Sgt. Austen Poland, of the Oregon National Guard, presents an American flag to Kylie Tigard, cousin to Tamera “Tammy” Lee Tigard, during a burial in Sutherlin, Oregon, on Monday. The service with full military honors was the final chapter for the U.S. Army specialist whose death remained a mystery for more than four decades. (The News-Review)

Sgt. Austen Poland, of the Oregon National Guard, presents an American flag to Kylie Tigard, cousin to Tamera “Tammy” Lee Tigard, during a burial in Sutherlin, Oregon, on Monday. The service with full military honors was the final chapter for the U.S. Army specialist whose death remained a mystery for more than four decades. (The News-Review)

Home at last: Woman laid to rest, 42 years after her death

Tamara Tigard, who was apparently murdered in Oklahoma in 1980, was identified through her cousin’s DNA samples.

  • By Donovan Brink The News-Review, Roseburg, Ore.
  • Wednesday, April 20, 2022 1:30am
  • Northwest

By Donovan Brink / The (Roseburg, Ore.) News-Review

SUTHERLIN, Ore. — It’s Monday morning east of Sutherlin, and the wind from the southwest is bearing down, giving advance notice of worse weather to come. Near the top of the hill, several men and women in uniform are gathered, prepared to pay respects to one of their own.

After nearly 42 years, a U.S. Army specialist finally will get her proper burial.

Close to 100 military veterans and civilians joined remaining family members gathered to remember the life of Tamara “Tammy” Lee Tigard, who was ultimately laid to rest alongside her parents at Valley View Cemetery.

The burial ended at least one part of the story for the woman who for nearly four decades was known simply as “The Lime Lady,” on what would have been her 63rd birthday. The memorial came 42 years to the day after the body of Tigard, an apparent murder victim, was discovered along a riverbank east of Jones, Oklahoma.

Tigard is suspected to have been murdered in late March 1980, her body found in a bed of weeds on the banks of the North Canadian River. On April 18, 1980 — which would have been Tigard’s 21st birthday — a group of fishermen discovered her body and reported it to authorities.

The body was reportedly heavily coated in a hydrated lime powder. Investigators believe the killer or killers would have likely thought that lime would expedite decomposition. Instead, the body had been preserved, allowing investigators to retrieve evidentiary dots which would take decades to connect.

One of the most puzzling cold cases in Oklahoma history was under way.

With no way to identify possible living relatives, detectives in Oklahoma County were unable to establish an identity of the woman they were investigating. Tigard’s remains instead were buried in an unmarked grave in a cemetery in Edmond, Oklahoma. Her remains would lay there for more than 38 years. No one would know who she was.

In early 2000, a woman from Sisters, Oregon, got a telephone call from someone stating they were from the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office. The caller was looking for Kylie Tigard.

The call was left to go to voicemail.

Kylie Tigard and her partner, Lisa Baker, a retired law enforcement officer, were working in the garden outside of their Sisters home at the time of the call.

“(Lisa) said to call back on speaker to see if it was legitimate,” Kylie Tigard said.

In an unexpected twist of fate, a DNA test Kylie Tigard had submitted in 2019 — while searching her own family tree — matched up with a sample filed with the nonprofit DNA Doe Project. The potential match turned out to be Kylie’s cousin, Tamara “Tammy” Lee Tigard.

After learning Tammy had served in the Army, military dental records were able to confirm her identity. It was then the effort began to get her home. Not to her geographical home of Las Vegas where she was last seen in 1980 — as there was no record of her living in Oregon — but rather back to her parents.

James “Jimmy” Tigard and Patsy Tigard relocated to the Sutherlin/Oakland area in the mid-1980s, although Kylie Tigard couldn’t nail down an exact year. Patty died in 2001 at age 67 and Jimmy followed in 2006 at age 70. Neither would ever know the fate of their missing daughter.

Monday, they welcomed her “home,” as Tammy’s ashes were buried next to her parents on that grassy hillside east of Sutherlin.

The Tigard family expressed their gratitude to an “unbelievable” number of people who came out to support a veteran they didn’t know.

“We’re such a small family,” said Kylie Tigard, who in an earlier interview mentioned the only known living Tigards were her brother, Conan, and niece Cierra. “To have all these people show up, embracing us … this just opens the door to a new chapter.”

The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office continues to work with the Clark County (Nevada) Sheriff’s Office and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, continuing to search for the killer of the woman who no longer shall be known merely as “The Lime Lady.”

After 42 years, she has her name. She has her family. And, finally, she has her final resting place.

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