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Unsolved: The murder of Tammy Vincent

In the early morning hours of September 26, 1979, a witness on the beach at Richardson Bay Park in Tiburon, California noticed a bonfire. Early the next morning, a jogger in Blackie’s Pasture, just a few miles away, found charred human remains.

Further investigation revealed the body belonged to a girl or young woman in her late teens or early twenties. She’d been stabbed more than 40 times with an ice pick, set on fire and shot in the head, likely as she crawled away. Half of her face was burned beyond recognition, and she’d been stabbed so hard that the ice pick broke off inside her body. The gunshot wound was determined to be her official cause of death. An ice pick, a bullet and acetone — the latter of which was thought to be the accelerant for the fire — were also found at the scene.

The crime scene

The girl had been spotted at a Woolworth store in San Francisco, just 15 miles away, the day before her body was found. She was with an unknown man who bought the items that would later be used in her murder. He was described as a white male wearing a ‘leisure type’ suit.

But there were few leads in the case of Tiburon Jane Doe. She was buried in December of 1979 and her case quickly went cold. It was reopened in 2001, and her body was exhumed in 2002 for DNA extraction. Investigators were only able to develop a partial profile, and no matches were found. In 2005, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children made a sketch of what Jane Doe may have looked like. This sketch was based on evidence at the scene as well as the side of her face that wasn’t burned.

The 2015 NCMEC sketch

In December 2006, advances in technology and another examination of the evidence allowed for a full DNA profile to finally be developed from hairs found during Jane Doe’s autopsy. (Most of the other evidence had degraded over time.) In February 2007, her DNA was uploaded into the FBI’s national missing persons database. That’s when a tentative match was finally made. In late September of 2007, it was officially announced that Tiburon Jane Doe had been identified as 17-year-old Tammy Vincent.

Tammy lived in Washington state, but ran away from home in the fall of 1978. She was last known to be working at a Seattle strip club called Tease and Rip. In August of 1979, the club was raided by police, who suspected the owners were secretly operating prostitution rings. Tammy agreed to testify against the owners and was put in a group home for her protection. However, a lawyer for one of the club owners was able to track her down and convince the group home owners to let her go with him. Tammy was reported missing later on in August 1979.

In 2003, DNA was collected from Tammy’s mother and sister. It was speculated that Tammy, who was still missing at the time, might have been a victim of Gary Ridgway. Also known as the Green River Killer, Ridgway killed at least 49 women in Washington state in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Investigators wanted to test Tammy’s family DNA against that of four of Ridgeway’s unidentified victims. No matches were found, but it was this DNA that would allow Tammy to be identified a few years later.

The investigation into Tammy’s murder began soon after she was identified, but there have been very few updates in the case since. Police believe her killer is the man she was last seen with at Woolworth’s the night before she died, and that he had at least two accomplices. As of March 2022, this man is unidentified and Tammy’s murder remains unsolved.

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