Published September 26, 2013
DNA testing is being done on bones found inside an old submerged car to determine whether they belong to two 17-year-old girls who disappeared in South Dakota in 1971, authorities told FoxNews.com.
Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson were last seen May 29, 1971, driving a 1960 Studebaker Lark on their way to a party. Authorities this week pulled a rusted Studebaker from an embankment in Brule Creek near Elk Point, and are processing evidence.
Miller's sisters, Rita Allen and Dawn Hewlett, live in Watertown. They told local station KELO-TV that they're grateful for the development in the cold case. They say their mother's biggest wish was "never give up" -- and no one has.
The sisters say they will wait to see what answers they get, and they aren't setting any expectations.
"Skeletal remains have been recovered, as well as additional items," authorities said in a press release Tuesday. "No further information will be released until a requested autopsy and further testing is complete."
The statement was issued after crews lifted the rusted, mangled hulk from an embankment in Brule Creek near Elk Point, which isn't far from the South Dakota town of Vermillion where Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson were from.
High spring water levels followed by a drought this summer helped reveal the old car. Authorities recovered a Studebaker hubcap and a license plate matching the car once owned by Miller's grandfather.
A fisherman, who remembered the 42-year-old case, told The Associated Press that he called authorities after noticing one of the car's wheels sticking out of the creek. It's not clear what, if anything, came of that phone call.
The disappearance of the Vermillion High School juniors was one of the initial investigations of South Dakota's cold case unit. The unit was formed in June 2004 to focus on unsolved suspicious deaths and disappearances; there's no time limit on filing criminal charges in homicide cases.
A September 2004 search of a Union County farm turned up bones, clothing, a purse, photographs, newspaper articles and other items, but not the car. Authorities have not ever said if the bones recovered were the girls' -- or even whether they were human remains.
In a warrant authorizing the search, authorities said that David Lykken, who lived at the farm in 1971 and was a classmate of the girls, might have been involved in the disappearance of Miller and Jackson as well as three other unnamed people. Lykken, 59, is in prison serving an unrelated 227-year sentence for rape and kidnapping.
In July 2007, a Union County grand jury indicted Lykken on two counts of premeditated murder, two counts of felony murder and two counts of murder in the disappearance of Miller and Jackson. But state prosecutors dropped all six murder charges after discovering a prison snitch made up a supposed admission.
FoxNews.com's Cristina Corbin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.