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Jane Doe case of 'Lyme Lady' solved 40 years later using DNA evidence

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Posted at 10:03 AM, Feb 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-02 12:03:58-05

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK — Almost 40 years ago, police with the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office investigated the murder of a woman that ended up becoming the department's "most publicized Jane Doe case" ever.

With the assistance of the DNA Doe Project's volunteer genealogists and Oklahoma City's medical examiner's office, the woman's identity was revealed on Thursday as 21-year-old Tamara Lee Tigard, police said at a press conference.

Tigard, of California, was found shot to death in Eastern Oklahoma County on her birthday, April 18, 1980, near the North Canadian River and covered in lyme.

She didn't have any identification on her and became known as the "Lyme Lady" after investigators determined her killer had tried to "destroy evidence and speed up the decaying process for her body," police said.

"I always just wanted to bring dignity to the victim in this case," said Capt. Bob Green, who worked the case from the beginning. "All of these years she has been gone without a trace, with none of her family or acquaintances knowing what happened to her. I just couldn’t give up, and now we know who she is."

Green said he called the DNA Doe Project in September 2018 and asked for assistance with the case.

During the initial investigation, police believed that Tigard was shot at a different location and dumped at the river.

Police said that through the nine-month process to create a profile with the DNA samples, it was discovered that Tigard had also lived in Las Vegas and even served in the Army.

Tigard was reported missing in March 1980.

Green said everyone in Tigard's immediate family, her parents and a brother, are deceased. Her closest match was a second cousin, once removed, said a representative of the non-profit organization.

The city's medical examiner assisted in securing her military medical records, which helped positively identify her along with her dental records, police said.

The investigation into finding her killer is ongoing, police said.

"Now she can be properly recognized," Green said. "Her life has meaning, and we can respectfully honor her."