ELK POINT, S.D. (Argus Leader) -- Authorities announced Tuesday that the skeletal remains found inside a car last September belonged to two teens who had been missing for 40 years and that they had died in a car crash.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said Tuesday that Pamela Jackson and Cheryl Miller died when their vehicle ran off the road while they were on their way to a party in rural Union County in 1971.
Jackley said there is no evidence of foul play. The vehicle was in third gear when it crashed, keys were still in the ignition, and one of the tires was damaged, perhaps indicating a blowout, he said. The bodies were in the cab and not the trunk.
He also said that alcohol was not a factor.
"All the evidence would appear to indicate an accident," Jackley said.
The final results put an end to speculation in the decades-long mystery and brings closure to two families who've wondered about the fate of the teens, Jackley said.
"I think it's fair to say that law enforcement and the families never quit searching," Jackley said.
The families of the girls declined to speak, but said in a statement that their "journey is done."
Jackley said the remains of the girls will be returned to their families.
The vehicle that the teens were driving while they were on their way to a party at a gravel pit was found last fall. The case was once classified as a homicide, but the criminal charges against the accused man was dropped in the face of perjured evidence.
A witness familiar with the case called authorities last September to report seeing the Studebaker's wheels poking up out of the water. Initial attempts to pull the car from the creek were unsuccessful, sparking a slow and exhaustive exhumation process.
On Tuesday, Jackley presented the results of the search. Miller's purse was found, Jackley said. Inside it was her license, notes from classmates and photographs.