The Lime Lady: Identified after 39 years
Updated: Mar 12, 2022
There are thousands of John and Jane Does in the United States alone. I’ve covered a few of them in the past, and I always find them frustrating. We don’t know who the person is, and their loved ones don’t know where they are or what happened to them. But DNA technology has improved over the past few years, and more and more Does are being identified. Let’s talk about The Lime Lady, who went unidentified for almost four decades before she finally got her name back.
On April 18, 1980, a group of fishermen on the east bank of the North Canadian River stumbled on the body of an unidentified woman. Her body was found close to the town of Jones, Oklahoma, about 20 miles northeast of Oklahoma City and I believe a suburb of it.
The woman’s body had been at the site for about ten days before it was found, and she had no identification on her. She was white, between the ages of 18 and 25, between 5 ‘ 6 “ and 5 ‘ 7 “ tall and 118 to 120 pounds. She had brown or reddish brown hair, an appendectomy scar, a decent amount of dental work and a red heart outlined in blue tattooed over her left breast.
The woman had been shot three times in the chest and dumped in the brush. She was found naked, but a dime was later found inside her chest. It’s believed to have been in a front pocket and later lodged there from one of the gunshot wounds.
The woman got her nickname, The Lime Lady, from the “lime powdery mixture” her body had been covered in. Most people who follow this case believe her killer used the lime in an attempt to accelerate decomposition. For whatever reason, the lime actually had the opposite effect and helped preserved her body.
So let’s back up a little bit — what exactly is lime? Lime is a material derived from burnt limestone, a naturally occurring rock that has high levels of calcium or magnesium carbonate and some other minerals.
Exactly what lime does to human and animal remains is debated. A 2011 paper on the effects of lime on remains said not much was known on the subject and there was no long term research on lime used in graves. The rest of the paper detailed an experiment on pig carcasses that seemed to give evidence that lime actually helps with preservation. However, it also said lime that comes in contact with a person’s skin can cause irritation or even burns. A 2009 “environmental fact sheet” from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services recommends people use “quick lime” when burying their pets to “reduce odors and promote decomposition.”
Specifically on the case of the Lime Lady, one article said the specific type of lime used helped preserve the body. According to The Doe Network, the killer used the “wrong lime” — which would make sense if they really were trying to speed up decomposition. Another post on a reddit thread on the case from around 2017 puts it in another, very interesting way that I thought was worth sharing. User aeoliancarp writes:
“It's pretty common for old mystery novels and TV shows to reference murderers putting bodies in lime. Anyone who's read some hokey mystery could have picked up that little tip about disposing of a body.”
I’m not a scientists by any means, and I won’t pretend to understand how lime affects corpses. But if the killer really was trying to speed up their victims’ decomposition process — and it seems they did — it clearly didn’t work.
In the early days, investigators hoped The Lime Lady’s unique heart tattoo would help identify her. But the weeks and months turned into years and decades with no answers. Law enforcement tried everything “conventional” that they could to find the woman’s identity, but nothing worked. Not long after her body was found, she was buried in an unmarked grave in Oklahoma City.
During this time, there was some speculation on The Lime Lady’s identity, as well as why she hadn’t been identified. Some believed she had lived in a foster home and hadn’t been reported missing by her foster parents. There were theories that she was an exotic dancer, a sex worker, a runaway, or that she had been killed by a local biker gang. And even though she had been found in Oklahoma, theoretically, she could be from many different places — especially if she was a runaway.
After years of theories and speculation, the case was reopened in 2013. At the time, it was Oklahoma’s oldest unsolved murder. Because The Lime Lady had been so well preserved — one source even went so far as to say “mummified” — investigators were able to create a DNA profile for her in 2014, 34 years after her death.
Law enforcement agencies around the world used the hashtag #POLTWT in an attempt to reach people who might have information in the case. I’m not sure exactly what this stands for. I did find one old Twitter account that seems to be connected, but the rest of the hashtag, at least on twitter, doesn’t have much going on and what little content it does have appears to be largely anti-police.
So let’s talk for a second about the DNA Doe Project. I’ve talked about them before in at least one of my videos. This non profit organization uses “genetic genealogy” to identify John and Jane Does. They’ve been instrumental in many recent identifications, including this one.
In late 2018, the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office obtained a blood stain and oral swab with The Lime Lady’s DNA and sent it to the DNA Doe Project. On October 30, 2019, Captain Bob Green got a call saying there was a “profile” and they were sending it to their genealogists. This wasn’t a 100 % match, but it was pretty close. Two days later, on November 2, a “candidate” was made. This match was almost certainly the true identify of The Lime Lady.
By this point, they knew The Lime Lady had been in the military, so military medical records were requested and sent to an orthodontist. It was through these records that a positive identification was finally made. On Christmas Eve 2019, Captain Bob Green got another call, saying he was getting an early Christmas present. The Lime Lady had officially been identified as Tamara Lee Tigard.
Tamara Lee Tigard was born on April 18, 1959. She was originally from California but was living in Las Vegas, Nevada at the time of her disappearance at the age of 20. Tamara was last seen out for a walk close to her home in March 1980 and was reported missing later that month. It’s not known how long she was in Oklahoma or what happened to her in the days or possibly weeks between her going missing and being killed. But her body was found on her 21st birthday, which means she never saw it.
After she was reported missing and the report was filed, Tamara’s identify was stolen by a woman in Ohio. Unfortunately, this caused her missing persons report to be cleared from the record, I assume because law enforcement believed she had been found. This probably explains why she went unidentified for so long.
Like I mentioned earlier, Tamara was a veteran, having served in the U.S. Army. All of her immediate family — both of her parents and a sibling — had died by the time she was identified.
The investigation to find Tamara’s killer is ongoing. When asked about suspects at a January press conference, Captain Bob Green said “I actually have a few people to talk to.” When asked specifically about the Ohio woman who stole Tamara’s identity, he said he didn’t know who she was and she was not a suspect at the time.
So that’s all I have for you today on The Lime Lady, or Tamara Lee Tigard. Now that she’s finally been identified, I’ll try to follow the ongoing investigation, and hopefully her killer will be found and prosecuted.