The waters of Foss Lake hold many secrets. Two of those secrets, the key to a Sayre missing persons case from 1970, and evidence from a possible 1960’s Canute missing person’s case, were taken from those waters Tuesday.
Two vehicles, a 1950’s Chevrolet sedan, and a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro were pulled to shore, and human remains were found inside by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s Lake Patrol Division Tuesday morning, shortly before noon.
Custer County Sheriff Bruce Peoples stood near the two cars, both caked in reddish-brown dirt as examiners from the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner’s Office and investigators from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations worked the scene afternoon on Tuesday.
Peoples said the first car, a Chevrolet vehicle from the 1950s with a license plate that has deteriorated, could be the vehicle from a missing person case out of Canute from the late 1950s or early 1960s.
“The first car, there was a rumor I heard in the early 1970s when I came here as a trooper, that there were some individuals, two or three from Canute, headed to Foss Lake,” said Peoples, who added the individuals bought beer from a Canute convenience store. “They were never seen again. That is the only lead we have on that.”
Officials said that car had skeletal remains in it when it was pulled from the lake, though officers didn’t know yet how many people’s remains were in the car.
MISSING SAYRE TEENS
The second vehicle, a blue 1969 Chevrolet Camaro, Peoples said matched the description of a vehicle connected with the disappearance of three Sayre teenagers. Officials also found skeletal remains of an unspecified number in that vehicle.
“The second vehicle is tentatively identified as the car with the missing juveniles from the Sayre area,” said Peoples.
On Nov. 20, 1970, Jimmy Allen Williams, 16, left his home in Sayre in his blue 1969 Chevrolet Camaro. He told his family he was going to a football game in Elk City.
Thomas Michael Rios, 18, and Leah Gail Johnson, 18, both from Sayre, joined Williams. The three teens and the car were never seen again.
Some theories suggested that the three may have decided to go hunting instead of catching a game. The Beckham County Sheriff’s Office has been assigned the case since the three never returned home on Nov. 20. Over the years, the office along with OHP has followed up on tips and leads in attempts to solve the case.
As recent as 2009, OHP used a sonar device to try and locate the care in Lake Hudson in Mayes County near an old Ferry. Nothing turned up.
On Sept. 17, of this year, OHP Troopers set out to test a new 360-degree sonar, a new piece of equipment for the Lake Patrol division to use to assist in finding drowning victims at Foss Lake. As part of testing and getting used to the new equipment attached to the Lake Patrol boat, the parks department asked OHP to take a picture of the bottom of the lake out as far as 100 feet from the Foss Lake boat ramp, said Trooper George Hoyle.
The picture would help them determine if the ramp could be added to and extended due to the recent drought conditions, said Hoyle.
“I knew that we would find something,” said Hoyle. “We have done this before. We have found stolen vehicles, most of the time as part of an insurance scam.”
Hoyle said he did not expect to find what was found.
“We found these two vehicles,” said Hoyle pointing over to the two vehicles behind yellow police tape. “This vehicle right here (the 1950’s Chevrolet) appeared to me to be a PT Cruiser because of the wheel well and the door being open,” Hoyle said the capability of the device was impressive.
“We organized the divers to be out here today. We first pulled the 1950’s Chevrolet out and found one set of skeletal remains. We got it out and called OSBI and the medical examiner’s office,” he said. Hoyle said OHP pulled out the 1969 Chevrolet Camaro next, where skeletal remains were found in the front and back seat of the vehicle.
Hoyle and Peoples said they could not confirm how many bodies were found as of early Tuesday afternoon.
Hoyle said he was not aware of any other cases where vehicles with skeletal remains had been found in Foss Lake.
Peoples said that it is unclear what the next step would be in the investigation. Law enforcement agents worked Tuesday to contact family members of the missing Sayre teenagers as well as to gain information from the public on the 1950s vehicle.
When asked if the vehicles would be taken to OSBI’s lab for further investigation, Peoples said it was unknown. He said the Medical Examiner’s office would use an anthropologist to examine the bodies and try to determine if there were any wounds or injuries to the bodies.
Whether they haul the vehicles to the lab would be their call,” he said. “If they find some evidence to indicate foul play. But we are a long way from there.”
Hoyle said he hopes the discovery will help put family members and friends at ease.
“We do hope this gives closure to some families in finding the remains, so they can have some rest,” said Hoyle.