2 Girls Missing for 40 Years Until a Man Saw an Old Car and Broke It Open?

"The disappearance sparked countless rumors and theories about their fate," an online article read.

Published May 3, 2024

A stock photo shows a rusty truck in a forest. (R. Hanley Photography/Getty Images)
A stock photo shows a rusty truck in a forest. (Image courtesy of R. Hanley Photography/Getty Images)

In early May 2024, a rumor circulated on Facebook and Instagram claiming, "Two Girls Go Missing For 40 Years Until Man Sees Old Car and Breaks Open." The rumor appeared to users in the form of at least one paid ad created on Meta's advertising platform. The ad hinted about a story based in the U.S. telling of a man who apparently discovered something crucial to potentially solving a decades-old cold case involving two missing girls.

The story promoted in the ad was fiction though based on the real-life disappearance of two girls in South Dakota in 1971 – and the discovery of their vehicle in 2013 that brought the real cold case back to life.

We'll first take a look at the somewhat unimportant fictional tale and then lay out the facts about the much more impactful true story.

The Fictional Tale

The Facebook and Instagram ad promoting the fictional story showed an old, rusted truck with trees, leaves and garbage all visible.

A rumor circulated in paid ads on Facebook and Instagram claiming two girls went missing for 40 years until a man saw an old car and broke it open.

The ad included a link to a very lengthy article spanning 60 slides (or pages) on The headline of the article read, "Girls Go Missing, Forty Years Later Man Finds Secret Inside of Abandoned Car." The story may have been written with the assistance of an artificial-intelligence tool.

The story began as follows, and note no last names or U.S. state are mentioned in the article:

In the spring of 1971, the small town of Elmwood was shaken by the disappearance of two high school students, Cheryl and Pamela.

Friends since childhood, the girls were known for their bright spirits and inseparable bond. Their sudden vanishing left the community in a state of disbelief and despair.

The disappearance sparked countless rumors and theories about their fate. Despite exhaustive searches and investigations, the case grew cold, leaving a lingering shadow over Elmwood.

Summarizing the rest of the fictional story, in 2011, a retired mechanic named Harry examines a vintage 1969 Chevrolet Impala in a scrap yard. He discovers items in the trunk of the car and brings them to local police. Local police then link the car to a now-deceased man who had been a suspect early on in the initial investigation. Police search the deceased suspect's farm and find a buried letter in a barn, indicating Cheryl and Pamela escaped their captor. The two women are never found but the new discovery is said to provide inspiration to the town of Elmwood.

This fictional story is an example of what's known as glurge. The term is defined by as "stories, often sent by email, that are supposed to be true and uplifting, but which are often fabricated and sentimental."

A small-sized bit of text near the top of the article read, "Disclaimer: For Entertainment Only. Enjoy!" A second disclaimer at the end of the story also added, "All events, places and characters are products of the author's imagination, and all images and videos are used for illustrative purposes only."

The True Story

On May 29, 1971, two 17-year-old girls, Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson, living in Vermillion, South Dakota, were on their way to a party for teenagers at a gravel pit in the town of Alcester.

That day was the last time anyone saw them alive.

A rumor circulated in paid ads on Facebook and Instagram claiming two girls went missing for 40 years until a man saw an old car and broke it open. (Images courtesy Sioux Falls Argus-Leader via

Some 42 years later, on Sept. 23, 2013, the car the two girls had been riding in – a 1960 Studebaker Lark – was discovered in Brule Creek near Elk Point, close to the gravel pit where the party had taken place. The vehicle was believed to have perhaps become visible to passersby so many years later only after record flooding was followed by a drought, CBS News reported.

Skeletal remains positively identified as belonging to the two teens – as well as some of their belongings – provided evidence needed to bring some closure to the case.

"All the evidence would appear to indicate an accident," South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said during a news conference on April 15, 2014.

Also on April 15, 2014, the Sioux City Journal reported no evidence suggested alcohol was a factor in the crash:

The car did not contain any evidence, such as cans or bottles, that alcohol was involved. Based on witness accounts, the girls, who visited Miller's grandmother in the hospital in Vermillion, then met up with friends and followed them to Alcester, wouldn't have had time to stop along the way, Jackley said.

Although the discovery yielded those and other clues, some questions remain unanswered. Authorities aren't able to tell exactly how the car ended up in the creek.

The bridge was new, which might have confused the girls. One of the Studebaker's tires was damaged, but officials don't know if that happened before or after the crash.

Barbed wire and concrete consistent with the bridge were found in the car, but investigators don't know if either was dragged into the creek by the Studebaker or was washed into the wreck years later.

The Journal's article contains further details about the case, including information about authorities searching a farm much like that in the fictional version of the story.

According to the reporting, both girls' parents died before the discovery of the vehicle, with Jackson's father, Oscar, having died at the age of 102 "just days before the car was discovered."


"2 Vermillion Area Girls Sought, Missing 8 Months." Sioux City Argus-Leader via, The Associated Press, 12 Jan. 1972,

Crimesider Staff. "Pam Jackson, Cheryl Miller Update: Family Members Overwhelmed by Discovery of Studebaker, Remains Believed Tied to 1971 South Dakota Cold Case - CBS News.", 26 Sept. 2013,


Lias, David. "Miller, Jackson Positively Identified; 43-Year Cold Case Closed." Vermillion Plain Talk, 15 Apr. 2014,

Memmott, Mark. "43-Year-Old Cold Case Closed: South Dakota Girls Died In Accident." NPR, 16 Apr. 2014,

Montag, Molly. "Official: Vermillion Teens Died in Car Crash in 1971." Sioux City Journal, 15 Apr. 2014,

Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.