Pennington Co. Sheriff: 1971 cold case enters new phase - KOTA Territory News

Pennington Co. Sheriff: 1971 cold case enters new phase


"Murder's a murder whether its 42 years old or four days old – it shouldn't matter," said Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom.

Thom understands the leg work that goes into a cold case. He was instrumental in starting South Dakota's Cold Case Unit.

He said the 1971 disappearance of Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson played a key role in the state's decision to form the unit. "There's a lot of speculation over the years as to what may have happened, a possible suspects. And it was clearly top of the cases we looked at, at the time."

As director of the Division Of Criminal Investigation in 2004, Thom said there were some leads.  

"We executed a couple of search warrants, did some excavation on a farm, followed up with a number of leads which eventually went cold again. so this was an interesting twist if you will."  

The twist he's talking about is Monday's discovery of a 1960 Studebaker Lark in Brule Creek. Human remains were found inside, which Thom considers a big break in the case. But he said there's a long way to go.  "Was it an accident, were they killed in the vehicle were they pushed in there. A lot of things remain unanswered at this point." 

It has set into motion a whole new process thanks to forensics, according to Thom.   "New technology allows us to do this today that we couldn't do ten fifteen years ago."

But, he admits there is a chance science won't reveal much.

"Whether it turns out to be an accident or homicide or unknown, at least we found the bodies, vehicles and it answered some of the questions" said Thom. 

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