DISCLAIMER

Many of the names and some of the descriptions in this blog have been changed to protect the guilty.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The 18-Year-Old Fox Road Murder Mystery


View the New England Unsolved WFXT Fox 25 News report.


At midnight, Tammy Marie Lynds informed her 10-year-old sister that she was going out, and that she would be back at 3:00 a.m. As she made her way to the front door, she nudged her father, who had nodded off in a living room chair while watching television.

“She told me to get to bed,” he remembered her saying. As he roused himself and headed to his bedroom, the 15-year-old girl went out the front door, left it open, slipped out the side gate of their yard to avoid tripping the motion sensor attached to spotlights, and vanished into the night. She never returned.

It was the evening of July 21, 1994, when Allison last saw her sister alive. She looked out the window, watched Tammy quietly unlock their fence gate, and wished she could have said more to convince her not to go out. Tammy was supposed to meet a friend, possibly a boyfriend, but she told her sister she was not looking forward to this rendezvous.

Tammy was reported missing the next day, and the police classified her as a runaway. Typically, when YOUNG children go missing, the cases are immediately treated as possible abductions and homicides. But not so with teenagers. Springfield Police received as many as 20 reports of missing youths every summer in the early- and mid-1990s, and most teens returned home within three days. However, Tammy hadn’t taken anything with her, and she inexplicably didn’t come back. She had left an open door and reassurances to her sister that she’d return.


Flyers were taped to walls of area businesses with a description of the freckle-faced Tammy Lynds: 5-foot-three, 106 pounds, and sandy blond hair.

Her father, Richard Lynds, feared the worst, searching the woods near her family’s house, combing the areas of Grayson Drive and Boston Road. He talked to Tammy’s friends. There were rumors that she was alive and possibly out of the state—maybe in Florida—but no substantial leads. Just talk. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and the Lynds’ lives were turned upside down.


On November 4, 1994, David Schmidt and his eight-year-old son were riding bikes in the woods off Fox Road in the late morning when he spied a hubcap that he thought he could use. Then, in the brush near a stream, he saw what appeared to be red sneakers attached to sticks. Upon closer inspection he discovered a skeleton partially covered with rags that were once jeans—and for a split second he thought it was a fake skeleton left over from Halloween. A better look and then the smell soon convinced him otherwise.

Police searched the area for clues. A week later, a comparison of dental records confirmed the body was Tammy’s. At the time, the medical examiner had yet to come up “with all the answers,” but considered it “not to be a homicide.”


Tammy’s body was found in the woods several feet from the east side of Fox Road, north of the guard rail that leads to the bridge over the Mill Rivers North Branch, which divides the Pine Point and Sixteen Acres neighborhoods. The location was three-quarters of a mile from her home at 51 Lamont Street. The forensic pathologist believed the corpse had been at the site since Tammy’s disappearance.

According to a Springfield Union News article on November 14, 1994, an anthropological exam of her remains had not yet revealed the cause of death. It also included the fact that an entry in her diary said she snuck out of the house around midnight a week before she died to meet a boy who lived east of Lamont Street along Boston Road. She had also written that she had been accosted by bar patrons on Boston Road as she walked east on that road. Which bars(s)? John Joe’s? Bonnie and Clydes? Or the Sports Page or Mattie’s CafĂ©, both on the other (north) side of the road? The story didn’t say. The word “accosted,” used by the newspaper reporter, didn’t specify what made her feel uncomfortable.

The next and last newspaper article about Tammy Marie Lynds notified readers of her funeral on November 18, 1994 at Sampson's Chapel of the Acres Funeral Home and St. Catherine of Siena Church. The cause of death was “under investigation.”


For nearly 18 years Tammy Lynds’ death remained in media limbo: confined to the newspaper archives. It’s unclear what became of the Springfield Police investigation, but the primary officers involved in the case, veteran homicide detectives Dennis M. O’Connor and Noberto Garcia, eventually retired.

However, the cold case started to heat up earlier this year, when Richard Lynds approached Bob Ward, a reporter/anchor for Fox 25 News in Boston. New evidence in the infamous 1993 Holly Piirainen abduction and murder put that case back in the spotlight last January, so he reached out to Ward about his daughter’s cold case—one that seemed to be forgotten by everyone accept Tammy’s family and friends. View Ward’s report.

On April 2, 2012, Hampden County District Attorney Mark Mastroianni, who was elected in 2010, announced the creation of the office’s first website, which includes a section on unsolved Hampden County homicides dating back to 1991. Surprisingly, the Tammy Marie Lynds case was listed, even though the cause of death was never determined—as far as we know.


In all the homicides on the DA’s website, the cause of death has been established—even the 1992 case of a “John Doe,” whose skull and bones were found in a wooded area in Southwick. Officials at the time stated that foul play was not suspected (the same medical examiner later said the same thing about Lynds), but Mastroianni’s website now notes that the unknown victim in Southwick “sustained trauma to the face.”

