Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Case of Tammy Zywicki

Keeping Hope Alive

Tammy Zywicki
Tammy Zywicki

After the case against Bierbodt was abandoned, progress in the hunt for Zywicki's killer slowed. Every now and again, a trucker somewhere in the country was charged with one or more murders. Knowing the nationwide mobility of such truckers, police would look for any sign that that trucker could be Tammy's killer.

In 1997, Leo F. Reising, 28, was charged with the sexual assault of a 35-year-old woman in Ogden, Utah, who had been led to a parking lot at gunpoint, assaulted, then left duct-taped to a fence post in a remote rural area until she broke free and called police. Reising, a truck driver from Illinois, appeared to be a promising lead until a thorough check of his travel logs eliminated him as a person of interest in the murder.

Also ruled out was Wayne Adam Ford, 36, who in 1998 confessed to killing four women in California. According to police, Ford was a school bus driver in California when Tammy died.

The logs of countless truck drivers were checked, but none were a match. The case was not forgotten, though: in 2002, on the tenth anniversary of the murder, the FBI added an additional $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest to the already-standing $100,000 reward offered by an anonymous donor from Tammy's New Jersey hometown. Having struggled through many faulty leads, JoAnn Zywicki, 65, maintains cautious hope that her daughter's killer will be found. The possibility that Bruce Mendenhall may yet be linked to Tammy's killing brings mixed emotions — JoAnn told the Associated Press that she recognizes that the murder may never be solved.

But with a combination of the vigilance of citizens, the expanding FBI database, and the unflagging glimmer of hope inside those who love her, there may yet be justice for Tammy.

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