Left and Center: Jennifer circa, 1980
Right: Age Progressed to age 46
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: June 13, 1980
Missing From: Maple Heights, Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: July 2, 1971
Age: 8 years old
Height and Weight: 4’0″ and 58 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: White Female, Brown hair, Blue eyes, Tiffany has a scar on her right knee and has previously fractured her collarbone, she has a gap between her upper front teeth and her ears are pierced, some agencies spell her name as “Tiffiny” and she may use her initials T.J
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A red and blue t-shirt which has the phrase “Let’s face it, I’m cute”, a pair of shorts, and blue sneakers
NCMEC Number: 603389
Details of Disappearance
Tiffany Papesh was last seen in Maple Heights, Ohio on June 13th 1980. She disappeared while walking home from running a quick errand and has never been heard from again.
Tiffany went to the Convenient Food Mart so she could get hamburger buns. She was seen online waiting to get her bundle payed for and was seen letting an elderly woman go ahead of her to pay. Tiffany left the store at approximately 2:45 pm. The store was located a half a block away from her home at the time.
Her family reported her disappearance immediately when she didn’t return home and a search for her started at 3:00 pm. Authorities believe that Tiffany was probably abducted. Her father and stepmother were both questioned and ruled out as suspects in the early stages of the investigation.
In 1983, Brandon Lee Flagner confessed to Tiffany’s abduction, rape, and murder. He confessed while incarcerated in prison in Texas for child molestation and burglary. He made at least 30 different confessions to the crime. In interviews, Flagner states that he grabbed Tiffany and drove her to a wooded area by a nearby school. He stated that he shot her by accident because she resisted his sexual advances.
Flagner also stated that he dismembered Tiffany’s body and cannibalized some of it before dumping other parts of it in various places of Ohio. He’s confessed his alleged involvement to other individuals as well. Many of Flangers statements about her murder contradict each other.
He later recanted all statements he made in relation to the girls murder. He stated that he made them out of coercion and fear and also so he could stay in prison for a sex offender treatment. He has maintained his innocence in Papesh’s case and even had a strong alibi for the day she disappeared.
Despite the alibi and his maintained innocence, Brandon was ultimately convicted of two counts of aggravated murder and one count of kidnapping in June of 1985. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for her murder and an additional 25 years for her abduction. Many of Flagner’s molestation victims spoke at his trail and said he threatened them with violence.
Brandon grew up in Elyria, Ohio which is not far from Maple Heights. He was arrested and jailed for burglary in 1978 and served 16 months in prison. He was originally sentenced to two five term sentences until being paroled. He was released from prison approximately 3 months before Tiffany’s abduction.
It’s should also be noted that Brandon participated in the search for Tiffany and even offered to sell t-shirts with her picture and information on them to help aid in locating her. The Papesh family had him arrested and he was warned by police to leave them alone. In November of 1980, Flagner told his brother that he had been hired by Tiffany’s father to locate her supposed murderer and that he believed her father was the one who committed the crime.
Flagner also once asked his wife and brother to destroy a metal box that contained some children’s clothing after Tiffany’s disappearance. Various people do not even believe that Flanger was truly in Tiffany’s death. Authorities initially discounted his statements due to the various inconsistencies within them and the fact that no evidence has surfaced to support any of them. Tiffany’s family also believes he is innocent of her disappearance.
Some have suggested that the real killer in Tiffany’s case was the infamous Oakland Child murder. The top suspect in that case is Ted Lamborgine and he actually moved to Ohio when Tiffany disappeared. He settled in Parma Heights which is a mere 12 minute distance away from where Tiffany was abducted. She also disappeared in the same way that two of the Oakland victims did and she physically resembles them. He has not been named as a suspect in the case.
According to his time card, Flagner was at work at Sta-Co in Creston, Ohio which is 40 miles away from where Tiffany’s disappearance occurred. He was at work until about a half an hour before the disappearance. Some have suggested a co worker stamped his card for him but all of them have denied this. No one really remembers seeing him at work that day but he would have been needed there to maintain the production line.
The State has also refused to create a death certificate for her because they believe she might still be alive. Papesh has also allegedly been sighted several times since Flagner’s conviction in her murder. The chief prosecutor in the Papesh case has previously been investigated for tampering with evidence and destroying evidence in 100s of his cases. Many of his cases have been overturned.
Flagner was convicted largely on the fact of his previous crimes and record and the basis of his confession to Tiffany’s murder. He once claimed he molested over 400 girls but investigators think this is a fabrication. Under Ohio law, his confession was not admissible without corroborating evidence and the confession was illegal in multiple ways. Flagner remains in prison.
Tiffany’s disappearance remains unsolved and she has not been located. Her father has since died.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Maple Heights Police Department 216-662-5884
Federal Bureau of Investigation 202-324-3000