What started as a practice run for new sonar technology at Foss Lake became a recovery effort after officials discovered two vehicles submerged near the marina with human remains inside.
The discovery appears to shed more light on a cold case from 1970 and could provide information on a rumor of people last seen in Canute in the early 1960s.
Custer County Sheriff Bruce Peoples contacted The Elk City Daily News shortly before noon Tuesday asking for the community’s help identifying two men believed to have gone missing in the area in the early 1960s.
“In 1973, I worked for Beckham and Custer County as a state trooper, and I heard rumors that sometime in the early 60s there were two or three people in a car, and they were last seen in Canute,” Peoples said. “They were headed for Foss Lake and never seen again.”
While scanning the marina area with a new type of sonar device, Peoples said lake patrol had discovered a car that, they learned after pulling it to the surface, had human remains inside. That car, believed to be a 1951 or 1952 model Chevy, could belong to the men who disappeared.
Shortly after, Peoples informed the ECDN of a second car with remains found in the same area. This car, a 1969 Chevy Camaro, matches the description of a car driven by Jimmy Allen Williams of Sayre, who was 16 when he disappeared with Thomas Michael Rios and Leah Gail Johnson on Nov. 20, 1970.
A case file on The Doe Network, which catalogues missing persons, indicated that Williams, Rios and Johnson were riding around Sayre in Williams’s Camaro. Williams was supposed to be going to a football game in Elk City.
“The three kids never returned home, and have not been located since” the case file stated. “Also the 1969 Camaro has never been located.”
Trooper George Hoyle with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol was driving the boat that located the vehicles.
“We came out and looked around,” Hoyle said, indicating that this new type of sonar device is the first in Oklahoma.
Hoyle said his department was asked to take pictures near the marina to help with the laying of military grade tarmac at the boat ramp. They came to the lake on Sept. 10 and did the scan, finding the two cars side by side in about 12 feet of water.
“On the first pass, we found both cars,” Hoyle said.
At first officers weren’t aware of the remains, Hoyle said. The cars remained at the bottom of the lake until today.
Trooper Jeremy Allread was one of the divers sent to secure the cars so they could be pulled out of the lake.
“We didn’t know until they (the cars) got to the top,” Allread said.
Another diver, Darrel Splawn, felt a shoe in the car while it was underwater, Allread said, but that did not immediately alert them to the presence of the remains. Article credit: The Elk City Daily News.