Decades-old mystery solved
SAYRE, Okla. — A decades-old mystery that captivated Oklahoma has been solved after officials confirmed the identities of two groups of people — some of them teens — who went missing in 1969 and 1970.
The first crack in the cold cases came when police in the tiny town of Sayre were testing sonar equipment in September 2013 in murky Foss Lake. They were stunned to discover a green 1952 Chevrolet and a blue 1969 Chevrolet Camaro.
Human remains found in the Camaro matched the general descriptions of three teenagers — Jimmy Allen Williams, 16, Leah Gail Johnson, 18, and Thomas Michael Rios, 18, all from Sayre, the state Medical Examiner’s Office said.
The other remains matched the genders and ages of three passengers in the green Chevrolet who went missing in 1969, the medical examiner said last year.
John Alva Porter, then 69, was in that car with Cleburn Hammack, 42, and Nora Marie Duncan, 58.
DNA test results this week prove that the bodies belonged to the missing, the state Medical Examiner’s Office said, adding that they all died from drowning and their deaths were accidental.
One night in 1970, another in 1969
The three teenagers who disappeared went for a ride around their hometown in Williams’ blue Camaro with a white top, according to the Doe Network, a volunteer organization that helps law enforcement solve cold cases.
Only six days before the 16-year-old and his friends went missing, Williams had bought the used Camaro, a slick muscle car that teenage boys loved at that time, said Dayva Spitzer, publisher of The Sayre Record & Beckham County Democrat newspaper.
Johnson was Native American and, Spitzer said, was related to legendary Indian chief Sitting Bull. Residents regarded Johnson as an Indian princess, she told CNN.
Williams and his friends had planned to attend a football game the night they went missing, but they may have gone hunting instead, Spitzer said. Two rifles were found, rusted and corroded, in the Camaro.
In the other car, Porter, Duncan and Hammack were last seen when their car was “given a push” to help get it started, according to a July 1969 newspaper article published in Oklahoma.