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Sisters woman’s DNA solves family’s 40-year mystery, helping identify murder victim

Siblings plan memorial service for cousin next week in Sutherlin, with military honors

(Update: Comments from first cousins, Kylie and Conan Tigard)

SISTERS, Ore. (KTVZ) -- When a Sisters woman took steps to learn more about her family tree, it ended up having a very surprising welcome, but sad outcome for her family, while helping an Oklahoma detective solve one part of a 40-year cold-case mystery, identifying the victim of a murder.   

After four decades, a woman who had been reported missing in Las Vegas and later found brutally slain in Oklahoma has been identified as Tamara Lee Tigard.

Tamara, 20, disappeared from her Las Vegas home in 1980. Her body was eventually discovered -- nude, shot three times in the chest and covered in lime powder -- on an Oklahoma County riverbank weeks later, on April 18th 1980, which would have been her 21st birthday.

Her body was preserved by the lime powder, but authorities were unable to identify her, and she was listed as a Jane Doe for four decades, until 2020.

That mystery was solved when her first cousin Kylie Tigard's DNA was flagged two years ago, after taking the DNA test, thus solving the mystery of the Jane Doe.

Kylie’s brother and Tamara’s other first cousin, Conan Tigard, is the desktop support specialist for the Sisters School District and his daughter, a Sisters High School graduate, is now a Culver science teacher.

“My only niece is the reason I took the test,” Kylie said.

“Back in 2020, I did a DNA test to kind of round out family tree, because our family is very small," Kylie said. "Conan had one daughter, and so we wanted to give her as much information as possible."

The siblings were shocked to find out their first cousin was murdered 40 years ago and for four decades labeled a Jane Doe. But now knowing her brutal, tragic fate also gave them a sense of peace.

Conan said Tuesday “I was relieved to know that we had a closure to this story."

At the time of Tamara's disappearance, Conan was a freshman in high school and Kylie was in the eighth grade.

“She had disappeared, and we kind of heard that she had gone into witness protection, so we kind of thought her story was going to end there," Kylie said.

But that information was never confirmed.

Tamara Tigard will be buried next Monday at Valley View Cemetery in Sutherlin, with military honors, as she served in the U.S. military for two years.

“If I could see her, first of all I would give her a big hug. I’d tell her that she’s been missed," Conan said.

Kylie felt guilt-ridden that it had taken 40 years to find her.

“If we would have only known sooner- If science would have come around sooner, then she wouldn’t have been alone for so long. And that the one thing I could say is that I’m just so sorry that it took us so long," Kylie said.

Though Tamara body has been identified, no one has been charged in her brutal killing, so that investigation remains open.

Both Kylie and Conan have launched a GoFundMe page to help pay for the service, where her remains will be placed alongside her parents, offering some sense of closure for the family.

Kylie Tigard said any remaining funds will be donated to two nonprofits -- the DNA Doe Project and the Patriot Guard Oregon Chapter, which will have representatives at the memorial service.

Article Topic Follows: Crime And Courts

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Bola Gbadebo

Bola Gbadebo is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Bola here.


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