who didn't drink or use drugs, and they didn't typically attend parties on the weekends. On this night, they'd heard about a party at a local quarry and decided it might be fun.
The girls met up with some boys from school and arranged to follow them along the gravel road to the quarry.
Cheryl was driving her grandmother's car, a 1960 Studebaker Lark. Along the way, the boys took a wrong turn. By the time they got back onto the right road, the girls were no longer behind them. They figured that the girls had changed their minds and headed home. It turned out that those boys were the last people to see Cheryl and Pamella alive.
Police, family members and volunteers searched tirelessly for weeks, hoping to find some sign of the girls or the car. They had vanished without a trace.
More than four decades later, a fisherman at Brule Creek noticed the Studebaker lying upside down in the water. He called authorities, and the 43-year old mystery was eventually solved.
The car contained two bodies, and officials quickly identified Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson.
Cheryl's driver license was found in the car...
...along with her purse, which was in remarkably good condition, considering that it been submerged in the creek for more than 40 years.
The license plate also confirmed that the car belonged to Cheryl's grandmother.
It might seem strange that the car would go unnoticed for so long in the creek, but it's actually not that unusual. In rural areas, it was common practice back then to submerge old cars or farm equipment along the banks of the creek to combat erosion. The sight of a sunken car would not have aroused suspicion.
Also, when the accident first took place, the car may not have been visible. In September, 2013, a drought left Brule Creek's waters much lower than normal, which may have led to the car's tires being visible when the fisherman found it.
Police didn't find any signs of foul play, and believe that the girls somehow drove off the road into the creek.
One of the tires had very low tread, and police speculate that a blown or flat tire may have caused the girls to swerve off the road. Or, they may have had poor visibility out there in the dark, with dust kicking up from the car in front of them, and simply missed a curve in the road.
Pamella Jackson's father never gave up looking for her. He often drove along the rural roads near the quarry, looking for signs of the missing Studebaker. He died in 2013, just five days before the car was found.
Take a look at this news conference from April, 2014, posted by AP Archive on YouTube:
Do you remember this heartbreaking case?
South Dakota has certainly suffered its share of tragedies. Just one year after the disappearance of Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson, there was a
devastating flood in Rapid City.