The car belonging to an Auburn University student who vanished without a trace 45 years ago has been found – with human remains inside the vehicle.
Kyle Clinkscales was just 22 years old when went missing in 1976, after leaving a Georgia bar where he worked to drive 45 miles back to the Alabama university’s campus.
However, the college junior never got there – sparking a multistate search that left Georgia and Alabama investigators confounded.
But that all changed Tuesday, when Georgia police received a tip from a man who said he had spotted a vehicle partially submerged in a creek 20 miles from the college, which turned out to be Clinkscales’.
Kyle Clinkscales was just 22 years old when went missing in 1976, after leaving a Georgia bar where he worked to drive 45 miles back to the Alabama university’s campus
The car belonging to the Auburn University student was uncovered by Georgia police on Tuesday morning – with human remains inside the vehicle
‘For 45 years, we have searched for Kyle and his car,’ Troup County Sheriff James Woodruff said in an official statement Wednesday morning in La Grange, Clinkscales’ hometown, and the town in which the student worked.
‘We have followed hundreds of leads, and never really had anything substantial develop from those leads,’ the cop recalled.
The sheriff then detailed how officers from a neighboring Georgia police force, that of nearby Chambers County, contacted his office Tuesday to ask if members of his department were looking for a white Ford Pinto – the same make of car Clinkscales had been driving when he mysteriously disappeared.
‘They gave us a tag number,’ Woodruff told attendees, adding that Troup County officers then ran the plates – which boasted a Troup County decal – and compared it to case files that his department had on file.
‘It was indeed Kyle Clinkscales’ car,’ he then confirmed.
Police went on to reveal that human remains were recovered from the vehicle, which was subsequently towed to the Troup County Sheriff’s Office.
Cops also uncovered identification and credit cards belonging to Clinkscales.
Officials added that the creek the vehicle was discovered in ran under a bridge from which a part of the car was visible, leading to its discovery by the tipster, who was not identified.
The vehicle was not far from Interstate 85, a well-traveled county road that runs from LaGrange to Auburn.
During Wednesday’s conference, Woodruff did not rule out that foul play was a factor in Clinkscales’ disappearance, and revealed that his office had handed over the cold case to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, a force that represents the entire state.
‘I want to see what the GBI finds in the car, how many bones they find, do they find a skull,’ Woodruff said.
The car, a white, two-door 1974 Ford Pinto Runabout, had been submerged in the in Chambers County creek for an unspecified amount of time before being spotted by a local who called Chambers County police
Responding officers noticed that the badly deteriorated car had Troup County plates and subsequently contacted officers at the neighboring force, who confirmed the vehicle was Clinkscales’
‘Was he murdered and left there? Did he run off the road and wreck there? That’s something we hope to discover,’ the lawman posited. ‘But it’s been 45 years.’
This latest development in the more-than-four-decade-old cold case is the first lead officers have received regarding Clinkscales’ inexplicable disappearance in years.
Clinkscales reportedly left the Moose Club, where he worked as a bartender, at approximately 11 pm to drive back to Auburn on January 6, 1976.
According to his mother, Louise Clinkscales, a fellow bar staffer saw her son leave the establishment and drive off toward Auburn. He only had about $50 in cash on him and had not used any credit cards or written any checks the day of his disappearance, the LaGrange Daily News reported at the time.
Clinkscales’ disappearance garnered national attention and coverage, and his parents offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to his safe return home.
The pinto disappeared in 1976 along with Clinkscales, long confounding investigators
However, over the years, investigators found themselves inundated with a multitude of fruitless leads, including one 27-year-old man who came forward in the 80s claiming to be the missing man. The man, Danny Moore, claimed that he lost his memory in the crash and subsequently assumed the name Danny Moore to get identification documents.
In 1985, Clinkscales’ parents were invited to the White House by then-President Ronald Reagan, to attend a Rose Garden ceremony promoting a new partnership in child safety involving various law enforcement organizations, community service groups, and schools.
In 2005, Georgia police arrested two people in connection with Clinkscales’ disappearance, after they said his parents received a call from a man who said he witnessed the disposal of their son’s body as a 7-year-old.
The man reportedly alleged that Clinkscales body had been covered with concrete in a barrel and dumped into a pond.
The two suspects were accused of making false statements, but it was not immediately clear whether they were prosecuted or served time behind bars in the case.
Woodruff said Wednesday that he was not involved in those arrests and could not comment on them.
Louise Clinkscales, the mother of the missing man, passed away earlier this year. She and her husband, John (not pictured), who died in 2007, spent years looking for their son, to no avail
‘That was another administration, another prosecutor,’ he said.
The Troup County sheriff then concluded the conference by asserting that Tuesday’s discovery at least brought some closure to a cold case that had confounded countless officers and family members for 45 years.
‘We’re glad today,’ Woodruff said.
‘For 45 years we’ve looked for this young man and looked for this car. We’ve drained lakes. We’ve looked here and looked there,’ he said.
‘It always turned out with nothing.’
The lawman added: ‘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. Just the fact that we have hopefully found him in the car brings me a sigh of relief.’
Clinkscales’ father died in 2007, and his mother died this year.
He was their only child.