foss lake oklahoma

This is Foss Reservoir, located near the town of Butler, Oklahoma. It was in this lake, on Tuesday of this week, that authorities made a surprise discovery that looks as if it will close the book on three long-standing missing persons cases: those of Jimmy Williams, Thomas Rios and Leah Johnson, ages 16, 18 and 18 respectively, who have been missing since 1970.

On the evening of November 20, 1970, the three teens left Sayre, Oklahoma, ostensibly to go to a football game, but there is some indication they may have intended to go duck hunting instead. They took off in Williams’s car, a blue ’69 Chevrolet Camaro. They were never seen again.

On Tuesday, September 17, 2013, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol was testing new sonar equipment in Foss Lake when they discovered the remains of two sunken cars. Pulling them out of the silt, one proved to be a blue 1969 Chevrolet Camaro. The other car dated from the 1950s. Eerily, there were skeletal remains inside, three in each car. According to this news report, one of the skeletons in the Camaro has been identified, but authorities have not yet said who it is. DNA evidence is being collected from the families of the three missing teens to confirm their possible identities.

williams rios johnson

Left to right: Jimmy Williams, Thomas Rios and Leah Johnson, as they appeared in 1970.

The families of the missing are understandably anxious for the confirmation and hoping that it brings closure to the 43-year-old case.

But if those are the missing teens from 1970, as they appear to be, who are the three people in the 1950s car? One of them may be John Alva Porter, a 69-year-old man who went missing in a car matching the description of the one found Thursday. Porter (I couldn’t find a Charley Project case on him) vanished in April 1969.

It is not uncommon for cars to be found submerged in bodies of water, but it’s much more uncommon for bodies to be found in them–and to remain undiscovered for so many years. The deaths of the six people found in Foss Lake are certainly tragic no matter how much time has passed, but hopefully the discovery of their remains–whoever they are–will bring some comfort to the living they left behind.

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