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Auburn University student who vanished in 1976 found in car at the bottom of a creek, investigators confirm

Kyle Wade Clinkscales was last seen Jan. 27, 1976. His car -- and skeletal remains -- were found in an Alabama creek in December 1976. (Images: Troupe County Sheriff's Office)

Kyle Wade Clinkscales was last seen Jan. 27, 1976. His skeletal remains were found inside his car at the bottom of an Alabama creek. (Images: Troupe County Sheriff’s Office)

More than a year after finding skeletal remains in a creek, Georgia authorities positively identified them as belonging to a long-missing college student.

Kyle Wade Clinkscales was 22 when he was last seen on the night of Jan. 27, 1976, leaving the Moose Club in LaGrange, Georgia. Authorities believe he was heading toward Auburn University, where he was a student. He never arrived, sparking a decades-long mystery and causing heartache for his parents.

His mother Louise and father John were dead when Kyle’s 1974 Ford Pinto Runabout was found in December 2021 in a creek in Chambers County, Alabama. Authorities took it to Troup County, Georgia, where they made a horrifying discovery. Deputies at the time said they recovered about “50 different skeletal remains to include a partial skull bone” in addition to some items that appeared to belong to Clinkscales.

From deputies at the time:

Once they arrived on scene, they recovered the car from the water and it appeared to be an older model Ford passenger car with a 1976 Georgia tag with a Troup County decal. Chambers County contacted the Troup County Sheriff’s Office for assistance in trying to run the tag information. The Troup County tag office was contacted and investigators in our criminal investigations division began to check for any records we may have had.

After verifying information, it was found that the tag and VIN matched that of a 1974 Ford Pinto Runabout which was the same car that Kyle Clinkscales was last seen driving on the night of January 27th.

Authorities confirmed on Sunday that they have identified the remains as belonging to Clinkscales.

“The vehicle was transported to Troup County at which point investigators located skeletal remains,” Troup County Coroner Erin M. Hackley wrote in a statement. “The remains were turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations for DNA analysis. On February 19, 2023, the Troup County Coroner’s office was notified that the remains have been positively identified as Kyle Wade Clinkscales.”

The investigation is ongoing. Officials still have to determine the cause and manner of death.

“Upon further discussion with the GBI, this analysis was completed by a FBI lab at the request of the GBI,” Troup County deputies said. “At this time an official report has not been completed or released by the GBI as it relates to a manner of death. We certainly appreciate the work of the FBI and the continued work of the GBI in this case.”

Jimmy Earl “Slim” Jones pleaded guilty in 2006 to giving false information to law enforcement officers in the case, according to He claimed that another man, Ray Hyde, who died in 2001, killed Clinkscales, but a prosecutor at the time attacked his inconsistent statements as “absolutely useless to us.” Jones was released from prison in 2013.

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