SAYRE — The brother of a teenager who went missing 43 years ago has questions about a 1969 Camaro found in September in Foss Lake, but getting answers could be difficult.
The investigation is on hold while the state medical examiner works to identify the remains. That could take a year or longer.
Jimmy Williams, 16, and his friends, Thomas Michael Rios and Leah Gail Johnson, were last seen Nov. 20, 1970, in Sayre in a blue 1969 Camaro.
The Camaro pulled from the lake had the remains of three people inside. The state medical examiner has yet to identify the skeletal remains, but has reported there were two males and one female in the car.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers testing new sonar equipment discovered two cars — a blue 1969 Camaro and a green 1952 Chevrolet — Sept. 17 in Foss Lake. The cars were found in 12 feet of water about 50 feet from the end of a boat ramp. The remains of three people were inside each car.
Trooper Betsy Randolph said alcohol containers also were found in both cars.
Authorities think the 1952 Chevrolet is linked to an incident of three adults reported missing out of Canute in 1969. The state medical examiner reported the remains inside the 1952 Chevrolet were two males and a female.
An initial examination of the Camaro indicated the driver apparently downshifted into a low gear as the car went into Foss Lake decades ago, trooper George Hoyle said in September. Hoyle, a trooper with the highway patrol's marine division, found the cars while testing the sonar equipment.
Gary Williams — who was 12 when his brother disappeared and still lives in Sayre — said Hoyle allowed him on Sept. 26 to inspect the Camaro, which Williams believes is his missing brother's car.
He said the car was in neutral, not first gear. Williams, who works on an oil rig, said he took pictures and showed the mechanic who examined the car for the highway patrol diagrams of the vehicle. The mechanic declined to comment for this story.
The neutral gear and the position of the car in the lake — it was turned almost around, facing the ramp — suggests foul play to Williams.
“It tells me that the car rolled in there backward,” Williams said. “That's what makes the most sense to me. Otherwise you'd have to explain how the car turned around in the water, which is very unusual.”
Hoyle said in September the car's position indicated the driver may have turned the car in an effort to stop it. Damage to the undercarriage indicated it had been in an accident, he said.
Randolph, the highway patrol spokeswoman, said a cold case committee has been formed to look into both cold cases.
The committee includes officials from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the highway patrol, and the sheriff's departments in Custer, Washita and Beckham counties. Missing persons reports thought connected to the cars found in Foss Lake originated in Washita and Beckham counties.
Officials from two of those law enforcement agencies said last week they aren't investigating the Camaro case.
OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown said via a text message that OSBI is not handling the case. It belongs to Custer County.
Custer County Sheriff Bruce Peoples said OSBI is handling the case.
The sheriff's department forwards unattended and unexplained death cases to OSBI, he said.
“Boy, was this ever unexplained and unattended,” Peoples said.
In the meantime, relatives of the missing, like Gary Williams, are left wondering about their loved ones' fates, and whether the tragic disappearances 19 months apart were accidents or something else, something more sinister.
“It just feels to me like it's foul play,” Williams said.