40 Year Old Missing Persons Case Closed in Union County
For 15 thousand, 458 days, no one knew the whereabouts of Sheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson. The Vermillion teens were last seen alive May 29, 1971, on their way to a party in a Union County quarry. 42 years later, their bodies were found, in the vehicle they were driving, under a bridge over Brule Creek. Tuesday, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley confirmed the remains of two people in the car were those of the girls.
Jackley said, “You know, I think it’s fair to state that law enforcement and the families never quit searching. You know, what I think affected me is when I read the obituary of Oscar Jackson. Oscar had died at age 102 on September 18th, 20-13, five days before the discovery. And if you look at that obituary, you know it indicates one of the saddest parts of Oscar’s life is not knowing about the disappearance of his daughter, Pam. And I hear stories from the family members, many of them today, on how the drove around and looked, law enforcement looked—search after search—and I think it just took the right set of conditions.”
Those conditions included an extended drought period, which lowered the water in Brule Creek enough for someone to notice the vehicle, resting on its top under a bridge. Authorities matched the hubcaps of the vehicle with the Studebaker the girls were driving that night—and matched the license plate as well. What followed were several months of forensic investigation of the human remains and the auto. That allowed Jackley and law enforcement officials to put everything together.
Jackley added, “Based upon, collectively, the totality of the evidence of 42 years of the file, as well as evidence that was found on September 23rd, 2013, it’s consistent with a car accident. To start with, the forensic pathology and anthropology reports that there’s no type of injury that would be consistent with or caused by foul play or inappropriate conduct.
"The remains of the two individuals, Pam and Sherry, were found in the front area of the vehicle, surrounding the passenger and driver’s side, that would not be consistent with the trunk area.”
That officially clears an early suspect in the girls’ disappearance—David Lykken lived with his family on a farm close to the creek where the girls’ car went off the road. The State’s Cold Case Unit did a thorough search of the Lykken property, and took some items as part of the investigation. Jackley was asked if he had contact with the Lykkens, now that the girls’ fate is known.
Jackley replied, “The suspect is represented, so it would not be appropriate as a lawyer to contact them directly. I did contact Mike Butler, the attorney for the Lykken family.
"That search, which was done in 2004, was done under court supervision. It was based on probable cause, and the evidence that was contained in the file, including witness statements and other factors, that law enforcement did, what I expect as attorney general for law enforcement to do, when two 17-year-olds from our community are missing--and that’s to keep searching.”
Representatives of both the Miller and Lykken families attended Tuesday’s press conference in Elk Point, but did not speak during the conference, or to reporters afterward. Jackley read a statement from the families, and said the remains of their relatives would go to them for a proper service.