For three decades Tammy Sue Rothganger was listed as a missing. The 14-year-old high school student disappeared from near her home while walking to school.
For three decades Tammy Sue Rothganger was listed as a missing. The 14-year-old high school student disappeared from near her home while walking to school. A girlfriend reported the last time she had seen the teenager, she was getting in a car with an unidentified man and her mother's live-in boyfriend, Martin Priest, a man known to have a violent background.
In an unexpected development on Tuesday, convicted murderer Martin Priest was charged with her murder by Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Winfrey. Priest is currently serving a life sentence in Kansas for a separate murder.
Now, Priest is charged with Capital Murder for willfully, knowingly and with premeditation, deliberately killing the young girl from Eldon. Priest allegedly raped Rothganger before strangling her in the back seat of his car, later disposing of the body.
Martin is accused of luring Rothganger into his vehicle during the early morning hours of
May 16, 1984. Rothganger was on her way to school with a friend. She was just blocks from her home near Eldon High School.
In court documents, Rothganger is referred to only by her initials.
According to the probable cause statement, a third person that was allegedly in Priest’s car during the incident recently came forward with key information that led to the charges so many years after the murder occurred.
The third person is identified only by initials and as a man. The witness alleges Priest struck Rothganger in the back of the head with a wrench, knocking her unconscious. He then raped her and while raping her strangled her. Her body was left at what was only identified as a local residence. According to the witness, Rothganger’s body was later retrieved by her alleged killer and buried in an unmarked location.
Rothganger’s mother reported her missing the same day she was last seen. Initially the Eldon Police Department thought she might have skipped school and gone to a park to hang out with friends. Priest was questioned in the early stages of the investigation, and he denied any involvement in her disappearance.
Priest has a long criminal history. Several years before Rothganger went missing, he was convicted of the murder of a girl whose mother was his girlfriend. His conviction was thrown out by the Missouri Supreme Court on an appeal citing a lack of evidence.
Investigators have attempted to question Priest a number of times over the years. There have been a number of searches for her remains, but Rothganger’s remains have not yet been recovered.
Without a body, the prosecutor cited a records search conducted through the Social Security Administration and Department of Revenue which show Rothganger did not get a motor vehicle operator’s license, receive benefits or use her social security number and has never been employed since May 16, 1984.