Bodies found in Foss Lake
Two long-submerged cars, both containing skeletal remains presumed to be human, were pulled Tuesday morning from 12 feet of water at Foss Reservoir.
Three bodies were thought to be in one of the cars. Lawmen refused to speculate for the record how many bodies were in the other one.
One of the cars was thought to be an early-1950s Chevrolet of unknown model and the other a late 1960s Chevrolet Camaro. They were found about 50 feet from the water’s edge out from the main boat ramp on the south side of the lake.
It was unknown how long they had been in the lake.
Speculation about the cars centered immediately on the Camaro, which appeared to match one in which three Sayre teenagers could have been riding when they disappeared the night of Nov. 20, 1970. One of them, Jimmy Allen Williams, then 16, had a new 1969 Chevy Camaro with a blue bottom and white top; and beneath the mud that’s what the one pulled from the lake appeared to be.
Trooper George Hoyle, a lake patrolman with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, said shortly after 3 p.m. Tuesday that family members were already at the lake attempting to identify the car. Sheriff Bruce Peoples said minutes later that the family of one person possibly connected with the other car had just arrived to do the same thing.
Peoples said DNA would be required to identify any victims for sure.
The cars were initially discovered Sept. 10 on the maiden voyage of new 360-degree sonar which the Foss Lake Association purchased for OHP’s marine division. Plans subsequently were made to pull them from the water one week later.
As a bevy of lawmen stood by on the shore, two OHP divers hooked cables to the two submerged car bodies and a wrecker from Ron’s Service Center in Canute pulled them ashore.
A state medical examiner was soon joined by two Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents who began the chore of trying to identify the victims. The Custer County Sheriff’s Office is also involved in the investigation.
Trooper Hoyle and Trooper Woody Perry, both lake patrolmen, found the cars while practicing with the new sonar in local Trooper Sam Shelton’s boat. Shelton has been off duty with a knee problem and could not be present.
“We hadn’t even started looking for anything,” said Hoyle of the initial finding. “We were just practicing. We saw them on the first pass.”
Hoyle said the lake authority was planning to extend the cement boat ramp while the lake was down and wanted to be sure the lake bottom in that area was “clean” of major debris before doing so.
He hinted that more surprises may be found when the sonar is used for real at other places around the lake. Its primary purpose is to find drowning victims.
The cars were found very close to each other, but it was not known if there was any connection in their disappearance.
The older one was pulled from the lake first.
An hour or so after the second one was out, the two divers – Capt Jeremy Allread from the Oklahoma City area and Trooper Darrell Splawn of Troop H’s Beckham County detachment – returned to the water to see if they might be able to find any additional skeletal remains.
In addition to Williams, the Sayre teens who disappeared in 1970 were Thomas Michael Rios and Leah Gail Johnson, both 18.
Williams was seen driving around Sayre that night in his new ’69 Camaro, only six days old.
The Sayre Record said it wasn’t known for sure that the other two teens were with him, but it was thought to be highly unusual for three young people from a town that small to disappear the same night and there not be some connection.
None of the three arrived home that night, and none of them had been heard from since. There also had been no sightings of the Camaro.
Information posted on The Doe Network website indicates when Jimmy Williams left home, he was supposed to be going to a football game in Elk City. Several of his relatives still live in Sayre.
Assuming the remains are identified as those of the missing teens, Trooper Hoyle said, “I hope this gives their families some closure.”