ORIGINAL STORY: Forensics taking longer than expected in South Dakota cold case
PIERRE, S.D. (KTIV) -
A startling discovery in Southeast South Dakota broke a decades-old cold case wide open last September. Authorities believe they've found the car two Siouxland teens were driving when they disappeared in 1971. However, investigators are still waiting for the final piece to the puzzle.
"There's never been a stopping of searching for those two little girls,” said South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley.
In the 40-year cold case file of Pam Jackson and Cherly Miller is a 1971 letter from Jackson's family, asking investigators not to give up. They never did.
"Family members tell me stories of how they continued to look,” he recalled.
Searching now turns to waiting.
"You know we're still waiting,” said Jackley, asking for patience.
They’re waiting for results. Before a 1960 Studebaker was pulled out of the Brulee Creek, investigators meticulously pealed back the car, layer by layer, preserving the skeletal remains of two people. The remains were sent to the University of North Texas, where experts in mitochondrial DNA testing are working to identify them.
"It's actually one of the oldest forms of DNA testing,” Jackley explained.
Forensics will extract part of the DNA cell to get information. The testing is supposed to take 30-90 days, but it's been nearly five months, and South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says it could be summer before the results are released.
"It is certainly not as accurate as some of the new technology with DNA testing, but given the circumstance of probably being submerged under water for 40-years, it is a type of DNA testing, that that part of the DNA cell is in tact, that we could gather information from,” he said.
A mechanical test on the car ruled out foul play, but Jackley is quick to note, "When you look at the one piece of evidence in isolation, and really that is that mechanical testing of the vehicle, that would not indicate by itself foul play. But again, there's 40-years worth of investigations, some of it which has been fairly controversial. There's certainly other information contained in 40-years of investigation that leads to some suspicion.”
That investigation includes a search of the Lykken farm near Alcester. For a long time, investigators believed David Lykken, who's currently serving a life sentence for rape, had something to do with the girls' disappearance. The Lykken family sued investigators after their search of his parent’s property turned up empty.
"They were searched under court supervision, the courts were involved in that process, the courts said that those searches were appropriate,” Jackley stated.
Jackley's kept in contact with Lykken's attorney during these new developments. Beyond identifying the remains, Jackley hopes to be able to tell how the girls died, and whether there was any sort of blunt force trauma. But, after 40-years of waiting for answers, he admits we may never know for sure what happened, to Pam Jackson and Cheryl Miller.
"People are going to have to make their own decisions over what may or may not have happened that evening,” he said.
Still, the break has not only put the girls' families one step closer to closure, but has also given hope to others.
"I think this is an example of a case that does provide hope for those families,” Jackley added.
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