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The case of a 22-year-old college student who went missing 45 years ago has been a mystery, but investigators may finally be close to solving it after making a critical discovery.
This week, Kyle Clinkscales' 1974 Ford Pinto was found partially submerged in an Alabama creek. Police also recovered what are believed to be human bones inside the car.
Authorities found a wallet with credit cards and Clinkscales’s identification in the vehicle.
“For 45 years, we have searched for Kyle and his car. We have followed hundreds of leads and never really had anything substantial develop from those leads,” Troup County Sheriff James Woodruff said during a news conference on Wednesday. “Just the fact that we have hopefully found him, and the car brings me a big sigh of relief.”
Clinkscales was last seen on the night of Jan. 27, 1976. The Auburn University student had finished his shift as a bartender at the Moose Club in LaGrange, Georgia and was heading back to campus, but never arrived.
His white two-door Pinto Runabout was never found until now.
On Tuesday, deputies with the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office were told about a car submerged in a creek off of County Road 83 about one mile from County Road 388, according to a news release from the Troup County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies recovered the car from the water. They reached out to the Troup County Sheriff’s Office after spotting the 1976 Georgia tag with a Troup County decal. The county tag office ran a check and verified that the tag and VIN matched the car that Clinkscales was driving on the night of his disappearance.
Special agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are processing the contents found in the car, including the bones
“How many bones they find? Do they find a skull? Something we can take to the crime lab and determine if there was foul play? Was he murdered and left there? Or did he run off the road and wreck there? Those are the things we hope to discover,” Woodruff said.
Clinkscales was an only child, and his parents never gave up hope. His father, John Dixon Clinkscales wrote a memoir about his son, “Kyle’s story: Friday never came.” He died in 2007. Clinkscales' mother died earlier this year at the age of 92, according to local station WSB.
They spoke to 11Alive in 1996, 20 years after their son's disappearance.
"We haven't given up hope yet. Until you've got something tangible to say (his body's been found), we won't give up hope," Mary Louise Clinkscales told the station.
The trail went cold until 2005.
In March of that year Kyle’s parents got a call from a man who said their son’s body was in a barrel of concrete, buried at the bottom of a pond that belong to Ray Hyde, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. He was a salvage yard owner and convicted car thief.
Hyde – who died in 2001 -- may have feared that Clinkscales knew too much about his involvement with stolen cars, the newspaper reported.
Just months after Clinkscales disappearance, Hyde was convicted and sent to prison on auto theft charges.
“The rumors were, you know how a bartender hears things? The rumor was he overheard something,” former Troup County Sheriff Donny Turner previously told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Authorities dug up Hyde’s 50-acre salvage yard in 1996 and 2003. The pond was drained in 2005, but there was no sign of Clickscales or the Pinto, according to the newspaper.
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