The state medical examiner’s office said Friday that it positively identified two of six sets of remains that were in cars found in a western Oklahoma lake last year as those of a teenage boy who disappeared in 1970 and a man who vanished a year earlier.
Jimmy Allen Williams, 16, and Cleburn Hammack, 42, both likely drowned, the state medical examiner concluded in their autopsy reports. The manner of death is listed as accidental.
Their remains were among six sets found in two cars — three sets in each — that were pulled from Foss Lake last September. Williams’ were in a mud-caked 1969 Camaro along with brown cowboy boots, a Sayre bank card and a 1972 gold colored Sayre High Eagles ring. Hammack’s were in a 1952 Chevrolet, along with a leather wallet, sock and shoe, along with remains from two other bodies.
The medical examiner hasn’t positively identified the other four sets of remains, but they are believed to be those of Thomas Michael Rios, 18, and Leah Gail Johnson, 18, who were believed to be with Williams, and John Alva Porter, 69, and Nora Marie Duncan, 58.
The cars entered the lake about a year apart and were found side-by-side in water about 12 feet deep and about 50 feet from the end of a boat ramp. Williams was believed to be traveling with Rios and Johnson when they disappeared on Nov. 20, 1970. Williams had told family members in Sayre he was going with two others to a football game in Elk City.
Hammack, Porter and Duncan were last seen heading to Foss Lake on April 8, 1969.
Jimmy Williams’ younger brother Gary Williams, of Sayre, was 12 when his older brother disappeared. Gary Williams told The Associated Press by phone on Friday that he and other family members are happy that they will eventually have their brother’s remains back, but that he still has unanswered questions about what happened.
“I’m disappointed that they call it a probable drowning when there are so many other” possibilities, he said, noting the position of the car and damage to it.
Williams’ mother received an anonymous letter in the early 1970s stating that the car was in water up around Lake Hudson, nearly 300 miles from Sayre in northeastern Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol searched the area but found nothing.
For Gary Williams, who regularly offloaded his boat at Foss Lake over the years, the discovery of his brother’s remains there is surreal.
“I could have touched the top of their car. I was that close to them,” he said. “That’s an unbelievable thought to know they were that close all this time and took nearly 40 years to realize it.”