Is there new forensic evidence in the Lynds case? Mastroianni doesn’t mention anything in the Fox 25 interview. “We’re committed to re-evaluating the evidence,” he said, noting that the diary is “important. I certainly think it’s a piece of significant evidence. It’s a fair conclusion to reach that if she’s leaving her house at that point in the morning hours, it’s likely to be spending some time with someone or people” referenced in her personal diary.

Ward’s story, which aired on May 6, contains a number of startling new revelations. “I know she had some guy issues that were going on,” said Allison, (pictured below at the right of Tammy). Ward says in the broadcast that Tammy snuck out to meet her boyfriend at his house, and then a week later left her home “to meet some friends” on the night she disappeared, but in the text version of his story, Allison said to him that her sister “was going to sneak out again after their parents fell asleep. Only this time, Allison told me, Tammy wasn’t going to her boyfriend’s home. Instead, she was going to meet with him in some nearby woods.” Was she supposed to be getting together with ONE person or several?


Allison said that on the night her sister vanished, “she was very scared, nervous. She wasn’t acting like herself.” But she was determined to go out. “She said she had to go,” according to Allison, “and she said, ‘I promise you I will be back.’” Tammy insisted that she had to leave—but at the same time she was reluctant. “She didn’t want to go,” said Allison, who replied, “You don’t have to go.” Ward asked her, “Did she say what would happen to her if she didn’t go? Allison answered,  “All she had said was that she was threatened.”


Richard Lynds (pictured above) was a Pine Point Neighborhood Council president who, ironically, spoke about an upsurge in crime in Pine Point at a Springfield Community Policing Implementation Steering Committee meeting five months before Tammy’s disappearance. In his interview with Ward, Richard said that during the initial investigation, investigators took a hard look at him as a possible suspect. He was given a lie detector test, which was “inconclusive,” he says. Needless to say, it is highly unlikely that a guilty Richard Lynds would initiate a new investigative focus on his daughter’s death eighteen years later.

A week after Tammy was found, Richard told the Union News he was upset with the way police were handling the case. “In my opinion,” he said, “the way [the] Youth Aid [Bureau] responded to us, there was too much of a delay. I know they checked with some of the kids we told them about, but we did most of the legwork.”


Pictured above is the Fox Road Bridge, and below is the guard rail on the north side. The body was found feet from the road beyond the guard rail.

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“THIS IS TUFF TURF” was spray-painted on the Fox Road bridge in 1985 after the laughably horrible gang movie Tuff Turf came out. Back than we scoffed at the graffiti on our multitude of Taco Bell runs to Boston Road. “Bunch of suburban gangsta-wanna-be’s,” we said. Little did we know how bad the neighborhood would get in the 1990s, when the criminal element infiltrated the nearby Colonial Estates apartments, along with the Boston Road neighborhood, and especially Pine Point. It certainly got tough for Tammy Marie Lynds. Who killed her? A friend? A stranger? The former seems more likely, although a pathway leading to the woods at the end of the guardrail provides the perfect cover for a predator. For decades the woods in this vicinity have had an aura of dangerousness about them, with sex attacks dating back to the 1970s (a 10-year-old girl in 1975 and a five-year-old boy in 1977), and in a one-month period in 1982: five sex assaults—three of them rapes.


Tammy’s diary, according to Ward, referred to her walking past a few bars the night she snuck out a week before she disappeared, and “some men who were leaving the bar made her feel uncomfortable.” In the diary entry pictured above, there is an excerpt that reads, “but when I was going past the first bar, I had a man start following me, I booked.”

How intimate was she with the person she met with that night? The next sentence in the diary reads: “When I got to his house he let me in and I lad [sic] on his bed he closed the window. Then he turn [sic] off the lights and then unbuttoned my shirt and lad [sic] down with me, kissing me also. Then he asked me if I wanted to do the…” That is the way the page ends. The ellipsis points at the conclusion are mine. What is on the next page? What else in the diary is of significance?


Fox Road, lined by woods on each side, is a popular illegal dumping spot for people getting rid of appliances, tires—you name it. There are no houses within sight—except one, on the corner of Grayson Drive and Methuen Street. Was the owner asked if he saw anything? The residents of Methuen Street have always been keenly aware of the illegal dumping problem on their street and on Fox Road, and they are known to be vigilant in trying to catch violators in the act. Did anyone spy anything suspicious going on?

Because of the site’s relative remoteness (not exactly city, but certainly not “country”), it is possible that someone removed her body from a car and dropped it a few feet into the woods for a quick getaway. But there is also a pathway in the woods near the body: could Tammy have been murdered in these woods? If so, wouldn’t the killer drag her body further away from the road to hide it?  Maybe not if the perpetrator wanted to leave the scene in a hurry.


The above footage is of the Fox Road bridge heading north and ending with the site where the body was found. There are a couple of paper bags filled with leaves dumped there—indicative of the way Fox Road is used by area slobs. Below is the end of the path from Grayson Drive to the site where Tammy’s remains were left. Which route was taken by the killer?


Fox Road also serves as a short cut for motorists driving between Parker Street, Boston Road, Breckwood Boulevard and Wilbraham Road. Did someone, after going out to a bar on a Thursday night in the summer, see something unusual on Fox Road? A parked car? Two or more teenagers—or adults—hanging out? An argument? Someone running?

