Dirty creek, old purse solve four-decade mystery of vanished classmates
Investigators would not speculate on exactly what happened, though one of the tires was damaged and the tread was thin, Jackley added.
Ray Hofman, who knew the Miller family and searched for the teens during his career with the Vermillion Police Department, said the two probably lost track of the narrow, dusty road and accidentally drove into the creek.
"Those boys were kicking up gravel at nighttime. Those girls couldn't see the bridge," he said.
Seeing an old car embedded in a muddy bank wouldn't necessarily attract suspicion. The landscape is dotted with rusting vehicles, farm machines and other contraptions. Some were put there to curb erosion. Others were simply abandoned.
Jackson's late mother, Adele, told people the loss of a daughter was especially hard on her husband, Oscar.
"She said just about every night after supper, he'd go out driving around the countryside looking for that Studebaker," said Paul Buum, publisher of the local newspaper, the Alcester Union and Hudsonite.
Oscar Jackson died five days before the car was found, at age 102. An obituary noted that his daughter's disappearance was his "greatest sadness."
Buum was at Jackson's funeral when authorities announced they had found the car. After hearing about the discovery, Union County Sheriff Dan Limoges said his thoughts went immediately to the Jackson family.
"It was a higher being that Oscar might have got some information from and led that individual who called us to the place," the sheriff said.
Hofman and others in Vermillion grew up with the mystery.
"We always knew about it," he said, "but never knew what happened to them."
Associated Press researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this story.
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