Sister's testimony will be allowed in Lykken trial

2008-01-18T00:00:00Z Sister's testimony will be allowed in Lykken trialNick Hytrek Journal staff writer Sioux City Journal
January 18, 2008 12:00 am  • 

ELK POINT, S.D. -- A judge ruled Thursday that David Lykken's sister will be allowed to testify at his murder trial about seeing two girls missing since 1971 slumped in a car on her family's farm on the day they were last seen.

Speaking slowly and softly, Nancy Bell said she saw Cheryl Miller slumped over on the driver's side, Pamella Jackson on the passenger side.

"I don't know if they were dead," Bell said in a voice barely audible in the Union County courtroom.

Later -- Bell couldn't recall when -- she saw the 17-year-old girls' bodies in a wheelbarrow.

"What happened to the car?" South Dakota Assistant Attorney General Rod Oswald asked.

"It was buried," Bell said after a long pause.

"Do you know where?"

"In a hole at the farm," Bell said.

Lykken, 54, is scheduled to stand trial in Union County Circuit Court on March 18 on alternate charges of premeditated murder, felony murder and murder. He is accused of killing Miller and Jackson on or about May 29, 1971.

Authorities have searched the Lykken farm in rural Alcester, S.D., for the car and evidence of the girls' deaths. In 2004, investigators unearthed two hubcaps, a purse, rubber gloves and clothing, but no human remains.

Bell told Division of Criminal Investigation agents in 2004 that she had thought the girls ran away. She later recounted more details after relaxation therapy sessions with a state psychologist.

"I had put that all behind me. I had not thought about it since they disappeared," Bell told defense attorney Clint Sargent.

Miller and Jackson were last seen in a 1960 Studebaker heading for a party at a gravel pit in rural Union County.

Bell said her memories were not a dream, as lawyers suggested.

"I don't want to believe it. There's a lot of things in my life I don't want to believe, but they are real," she said.

Circuit Judge Steven Jensen ruled Bell competent to testify.

"Whether she saw these things or not are for the jury's determination," he said.

Jensen will rule later on whether testimony from five women who said Lykken choked and raped them will be admitted at trial.

The women, including Lykken's ex-wife, all testified about fits of rage in which Lykken would nearly choke them to death with his hands, belts or telephone cords. The women also testified he stalked them after they broke up with him. One woman said Lykken raped her because she wouldn't date him.

Prosecutors said the testimony showed a specific pattern of behavior.

Lykken's attorneys said the testimony was irrelevant because he never killed any of the women who said he assaulted them. If their testimony is allowed, Sargent said, it would only prejudice jurors against Lykken, who is serving a 227-year prison sentence for the 1990 rape of one of the women who testified.

"Once the jury hears that evidence, there will be no doubt the jury will consider David Lykken is a bad man and had a propensity to commit these acts," Sargent said.

There also is no evidence showing Jackson and Miller were choked or strangled, Sargent said.

"We don't know what happened to Ms. Jackson and Ms. Miller. The state has a theory," he said.

Defense attorneys also called Aloysius Black Crow, a jailhouse informant who taped conversations with Lykken while they were inmates in the South Dakota State Penitentiary. Prosecutors say Lykken admitted to Black Crow on tape that he killed the girls.

Defense attorney Mike Butler sought details about how the taping was done. He did not challenge the truthfulness of Black Crow's statements.

"The believability will come up at trial," Butler said.

Jensen also will rule later on a state motion charging Lykken's mother, Esther Lykken, as a co-conspirator in covering up the girls' deaths. The motion is based on a 2004 telephone conversation in which Esther Lykken told her son not to discuss the case with anyone.

Butler said Esther Lykken wasn't covering up anything.

"It's not somebody covering up murder. It's a mother telling her son not to talk to somebody," Butler said.

Nick Hytrek can be reached at 712-293-4226 or

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