Priest was charged in 2016 with Rothganger's murder by Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Winfrey while he was serving a life sentence in Kansas.
The man convicted of killing an Eldon teenager 34 years ago will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Martin Dean Priest was sentenced this week by Circuit Court Judge Ken Hayden to life in prison for the murder of Tammy Rothganger in 1984. Hayden also denied Priest’s request for a new trial. Priest was convicted last month following a 3-day jury trial in Laclede County.
Priest was charged in 2016 with Rothganger’s murder by Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Winfrey while he was serving a life sentence in Kansas for the death of a man killed on Christmas Day in 1984, just months after the teenager’s disappearance.
Rothganger disappeared while on her way to Eldon High School where she was a sophomore. Rothganger and her mom lived across the street from the school. Priest was involved in a relationship with Rothganger’s mother.
Rothganger’s body was never located. However, a witness during the trial testified Priest killed the teenager in his car and later disposed of her body. Several locations have been searched but no evidence of her body or murder were uncovered.
There were startling similarities between a case in Nevada, Mo., in June of 1980 and that of Rothganger who disappeared 4 years later. Priest is believed to have preyed on the daughters of women he took up with. He was linked to the murder of a young girl in Kansas the same year the Eldon teenager disappeared.
Before moving to Eldon, Priest had been convicted of murder but was released from prison when his conviction was overturned. Law enforcement stated during the investigation they believed Priest was a serial killer.
Priest’s conviction came within hours of the jury beginning deliberations. He did testify on his own behalf during the trial but failed to convince jurors of his innocence. The lack of any physical evidence didn’t sway the jury.
Even if Priest were to be released on parole from Kansas, he would be transferred to Missouri to serve his sentence for Rothganger’s murder.