Mysteries At Oklahoma Lake Remain For Families Despite Discovery Of Loved Ones
Thursday, December 18th 2014, 10:25 PM CST
The mystery covers two generations, and the discovery has left a lot of questions for the families of the six people found in the two cars.
On the surface, six Oklahoma cold cases were solved, but the mystery of why they ended up at the bottom of the lake is far from over.
Barry Hardaway is the park manager at Foss Lake, the body of water that held the dark secret for more than 40 years.
“There's a lot of ifs about the whole situation for both vehicles,” Hardaway said.
Gary Williams was only 12 years old when his 16-year-old brother, Jimmy, went missing from Sayre in November of 1970.
“He told mom he was going to a ball game in Elk City,” Williams said.
Jimmy, along with his friends Leah Johnson and Thomas Rios, never returned.
The three seemed to have vanished, without a trace, until last year when, during routine sonar training, the remains of all three teens were found by troopers; along with another surprise.
“The first one that came into the screen was the Camaro,” said Trooper George Hoyle with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. “The next was a '53 Chevy.”
The Chevy was found sitting next to the Camaro with the remains of three more people.
“I was very suspicious that we might have unearthed somebody's place they'd been hiding bodies,” Hoyle said.
He said several theories evolved through the years. Some, according to Hoyle, were that hippies kidnapped them, racism, Mexican drug cartel even a serial killer.
Williams said his brother's disappearance always haunted his family.
“My mom was talking about it on her death bed. Every time Jimmy's birthday would come around she'd bake a cake, you know, ‘Maybe today is the day Jimmy comes home,'” Williams recalled.
In the other car, 69-year-old John Alva Porter was found along with his friends Nora Duncan and Clebern Hammack. They were reported missing a year before the teens, in 1969.
Porter's granddaughter, Debbie Porter McManaman said, “There was no trace at all, I mean, my grandpa just left his house, Clebern left his job, Nora left her home, and they were gone.”
The discovery gave the families closure, but, some questions remain.
“I think, out of those six people, there would have been at least one person among the six would have got out,” Williams said.
Hoyle said, “You have three young kids in a muscle car, alcohol in the vehicle…probably just ran off the road and drowned.”
However, Williams isn't convinced his brother simply drove off into the lake because the shifting rod was found in neutral.
“I don't think it was an accident,” he said. “It rolled in there backwards, there's not a doubt in my mind about that.”
As for the Chevy, alcohol was found inside but there was no damage to the vehicle and the driver's door was wide open.
“A whole lot of things there that we really, not able to determine,” Hoyle said.
McManaman said, “We always felt like foul play, and that hasn't been completely ruled out of our hearts.”
The medical examiner's report ruled all deaths an accident due to probable drowning; something that is unsettling for Williams.
“It seems to be reasonable to check the unknown box,” he said. “Because, really, we don't know what happened that night. They don't know, we don't know, nobody knows, except God.”
The discovery prompted OHP and Lake Patrol officers to search other Oklahoma lakes with their sonar equipment.
So far they haven't found anything significant.