CHAMBERS COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) — The family of missing Auburn University student Kyle Clinkscales, who vanished 45 years ago, tells News 3 this is an emotional time for the surviving members of Kyle’s family.
However, the family is thankful Kyle’s 1974 Pinto was discovered and pulled from a Chambers County creek on Tuesday and remains hopeful the recent development will help answer questions they’ve longed to know for four-plus decades.
The family released a statement to WRBL News 3 on Thursday from Kyle’s aunt, Martha Morrison, who is the sister of Kyle’s late mother, Louise Clinkscales.
“On behalf of John, Louise & Kyle Clinkscales, and her sister’s family, Dan and Martha Morrison, we are deeply emotional right now. We’re grateful for this discovery. This community has been with John & Louise on this painful journey for four decades of mourning. Now we all can hopefully have a long-awaited peaceful closure. John & Louise lived with a horribly heavy heart of never knowing exactly what happened to their only child, Kyle. Through the years, finding out he was murdered and no justice was done was nothing short of a living hell for them. Yet they went on to start an organization, “FIND ME INC.” where they helped countless people all over the world find missing loved ones. They also worked closely with President Ronald Reagan to change laws concerning missing people. They were instrumental in changing the process for the better when a person is reported missing. So that as a family, we finally have hopeful closure is incredible news. We have full faith in the investigation that is going on now to find answers that were never found 45 years ago. We are looking forward to the affirmation that the remains found are truly Kyle’s. Our hope is that we can finish what John and Louise worked so long for simply knowing what happened to their son. While this is peaceful, it is also heartbreaking.”
Already, the family confirms a fake Go Fund Me account has been set up to scam money from well-meaning strangers looking to help their family.
“Regrettably, a person under the name of Cody Stephens (not sure if he is even a real person) has set up a scam on Go Fund Me to raise fake money for his burial. PLEASE DO NOT DONATE TO THIS FRAUDULENT account. We do not need this as this has already been covered by John and Louise in hopes of someday getting closure. We turned this person over to the authorities. It is horrible that they would take advantage of people in such a sad time,” said the family in their statement.
News 3 spoke exclusively with 48-year-old Jeremy Darling, the east Alabama trucker who helped the mystery resurface after all these years. Tuesday, Darling was working, driving his 18-wheeler along Chambers County Road 83 when he spotted the vehicle’s hatch peeking out from the water and called the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office to report it.
“I always look around. Driving a big dangerous vehicle, I have my eye on the road and on things off-road that might get in my way. I was driving to Lafayette to pick up a load, looked over the bridge, and saw a piece of window sticking out of the water. It looked like it was still attached to a car. So, I went ahead and called the non-emergency number for the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office and let them know,” Darling told News 3.
Investigators pulled Clinkscales’ white, two-door 1974 Pinto Runabout with Georgia tag from the creek. Inside, investigators recovered 50 kinds of skeletal remains, including a partial skull bone, Clinkscales’ wallet, and other personal items. Troup County investigators tell News 3 the remains are presumed to belong to Clinkscales, but the investigation remains ongoing.
The AU student vanished from a Lagrange, Georgia bar where he worked back in January 1976. Previous news reports indicate two people, Jimmy Jones and Jeanne Johnson, were arrested on various charges in Clinkscales’ disappearance after a tipster came forward. However, the two were never charged with Clinkscales’ murder. The Troup County Sheriff’s Office says their investigation continues and referred questions on previous arrests and trials to the Troup County District Attorney’s Office. We are still waiting to hear back from them.
Meanwhile, Darling says he is sad to learn Clinkscales’ parents passed away before the discovery. So are dozens of investigators who became fond of Kyle’s parents and his family during the years they worked to solve the case.
“Hopefully, we’ll find something, we may never know, but we are glad today. Ms. Clinkscales, his mother, died just this year in January. It was always her hope that he would come home. It was always our hope that we would find him for her before she passed away. So just the fact that we have hopefully found him, and the car brings me a big sigh of relief,” said Troup County Sheriff James Woodruff.
The car was transported to the Troup County Sheriff’s Office, the lead agency on the case. The GBI joined in and continues investigating the contents of the vehicle. News 3 will continue to update you on developments.