2 SD teenagers missing since 1971 died in car accident

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Two teenage girls from Vermillion, S.D., who've been missing for nearly 43 years died in a car accident, state and local authorities announced Tuesday. The girls, Pamella Jackson, and Cheryl Miller, both 17, died when their car drove off a gravel road into a flooded creek, the Sioux City Journal reports.

The announcement brings to a close the uncertainty that has surrounded the girls' disappearance, including speculation that they were victims of foul play.

The car they were riding in was hidden until last fall, when low water in the creek brought it into view. A fisherman called authorities in September 2013 after noticing one of the car's wheels sticking out of the creek, the Associated Press reports.

The car, a 1960 Studebaker, was found on the south side of a bridge just a short distance away from the site of the party, according to the Journal. Two sets of skeletal remains were inside the car, and they were sent to the University of North Texas for DNA testing to establish their identities.

On Tuesday, authorities confirmed the remains were Jackson and Miller, and said there is no evidence of foul play.

Statements from witnesses at the time, as well as other evidence, indicated the girls had not been drinking, Attorney General Marty Jackley said. Mechanical tests on the car showed it was in high gear at the time.

"It's consistent with a car accident," Jackley said, according to the AP.

About 10 years ago, law enforcement officials investigated a classmate of the girls, David Lykken, as a potential suspect in their disappearance.

Lykken was indicted for murder in their deaths in 2007, but the charges were later dismissed after prosecutors determined a jailhouse informant likely lied about Lykken supposedly admitting to causing the deaths, according to the AP. Lykken is serving a 227-year prison term for rape and kidnapping in an unrelated case.

Family members of the girls attended the news conference but didn't speak.

The girls' remains will be returned to the families for burial.

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