By SUDHIN THANAWALA, Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) — Investigators have discovered the 1974 Pinto a 22-year-old student was driving on his way back to Auburn University from Georgia when he disappeared more than 45 years ago, sheriff’s officials announced Wednesday.
Kyle Wade Clinkscales’ car was pulled from a creek around Cusseta, Alabama, on Tuesday after a man called 911 to say he believed he had spotted a vehicle. Inside the car, investigators found what they think are human bones along with identification and credit cards belonging to Clinkscales, according to Sheriff James Woodruff of Troup County, Georgia.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking through the muddy vehicle for additional bones and will determine whether the two found so far belong to Clinkscales, Woodruff said at a news conference.
Authorities in Troup County have previously said Clinkscales was killed. In 2005, they arrested two people in connection with his disappearance after they said his parents received a call from a man who said he witnessed the disposal of their son’s body as a 7-year-old, and it was covered with concrete in a barrel and dumped into a pond, according to news reports.
The two people were accused of making false statements. Pete Skandalakis, who was district attorney at the time, said he made the decision not to indict one of those people. The other pleaded guilty to two counts of making false statements and spent seven years and eight months behind bars.
The current district attorney serving Troup County, Herb Cranford, provided documents in the case. But he said in an email he had no comment, citing an open investigation.
Authorities never found Clinkscales’ body. Woodruff said Wednesday that he was not involved in the two arrests and could not comment on them.
“For 45 years, we’ve looked for this young man and looked for this car,” he said. “We’ve drained lakes, and we’ve looked here and looked there and ran this theory down and that theory down and, it’s always turned out nothing.”
Clinkscales left LaGrange, Georgia, on Jan. 27, 1976, to drive the 45 miles (72 kilometers) back to Auburn, but never showed up. He was working as a bartender in LaGrange, according to news reports.
Woodruff did not rule out foul play in Clinkscales’ disappearance.
“I want to see what the GBI finds in the car, how many bones they find, do they find a skull,” he said. “Was he murdered and left there? Did he run off the road and wreck there? That’s something we hope to discover, but it’s been 45 years.”
The creek the vehicle was discovered in runs under a bridge. The rear door of the hatchback was open and visible, authorities said.
“We don’t know if it rusted out and came open or if the water had just gone down,” said Sheriff Sid Lockhart of Chambers County, Alabama.
The vehicle was not far from Interstate 85, which runs from LaGrange to Auburn.
Clinkscales’ father died in 2007, and his mother died this year, Woodruff said. He was their only child.
“It was always her hope that he would come home,” Woodruff said. “It was always our hope that we would find him for her before she passed away. Just the fact that we have hopefully found him and the car brings me a big sigh of relief.”