On November 6th, 2018 Tammy Rothganger had a voice for the first time in 34 years. Since May 16th, 1984 she has been unable to speak, unable to breath or simply live. Today, in court in Laclede County Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Winfrey gave her that voice. He spoke for her in the sentencing of the man who raped and killed her. His words had profound meaning and I don’t think he realized what he said more importantly the way he said it. No media was there, no “press coverage” no sensationalizing or credit needed or requested, just words that were said for a young girl by a man sitting at a table with everyone in the quite court room watching his every move and analyzing his every word.
“Judge, Tammy Rothganger will never know what’s it’s like to graduate high school, get married, have a child, see that child graduate high school, be an aunt, she will never drive a car, go for walks, attend holidays with her family, never know the joys of life. The defendant took all that from her in the most violent of ways and for that I ask for a consecutive life sentence to the sentence he is serving in Kansas”. See, without finding Tammy the death penalty could not be sought in this case by law. Miller County Prosecutor Benjamin Winfrey was granted his request and with that Martin Priest will never be able to hurt anyone, any family or any person again. At his first possible parole date he will be almost 85 years old. Though it is true we were unable to find Tammy, Martin Priest will never hurt another human again. The search will continue for Tammy, this is not a conclusion but a different beginning to the search.
When I first talked with Ben about this case the point was to find Tammy and give her a Christian burial, his conviction was always second. The fact the witness could not give us an exact location only a general area limited what we were able to do or search. The only other option was to try to get Priest to tell us what he did with her body. He will not provide that information. We are still trying to gain that information. As all involved have said this is not a victory but it is a win. Nothing like this can happen to another child at the hands of Priest, there is something to be said for that. It still feels like a failure to us that worked this case because we were unable to find her. I felt it was important to let the public know that Tammy had a voice and spoke she did.
Winfrey did an outstanding job in this case. His argument at sentencing was unsurpassed. After the trial one of the first conversations we had was not a pat on the back, or a high 5, it was okay, what do we do now to find her. I wanted the public to know what he did and is continuing to do to find Tammy.