A young couple vanishes after a frightening car crash in South Dakota.
On the morning of December 12, 1992, a car stopped at a remote intersection at the edge of the Yankton Sioux Indian Reservation in Lake Andes, South Dakota. It was cold and the road was icy.
The driver was 20-year-old Arnold Archambeau. One of the passengers was his girlfriend, 19-year-old Ruby Bruguier. The other passenger was Ruby’s cousin, 17-year-old Tracy Dion. All three had been drinking when the car crashed in a frozen ditch.
“We came up to that stop sign. That’s all I remember is just him looking and, saying there are no cars and him spinning out from the stop sign. And it was just like the snap of a finger and the next thing you know, we ended up in the ditch. I was upside down in the ditch and Ruby and I was in the car you know. Arnold wasn’t in the car. I don’t know where he was. Ruby was crying. She was saying oh my God, oh my God. She just kept hitting the car. The next thing I know, the door, it was open a little ways and she had enough room where she slid out. And then so I was going to reach over and then it was just like that, the door went shut.”
By the time help arrived, Tracy was the only person still in the car. For some unexplained reason, Arnold and Ruby had abandoned her.
By daybreak, the police had already searched the area. Although the ice underneath the car was frozen solid, they feared that Arnold and Ruby had wandered off and fallen through the ice at another location.
Bill Youngstrom was a Deputy for the Charles Mix County Sheriff’s Department at the time of their disappearance:
“We walked around the ice part. We had one officer walk on the opposite side of the railroad tracks, thinking maybe they wandered off toward the lake area, which was also frozen. I’ve been to a number of accidents where there hasn’t been somebody around. The driver hasn’t been there, no passengers there. And a lot of times it’s because they’ve been partying. Out drinking. I mean we do have a DWI law. That was initially my first thought. Maybe Arnold was out drinking and didn’t want to get arrested, so we figured he’d show up in a few days.”
Arnold’s aunt, Karen Tuttle, did not accept that theory:
“I knew he wouldn’t hide, he would’ve come home to us or called us and told us I’m over here don’t worry about me. But we never heard anything from him.”
Over the next three months, Deputy Youngstrom investigated every possible lead. Day after day he came up empty. Then the spring thaw arrived. In early March, a passing motorist saw a body in the ditch, just 75 feet from the accident site. It was Ruby Bruguier. Deputy Youngstrom witnessed a gruesome scene:
“Her glasses were missing. Both shoes were missing. Her clothes were in tact. It appeared to be the same clothes that she had on the night of the accident. But the body was very decomposed. It was hard to recognize. And in fact we had to get down to look at a tattoo to get a positive identification of the body. At that time, our department decided that we would start pumping the ditch out. And about noon the next day we found the body of Arnold submerged in the water, about 15 feet away from where we found Ruby. Arnold’s body was very well kept. His skin color was fine. He was not frozen to the ground. The clothes were not frozen to the ground. There is a question mark as far as in our investigation if he was wearing the same clothes that he was the night of the accident.”
The bodies were immediately autopsied but there was no way to determine the time of death. The coroner concluded that Arnold and Ruby had both died of exposure. But Deputy Youngstrom suspected foul play:
“Death by exposure is like they froze to death. I cannot actually buy that. They may have froze to death. But they didn’t freeze to death at that ditch. It’s impossible that they could have been there the entire three months. I myself personally walked that ditch several times during that period. I’ve gotten written affidavits from people that’s also watched, walked it, people that have nothing to do with the case. They couldn’t have been there. They couldn’t have missed.”
Deputy Youngstrom was further baffled by the discovery of two items that seemed to support the theory that Arnold and Ruby had not died in the ditch:
“We found a tuft of hair alongside the road. This hair was later determined by the forensic laboratory to belong to Ruby Bruguier. That hair couldn’t have stayed there for three months. In my opinion, it was when whoever brought the bodies back to the ditch, that’s when that piece of hair fell off of Ruby. At the time we pulled Arnold’s body from the ditch, I found a set of keys in his pocket, the keys were a car or vehicle key. And what appeared to be two house keys. I still have these keys in my possession. And to this day I have not found the vehicle nor that house that these keys fit.”
Soon there was another startling revelation. A witness claimed to have seen Arnold, accompanied by three other people on New Year’s Eve, almost three weeks after he was reported missing. Authorities brought the witness in for a polygraph exam. She passed.
But how did the bodies of Arnold Archambeau and Ruby Bruguier end up in the very same ditch where they crashed their car three months earlier? Ruby’s father, Quentin Bruguier, had his own theory:
“They had to die someplace else. Somebody had to come and put them back in there again, to make it look like that’s where they died.”
Were Arnold Archambeau and Ruby Bruguier victims of foul play? How and why their bodies were discovered in a ditch 75 feet from the crash site remains a troubling mystery.
Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season three with Dennis Farina and coming soon with Robert Stack.