According to Ward, the crime scene was NOT the same wooded area where Tammy planned to visit the night she went missing. His news segment didn’t mention her desired destination, leaving open a realm of possibilities, because the neighborhood was—and is—filled with woods that are youth gathering spots. Some of these areas don’t exist any more, such as the forested subdivision at the end of her street (known by some as “Strawberry Fields”), along with the “pit” and the “log cabin” party fort on the site of what is now Pheasant Drive. Within a mile from her house are Putnam’s Puddle, Five Mile Pond, Pine Point’s “Snake” woods off Seymour Avenue, “The Rail” that separates Blanche Street and the North Branch Parkway, and the sandy desertscape off Grayson Drive on the lower left of the satellite photo on this blog post. Heck, there are even pathways in the woods on the other side of Fox Road (pictured below) that connected to the old trails behind the old Camp Husky.


At this point, there are many questions and no answers. According to her 1994 “missing” posters, she was last seen on the night she left at 1:00 p.m. on the “South side of the Boston Road corridor.” So, did someone see her an hour after her sister did? Also, even though the medical examiner believed that Tammy had been at that Fox Road site since her disappearance, he also originally said that that the body, which had yet to be determined as Tammy’s, appeared to have been in the woods “for at least up to six months,” according to the Union News. Tammy, as it turned out, was gone for less than four months. Since forensic pathology is not an exact science, does the report even consider the possibility that her body might had been moved to the site she was discovered, or that she might have been killed after she had been missing for several days or longer?

If Tammy’s friends and acquaintances were too young to drive, did any of them have a young relative or friend who had access to a car that night or in the days afterward? After all, it is not easy to move a 106-pound body. If she were killed by a stranger, were known sex offenders from the area questioned at the time (including two men who were convicted of rapes in the woods off North Branch Parkway in 1980 and 1982 respectively)? Have Tammy’s friends and other persons of interest been re-interviewed? Have alibis been fully scrutinized? Who mentioned that she had been in Florida after she disappeared?


Arguably the most infamous unsolved murder in the area is the 40-year-old murder case of Danny Croteau, a 13-year-old from Sixteen Acres whose bludgeoned body was found under the I-291 bridge that spans the Chicopee River. I used to run into his father, Carl, from time to time, in Sixteen Acres, and we talked about his frustrations with the investigation. He is pictured below on Maebeth Street in 2009. 


In 2010, Hampden County District Attorney candidate Michael Kogut vowed to reopen the Danny Croteau murder case if elected to office, and Carl Croteau, of course, was very excited by his promise to conduct an inquest. But Mastroianni was elected in November of 2010. Back then I meant to eventually run a post on the Croteau murder on this blog, but Carl died 10 days after Mastroianni’s election, going to his grave without closure.

Fortunately, Mastroianni has created a new unit dedicated to solving cold cases. Unfortunately, for the Croteau family, the investigations only go back to homicides committed after 1990. On April 17, 2012, exactly four decades after the Croteau murder, the anniversary of the heinous act went strangely unnoticed by the media after thousands upon thousands of words were written about the case in the last 20 years. If the curtain has truly closed on the Croteau investigation without the hope of an indictment—and it certainly seems that way—maybe the death of Tammy Lynds can be solved more easily. District Attorneys have come and gone since Danny was killed and no one has been charged, but perhaps a “younger” cold case now stands a better chance to be resolved.

“Wouldn’t it be great if, after all these years, Tammy’s family could get justice?” wrote Ward in the news story accompanying his broadcast. It is uncertain whether or not this news segment, which is part of the New England Unsolved series on Fox 25 in Boston, will ever air in Springfield. Even though there is now a Fox affiliate (Fox 6) in Springfield, its 10:00 p.m. news show is the work of WGGB abc 40. Wouldn’t it be great if this story is aired on a local news channel—and it leads to a break in the case? This blog has very limited exposure—so please forward the Fox 25 news story link to your friends. Does anyone in The Acres or Pine Point know anything about this murder that hasn’t been looked into?

When Tammy was 11, her father got a call that every parent dreads: that his daughter was in an accident and in the hospital. But Tammy was okay—after a pickup truck hit her school bus she was treated and released. Then, four years later he received a call that no parent should ever receive: his daughter’s remains were found discarded like a bag of leaves off Fox Road. How did she end up there and how did she die?

Even though the cause of death of Tammy Lynds wasn’t determined, a girl who was nervous about going out the last night of her life ended up dead in the woods. It was the middle of the summer—she sure didn’t freeze to death. If she had a hidden heart ailment or another lethal condition lurking inside her body, it picked a strange time to kill her—in the wee hours of the morning, after she snuck out to get in a situation she was dreading. I daresay it was unlikely she died of natural causes, and apparently the DA’s office doesn’t think so either. Her family is certain she was murdered. “She was just plopped there like garbage,” said Allison. 




Those with any information about the disappearance and murder of Tammy Marie Lynds can contact Massachusetts State Police at 413-505-5993 or the Springfield Police at 413-787-6355.
You can anonymously text a tip to: 274637 or CRIMES and in the message, type SOLVE, and then your message.


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