Tammy Sue Rothganger

Left and Center: Tammy circa, 1984

Right: Age Progressed to age 42


Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

Missing Since: May 16, 1984

Missing From: Eldon, Miller County, Missouri

Classification: Non-Family Abduction

Date Of Birth: August 10, 1968

Age: 15 years old

Height and Weight: 5’7″ and 140 pounds

Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Female, Blonde/Brown hair, Brown eyes, Tammy has a scar on her left arm and a tattoo of the letter “R” on the same arm, she has several moles located on her cheeks and chin

Clothing/Jewelry Description: A sweatshirt, Nike shoes, Tammy was last known to be wearing a chained necklace with an arrowhead pendant and was also wearing a leather wristband at the time of her disappearance

NCMEC Number: 601885


Details of Disappearance

Tammy was last seen at approximately 7:45 am in Eldon, Missouri. She was last seen at Eldon High School but according to her mothers live in boyfriend at the time, Martin Dean Priest, she did not actually go inside the building. He pulled up to the curb and asked her where she was going.

Tammy reportedly told him that she was going to skip school and meet with friends at Rock Island Park. Priest offered to take her there. She was witnessed getting into a blue Plymouth outside of the school. She never attended her classes that day and has never been seen or heard from again. Her family reported her disappearance that afternoon.

Martin is the prime suspect in Tammys disappearance. In 1980, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for second degree murder in the death of a 13 year old girl. He was dating the victims mother at the time. He served approximately three years in prison before being released when the verdict was overturned on appeal.

Tammy’s mother, Sandra Kuchan, told police that Martin originally stated Tammy very likely ran away from home and offered to help put up missing posters of her. He later claimed he had Tammy and that she would only be able to see her daughter again through him.

Sandra informed police of Martin’s allegations and sayings. Police advised her to keep a journal or diary and wrote down what Martin tells her in case something he says leads to the whereabouts of Tammy.

She maintained a relationship with him for a while in hopes he would reveal where she is. Kuchan cut off all contact with Martin after an incident where he threw all of her furniture out on the lawn in an argument. The police were called regarding this and as a result all contact was stopped between them.

Months after Tammy disappeared, he was accused in the 1984 double slaying of William Mayhugh and Frieda Bayliff. He was convicted of killing William but acquitted of Frieda’s death. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for the crime.

Ok November 16th 1984, exactly 7 months to the day that Tammy vanished, 15 year old Katrina Cheely disappeared from her home in Witchia, Kansas. Priest offered to drive her to school because she was running late. Her case was initially treated as a runaway case.

On February 28th 1985, a can collector found Katrina’s body in a culvert on 151st Street West. She was shot to death. Priest was originally charged with killing her but he was acquitted during his trial.

On January 5th 2016, Martin was charged with Capitol Murder in Tammy’s case. He allegedly knocked Tammy unconscious before raping and strangling her in the back of his car. The break in her disappearance case came when a witness to the crime gave authorities the information they needed to charge Martin with her death.

The witness was Martin’s 13 year old nephew, David Nicholas. He was inside of the car at the time of Tammy’s murder and was friends with her and had a crush on her at the time. According to his testimony, he was riding in the car with Martin when they noticed Tammy smoking outside of the school that morning. He pulled over and had David convince Tammy to get in the car.

David stated Tammy appeared to be nervous for unknown reasons at the time. When they stopped to use the bathroom, Tammy attempted to runaway from the car but David managed to get her to come back. At some point during the ride, Martin said he knew David and Tammy we’re together and that they should have sex. There was alleged sexual abuse in the family and David performed sexual one recourse in front his other family members.

Tammy and David did as they were told and afterwards, Tammy climbed back into the front seat of the vehicle. Martin then dropped something on Tammy’s side of the car and asked her to pick it up. As she bent over to do this, Martin struck her in the head with a wrench and knocked her unconscious. He then began to rape her and David tried to stop him but ended up getting hit.

Tammy regained consciousness at some point and said “no” before Martin ultimately strangled her to death. They transported Tammy’s body along a back road from the Bagnell Dam area and got lost a few times. They arrived at David’s mothers house and took Tammy’s body to a back bedroom, she was soon discovered by other family members.

David’s older brother, Michael Nicholas, recounted the entire scene. He recalls how their mother yelled at Martin for what happened to Tammy. No one chose to contact police and instead decided to hide Tammy’s body.

Martin returned to the home that night with a barrel and tools they would use to conceal Tammy’s remains. He made David come with him. They placed Tammy’s body in the barrel and sealed it. They then out it inside of a hole and buried it. David attempted to lead investigators to her remains but a search turned up no sign of Tammy’s body. He never revealed what he saw in order to protect his mother and brother.

Martin maintained his innocence throughout his 2018 trial and claimed he had nothing to do with Tammy’s presumed murder. His defense argued and claimed the brothers were liars and pointed out their criminal histories as adults. Martin was convicted of killing Tammy and was sentenced to life in prison. He won’t eligible for parole in Kansas for 25 years.

Tammy remains missing and her whereabouts unknown. Her disappearance is classified as a non family abduction by various missing children agencies.


Investigating Agency

If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:

Eldon Police Department 573-392-5611


Source Information

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

The Charley Project

The Doe Network

NamUs

Find a Grave

NBC News

Lake News Online

Lake Expo