Investigators have discovered the 1974 Pinto a 22-year-old student was driving on his way back to Auburn University from the US state of Georgia when he disappeared more than 45 years ago, sheriff’s officials announced on Wednesday.
Kyle Wade Clinkscales’s 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, Sheriff James Woodruff of Troup County, Georgia, reported.
Clinkscales left LaGrange, Georgia, on January 27, 1976, to drive the 82 kilometres back to Auburn, but never showed up. He was working as a bartender in LaGrange, news reports said.
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, Mr Woodruff said at a news conference.
Authorities in Troup County have previously said Clinkscales was killed, but his body was never found.
Mr Woodruff did not rule out foul play in Clinkscales’s 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.
In 2005, two people were arrested in connection with his disappearance, accused of making false statements, news reports said.
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.
“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’s father died in 2007, and his mother died this year, Mr Woodruff said. He was their only child.
“It was always her hope that he would come home,” Mr 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.”