The Woodward News

Local News

September 19, 2013

Cars found in lake may solve cold cases

Woodward, Okla. — SAYRE, Okla. (AP) — When three teenagers from this small Oklahoma town disappeared on their way to a high school football game in 1970, rumors swirled as to what happened to the trio.

Some thought the three had stumbled across a drug deal at a rural airstrip and been killed. Others said they might have run away to California.

"There have been theories from everybody," said Dayva Spitzer, publisher of The Sayre Record newspaper and a longtime resident. "Everyone suspected foul play. ... But every lead just went nowhere."

Now authorities believe they have a key piece to the puzzle: A 1969 Camaro, just like the one the teens were driving, was pulled from a lake with the skeletal remains of three people inside.

And that wasn't the only discovery. A second car containing remains, an early 1950s Chevrolet, was also recovered from Foss Lake. Custer County Sheriff Bruce Peoples believes it may solve another case in which two men and a woman disappeared a year before the teens vanished.

"These vehicles match those missing-persons reports real close," Peoples said Wednesday as investigators combed through what remained of the rusty, mud-covered vehicles.

The missing teens were identified as Leah Johnson, Michael Rios and Jimmy Williams.

Both vehicles were discovered Tuesday in about 12 feet of water by divers conducting a training exercise at the lake about 30 miles east of town.

The vehicles were only about 50 feet from the end of a boat ramp near a marina, but Peoples said it was no surprise that the murky waters held a secret.

"This lake isn't crystal clear. It's a typical western Oklahoma lake with a lot of silt in it. The visibility is only 6 to 12 inches on a good day," Peoples said. "We'll consider it a mystery until we prove otherwise."

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