|Stone Memorializing Tammy Zywicki on Grinnell College campus|
|Tammy Zywicki, ca. 1992|
|FBI photograph of Zywicki's car (https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/tammy-j.-zywicki/car-2.jpg/view)|
|Grinnell Herald-Register, August 27, 1992|
|Drawing of Truck Reported to have been parked near Zywicki's car (Illinois State Police)|
But Zywicki was already missing for more than a week; family and friends grew increasingly alarmed. Then, Tuesday morning, September 1st, a trucker discovered a body in a ditch near the on-ramp of Interstate 44 near Sarcoxie, Missouri. Wrapped in a red blanket, the body had begun to decompose, but the coroner confirmed that the dead person had been a female in late teens or early twenties, about five feet, two inches tall and around 120 pounds. An autopsy revealed that the woman had been stabbed seven times in the chest and once in the arm. First reports indicated hair and eye color that did not match Zywicki's, but the woman wore a t-shirt with the name of Zywicki's high school soccer team across the front; moreover, the dead woman's shorts were imprinted with "GCRC Division Champs," which might have referred to the Greenville, South Carolina County Recreation Commission soccer teams for which Zywicki had played. These were not the clothes in which Zywicki had last been seen, but the links to her high school fueled speculation that the dead woman was in fact Zywicki.
Still, the Lawrence County, Missouri coroner said that positive identification proved impossible; decomposition indicated that death had occurred at least three days—and perhaps as many as ten days—previously. Authorities therefore requested Zywicki's dental records to see if they matched the person found in the red blanket.
Meanwhile, back on campus, students organized another candle-light vigil early Wednesday morning; more than 200 students were present at 6 AM, and more volunteers agreed to undertake new efforts to spread word about Zywicki.
|Grinnell College students assemble in North Lounge of College Forum, Thursday, September 3rd |
(Grinnell Herald-Register, September 7, 1992)
After days of praying and hoping that Tammy Zywicki would be found alive and well, I cannot adequately express how devastated I am to learn of her death and the circumstances of it.... Society itself must deeply mourn her and have the most intense concern over the fact that such things can happen in America (Grinnell Herald-Register, September 7, 1992).
|Headline from Scarlet and Black, September 4, 1992|
I want you to know, we're not done...We live in a generation that's growing up with the norm that young women especially cannot walk down a street by themselves at night. We have the job to make sure that it's not the norm that we cannot drive on a Sunday afternoon on the interstate from Chicago to Grinnell (ibid.).That afternoon a silent service convened in the college's Herrick Chapel. According to press reports, students held and comforted one another, quietly struggling to make sense of the violent end to Tammy's life. One student carried a lighted candle down the chapel aisle and placed it on the steps before the platform. Soon others in attendance passed the candle, leaving behind a pile of yellow daisies that two college seniors had distributed earlier to mourners.
###Perhaps because of Spears's challenge, the campus response to Zywicki's death centered upon improving women's safety and the safety of drivers along the nation's highways.
|Des Moines Register, October 16, 1992|
|Photograph of a Fearless t-shirt (courtesy of Amy Fort)|
|Take Back the Night March, October 29, 1992 (Scarlet and Black, November 6, 1992)|
|Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 7, 1992|
The larger Grinnell community also responded to Zywicki's death. Much of the activity came from the Jeanne Burkle Women's Center, 822 1/2 Commercial Street. On October 1st, for example, the Center hosted Doug Meeker, service manager for Wes Finch Chevrolet, who discussed basic automobile maintenance. "Most breakdowns can be prevented," Meeker said, urging those in attendance to regularly check tires, hoses, windshield wipers, and other relatively inexpensive items. Subsequent Burkle Center programs addressed "What Everyone Should Know About Violence Against Women" and women's self-defense (Scarlet and Black, October 9, 1992).
|1991 photo of Jeanne Burkle Women's Center, 822 1/2 Commercial (Digital Grinnell)|
|Cover of Fearless handbook, A Guide to Handling Emergencies (1992; photo courtesy of Amy Fort)|
|Des Moines Register, December 7, 1992|
|Philadelphia Daily News, May 24, 1993|
Twenty-eight years later that resolution has not yet arrived. Supporters have tried several times to inject new energy into the criminal investigation, and occasionally a news item—most recently, this spring when authorities arrested Clark Perry Baldwin, a cross-country trucker accused of having murdered several young women—stimulates hopes, but so far authorities have reported no progress. There was no Facebook when Tammy fell victim to her murderer, but now a Facebook group (Who Killed Tammy Zywicki?) with over 1000 members regularly circulates news about the killing and advocates action in the investigation. At the anniversaries–5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th—of Tammy's murder a newspaper may publish a reminder, but for some years now the investigation seems to have come to a standstill, and hopes that Tammy's killer will ever be brought to justice hang by a thread.
As I prepared this post I made contact with a number of people who lived through the trauma that accompanied Tammy's death. Some declined to go back to that hurtful time, while others opened trunks full of memories and mementoes, hopeful that a new initiative might somehow overcome the sense that Tammy Zywicki's murderer has escaped punishment. No doubt both continue to nurse the pain that that 1992 crime brought to Grinnell.