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Missing SD Girls: 1971 Disappearance Solved as Remains Identified

Image: Missing SD Girls: 1971 Disappearance Solved as Remains Identified In this undated file photo provided by the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office shows a Studebaker with skeletal remains found in Brule Creek near Elk Point, S.D. Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson were last seen May 29, 1971, driving a 1960 Studebaker Lark on their way to a party.

By Angela Deines   |   Tuesday, 15 Apr 2014 04:53 PM

The 1971 disappearance of two girls in South Dakota has been solved after officials identified their remains in a car submerged in a creek from a car crash 43 years ago.

The Sioux City Journal reported Tuesday that authorities confirmed the remains found in a partially submerged 1960 Studebaker Lark are that of Pamella Johnson and Cheryl Miller, both of Vermillion, S.D. Both girls were 17 years old at the time they went missing while on their way to a party in 1971.

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The officials said the girls died as the result of the crash, not foul play.

The car in which the girls’ remains were found was located in September of last year in a Union County, S.D., creek. The skeletal remains found inside the vehicle were sent to a lab in Sioux Falls, S.D., then on to the University of North Texas for additional DNA testing.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said the girls’ deaths were “consistent with a car accident,” the Journal reported, further adding that the car was found to have been in a high gear when it crashed. Jackley said alcohol wasn’t a contributing factor to the crash based on witness statements, but he also couldn’t say exactly what caused the accident.

“This has really been a tragedy for two families, a tragedy for a class and as well as all of South Dakota to some degree,” Jackley said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Family members declined to speak to the media after Tuesday’s announcement, instead deferring to Jackley to read a statement, thanking law enforcement authorities for their work on closing the case.

Donald Lykken, a South Dakota prison inmate, was indicted in 2007 for what was thought to be the girls’ murders. However, charges were later dismissed when officials learned a jailhouse informant had faked a recorded confession the informant had claimed was Lykken.

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