HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Police in southern Nevada announced Thursday, Dec. 2 they identified a 17-year-old New Mexico girl as the victim of a killing 41 years ago, and called her case an active murder investigation.
The teen, Tammy Corrine Terrell, was last seen Sept. 28, 1980, with a man and a woman at a restaurant after a state fair in Roswell, New Mexico, said Henderson police Capt. Jonathan Boucher.
Her body was found Oct. 5, 1980, in what at the time was a desert area outside Las Vegas.
“Now we’re only halfway there,” Boucher told reporters during a news conference at which he asked for public help in the investigation. “Now the pursuit of Tammy’s killer or killers begins.”
The Clark County coroner determined Terrell died of blunt force trauma and ruled her death a homicide. With her name unknown, she was dubbed “Arroyo Grande Jane Doe” after the place where she was found.
Reports said she was stabbed and beaten to death, possibly with a hammer. She had facial injuries, multiple head wounds and puncture or stab wounds on her back. One of her teeth had apparently been knocked out.
Fingerprint and dental characteristics were logged with national databases, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children circulated a rendering of the victim in 2015. A description included references to a crude, apparently amateur “S” tattoo made with blue ink on the inside of her right forearm.
Boucher said DNA samples taken from the body at the time were recently reanalyzed and matched through genetic genealogy with DNA from two of Terrell’s sisters. Boucher said the women were grateful to finally know what happened to her.
Boucher credited Henderson police Detective John Williams, the initial investigator of the case, with continuing to work on it even after he retired in 2006.
The police captain said he recently learned that Williams and his wife paid for Terrell’s burial and still visit her gravesite on the anniversary of the discovery of her body.
“The amount of work Joe has put in is just astonishing,” Boucher said, standing with the current lead investigator in the case, Detective Joseph Ebert. “Their efforts have finally paid off.”