Louise Clinkscales died in early 2021 believing someone had killed her 22-year-old son Kyle and buried his body in cement more than 45 years ago.
Or that he would walk through her door someday.
She was wrong on both counts.
Kyle Clinkscales, an Auburn University student, had finished his shift tending bar in La Grange, Alabama, on Jan. 27, 1976 before setting off in his white Pinto for Auburn, some 35 miles away. He was never seen again until his car and likely remains were discovered in a creek bed Tuesday a few miles from the road he would have taken back to his university.
Police searched lakes and creeks for years for the missing student. Then in March 2005, Louise and her husband, John, received a mysterious phone call from someone who said when he was 7-years-old, he thought he saw Clinkscales being buried in a cement-filled barrel and dumped in a pond near a salvage yard belonging to a man called Ray Hyde, who had apparently been a local car thief.
At the time, Troup County Sheriff Danny Turner told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that it was likely the young bartender heard something he shouldn’t have and was killed to be kept quiet. “The rumors were, you know how a bartender hears things?” Turner told the Journal Constitution in 2005. “The rumor was he overheard something.”
An associate of Hyde—who died in 2001—named Jimmy Earl Jones was arrested along with Jones’ companion Jeanne Pawlak Johnson for concealing the student’s death. They were also charged with giving false statements and obstruction of justice. They were released from prison in 2013 after serving five years. It was assumed Clinkscales’ car was buried in Hyde’s lot, and it was dug up in 1996 and 2003 in unrelated searches. The pond was then drained in 2005, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Neither Clinkscales nor the Pinto were ever found.
On Tuesday morning, someone driving past a creek under Country Road 83 saw what looked like the top of a rusted-out hatchback door sticking out of the water. When police arrived, they found Clinkscales’ Pinto, his identity cards, and what appeared to be human bones, which are now undergoing DNA analysis. There was no barrel of cement.
Troup County’s current sheriff, James Woodruff, told a news conference that he couldn’t be sure if the water level in the creek bed had become so low the car was finally visible after all these years or if somehow the hatchback popped open for the first time in 45 years.
Woodruff indicated the remains may make it difficult to determine if he was murdered and dumped or had just slid off the road on his way home.
“We drained lakes. We looked here and looked there and it always turned out nothing,” Woodruff said. “Was he murdered and left there? Did he run off the road and wreck there? That’s something we hope to discover, but it’s been 45 years.”