BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — For years, John and Louise Clinkscales would leave a note whenever they left the house, hopeful their son would come home to find it one day.
The last time they had seen Kyle Clinkscales was January 27, 1976 at their home in LaGrange, Georgia. He was supposed to come back later that week. That night, the 22-year old left work at the Moose Club bar to go back to Auburn University. He never made it to Auburn. He never came back home.
For 45 years, Kyle was gone.
“We generally measure our lives as ‘before” and ‘after’ the disappearance,” John wrote in “Kyle’s Story: Friday Never Came,” a book he wrote in 1981 on his son’s disappearance.
On Tuesday, police discovered Clinkscales’ car in a creek in Cusetta, Alabama, a mile from County Road 388. Clinkscales’ ID and wallet were found inside the car, as well as human remains that are currently being tested for identification by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
However, Clinkscales’ parents weren’t there to see their son’s car pulled out of the water. John died in 2007 while Louise died last January.
Martha Morrison, Clinkscales’ aunt, was at home in Oxford, Alabama when she was told about her nephew’s Pinto Runabout being found. On Thursday, she traveled to LaGrange to identify it with law enforcement.
“It was a shock because after 45 years, you tend to know that it’s out there, but you don’t think about it every day,” Morrison told CBS 42. “It was just an emotional breakthrough.”
After Kyle disappeared, the Clinkscales explored every theory they could about what may have happened to him. Was he killed?
“I don’t think he ever got out of Troup County that night. I think whatever happened to him happened that night,” Louise told the Associated Press in 2005.
Did he just leave?
“We just keep telling ourselves that he might just have wanted to make it easier on us by disappearing… rather than telling us he was dropping out, or staying in school when he felt he was being a burden on us,” John Clinkscales told the Montgomery Advertiser in 1978.
In “Kyle’s Story,” John wrote that there seemed to be only one realistic answer.
“The only explanation we can come up with that fits all unanswered questions is for an accident to have happened, somewhere, taking him and his car out of sight,” John wrote.
Over the years, there were many starts and stops to the case. John and Louise once went to Texas after getting a tip from someone who claimed to have seen him at a hotel. In 1981, they received another tip about a man with amnesia in Oregon who looked like Kyle.
“We’ve been up and we’ve been down, and we’ve tried to keep ourselves on an even keel and not get our hopes too high,” Louise told the Associated Press in 1981.
The Clinkscales family later started FIND-Me, a company to help other families find their missing loved ones.
In 2005, John and Louise received a call from someone who claimed to have seen a man dump Kyle’s remains in a pond in 1976. Ray Hyde, the man police believed was behind Clinkscales’ murder, had died in 2001, but further investigation resulted in the arrest of Jimmy Earl Jones, who was found guilty of making false statements to police and was released from prison in 2013.
However, despite draining the pond and searching the area, police never found Kyle.
In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1996, Louise said she thought about her son every day.
“You can’t be together for 22 years and then turn it off like a water faucet,” she said.
Morrison said Kyle’s disappearance changed the family forever, but neither Louise or John ever gave up hope.
“As long as there is life in you, you will hope they are alive,” Morrison said. “In their hearts, they wanted to see him alive.”
Although Clinkscales’ parents died before they could see their son’s possible remains found, Morrison believes they have found the answer to so many unanswered questions.
“I feel like our family can finally have some closure,” Morrison said. “We can bury his remains and at least know that he is at peace there.”