Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Details of Disappearance
Tammy was last seen near her home while walking to Eldon High School on May 16, 1984.
A girlfriend reported the last time she had seen the teenager, she was getting in a car with an unidentified man and her mother's live-in boyfriend, Martin Priest, a man known to have a violent background. Rothganger’s mother reported her missing the same day she was last seen. Initially the Eldon Police Department thought she might have skipped school and gone to a park to hang out with friends. Priest was questioned in the early stages of the investigation, and he denied any involvement in her disappearance. At the time of Tammy's disappearance, Priest had been living with the girl and her mother in a small home across the street from the front entrance of Eldon High School, just a couple of blocks from where Tammy was reportedly seen entering a vehicle driven by Priest the morning of May 16, 1984.
In January 2016, convicted murderer Martin Priest was charged with her murder by Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Winfrey. Priest is serving a life sentence in Kansas for a separate murder. Priest is charged with Capital Murder for willfully, knowingly and with premeditation, deliberately killing the young girl from Eldon. Priest allegedly raped Rothganger before strangling her in the back seat of his car, later disposing of the body.
According to the probable cause statement, a third person that was allegedly in Priest’s car during the incident recently came forward with key information that led to the charges so many years after the murder occurred. The witness alleges Priest struck Rothganger in the back of the head with a wrench, knocking her unconscious. He then raped her and while raping her strangled her. Her body was left at what was only identified as a local residence. According to the witness, Rothganger’s body was later retrieved by her alleged killer and buried in an unmarked location.
Priest has a long criminal history. Several years before Rothganger went missing, he was convicted of the murder of a girl whose mother was his girlfriend. His conviction was thrown out by the Missouri Supreme Court on an appeal citing a lack of evidence. Investigators have attempted to question Priest a number of times over the years. There have been a number of searches for her remains, but Rothganger’s remains have not yet been recovered.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Eldon Police Department
Chief Rodney Fair
Lake News Online