Tammy Zywicki's car broke down off of I-80 while on her way back to college. More than 60 people reported seeing her peering under her hood. Eight days later, her body was found wrapped in a blanket 500 miles away.
At just 20 years old, Tammy Zywicki was a senior at Grinnell College in 1992. She had recently returned from a summer spent studying abroad in Madrid. Majoring in art history and Spanish, Tammy would soon be starting an internship at the Art Institute in Chicago, with plans to pursue a career in sports photography or teach Spanish after graduation. Then a routine trip back to campus would change all of that.
Two days before her disappearance
Tammy and her brother, Daren, road trip back to their respective universities from their home in New Jersey. They make a stop in Pittsburgh to visit family and then head to Evanston, Illinois, to drop off Daren at Northwestern. During the trip, they experience car trouble with Tammy’s white Pontiac, but they thought they had figured out the issue. Tammy and her brother arrive at Northwestern on August 22. Tammy stays the night with a friend, with plans to head out for Grinnell the next day.
The day of her disappearance
The next morning, Daren checks her engine before she departs on the last leg of her trip. He reminds Tammy that if her car stalls, to pull over at a rest stop. Tammy does not even make it halfway on her journey west before car trouble appears to have befallen her again. More than 60 people report seeing Tammy looking under the hood of her car that day off the exit for Utica, IL. Reported tips to law enforcement suggest that 26 different cars pulled over to help her, but Tammy never arrives at Grinnell.
Tammy’s parents wait for her to call and say she is fine, but that call never comes. With her parent’s constant urging, the police reluctantly begin to investigate her disappearance. Her car, which now had been towed, could not be tested for prints because of a chain of custody failures. The only thing missing appeared to be her purse and her camera. There was no sign of a struggle. And at the time, law enforcement claims to have had several leads in Tammy’s case, but none resulted in an arrest.
8 days after Tammy goes missing
A man is driving his pickup truck near Joplin, MO—500 miles from where she was last seen—when it begins to rain. He pulls to the side of Highway 44 to cover up the tools in the bed of his truck. Once out of the truck, he detects a foul order and notices a red Kenworth Truck Co. blanket wrapped in duct tape. Inside the red blanket was a female body wrapped in a white sheet—silver duct tape wrapped around both ends of the blanket. It was Tammy and she had been stabbed to death.
It's been nearly 30 years since Tammy disappeared from the side of the road and was murdered, and dumped the next state over. In that time, two leads have persisted in her case. First, multiple people have reported seeing a tractor-trailer on the side of the road with Tammy. The truck had two brownish-orange stripes on both the tractor and the trailer. Second, the man with the truck was approximately 6 feet tall with dark, bushy hair and estimated to be between 30-45 years old. It was also discovered that Tammy's Canon 35mm camera and a musical wristwatch with an umbrella on its face, that played a tune were missing from what was recovered from her car.
Tammy would have celebrated her 50th birthday this year. Her family is still hoping to find answers as to what happened to Tammy and that her killer will be brought to justice.