New probe launched of teens found in lake
Now that the car and presumably the remains of three teenagers who died in it nearly 43 years ago have been recovered, Beckham County Sheriff Scott Jay says he’s assigning a deputy fulltime to the case in an effort to find out what happened the night they disappeared.
“We’re going to start from the beginning,” Jay said Thursday. “We have other pieces of information, and I think we can create a timeline of what happened that night. Obviously not everything, but a pretty good idea.”
Jay said he has a new deputy hired three weeks ago, Debbie Johnson, whom he’s assigned to the case.
“She’s new to our department, but she comes with experience,” he said. “She’s very thorough. She’s good at what she does, and I think a fresh set of eyes, starting over and with these new pieces of information, will help us create a good timeline.”
The teens are of course Jimmy Williams, the owner of a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro pulled from Foss Reservoir last week, and two young people believed to have been with him, Thomas Michael Rios and Leah Gail Johnson. Williams lived in Sayre, which is the last place there were any reported sightings of the car until it was recovered from the lake.
A 1952 Chevrolet, also containing the remains of three people, was pulled out of the lake at virtually the same spot last week. Asked if Deputy Johnson would be exploring that case as well, Jay said she would not. He said that car disappeared from Washita County so the Beckham County Sheriff’s Office was not the primary investigative agency for it and has no files pertaining to it.
On the other hand, he said his department has explored the case of the missing ’69 Camaro three times and come up with nothing.
“We kept coming up with dead ends,” he said. “It was really frustrating – the mystery and the intrigue.”
He said nothing his department does now will bring the teens back but hopefully it can give their families – at least those members still living – a sense of closure, “so they can go on with life without this mystery.” He added, “I’d like to know too.”
Asked what the new information is, he said, “They were supposed to be en route to a football game in Elk City. We’ve since come up with some murmurings in the hallways of the school (presumably Sayre High School), inquiring about money, taking a road trip. Those things are undetermined.”
But he added, “We have to look outside the box. We have three juveniles, and we want to put ourselves in their place. We’re going to pull school annuals and talk to anybody we can contact.”
Jay said different people may have tiny fragments of information which they don’t think is important but combined with fragments from other people “could be very important.”
Speaking of Deputy Johnson, he said, “I’ve put her on it pretty much fulltime, which is hard to do because we’re short-handed. But it’s important that we close this case – not in part but completely.”