On September 26, 1979, a jogger discovered a young woman’s body on the beach at Blackie’s Pasture in Tiburon, California, at about 8:50 A.M.
The victim had been stabbed 43 times with an ice pick and shot in the head — and then her body was doused with acetone and set on fire. A witness saw a van speeding away.
For more than 27 years, no one knew who she was, and she was filed as a “Jane Doe.”
In 2007, investigators in Washington and California were able to identify her as Tammy Vincent, who was reported missing in Seattle in August 1979 when she was 17 years old.
Her family and some experts believe that Tammy could have been a victim of the Green River serial killer. Gary Ridgway pleaded guilty to most of the killings of which he was accused, plus six additional murders — but Tammy’s case is still officially unsolved.
Tammy was last seen shortly before being subpoenaed to appear before an inquiry judge investigating a prostitution ring in the Seattle area, but she never appeared — and her family never heard from her again.
Tammy Vincent was born in 1962 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and grew up on a farm in Okanogan County in Washington state.
But as a teen, she had a rebellious streak that led her to leave home at age 16. She ended up in a foster home in Spokane, and later worked as a prostitute in Seattle.
Tammy was last seen in Seattle on September 10, 1979, at a motel getting into a silver Lincoln Continental owned by one of the suspects in the sex-shop investigations.
The trial went on in spite of Tammy’s absence, and the sex-shop operator was sentenced in March 1980 to five years in prison for promoting prostitution. Other suspects received sentences of up to eight years in prison.
Her family knew nothing about the investigations, and said that they last time that they saw her was in the summer of 1979 when she showed up at the family home in a car with another person.
According to her sister Sandy Vincent, she called one time later that summer — and sounded scared as she stated that she wanted to come home.
The family suspected she may have been killed by the Green River Killer and began contacting King County’s Green River Task Force, which prompted investigators to add Tammy to their list of missing women.
In 2003, the family got a call from a King County deputy working with the task force asking if they could provide a DNA sample from a member of the family. Sandy Vincent provided a saliva swab — and investigators were able to make a rare DNA match from a single hair taken from Tammy.
Marin County investigators were finally able to break the news to Tammy’s family in Washington that her remains had been found.
Detectives in Marin County had also reopened the 1979 murder case in 2001, and investigators learned that a clerk at a San Francisco Woolworth’s store had “vividly recalled” a mysterious man in a white leisure suit coming to the store that summer with a girl matching Tammy’s description who was about 5 feet 6 inches tall, about 125 pounds, with light-brown, Afro-style hair.
His shopping list is chilling — the man bought acetone, paint, and an ice pick, the clerk said.
On August 10, 2007, Tammy Vincent’s cremated remains were returned to Washington state, and her family was finally able to lay her to rest.
Police say that they are continuing to interview witnesses, and that the investigation will continue until they identify Tammy’s killer.
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Main photo: A composite photo of Tammy Vincent (left) next to an actual photo (right) [Wikimedia Commons]