The Vanishing of Tammy Lynn Leppert
1983 looked like a promising year for model and actress Tammy Lynn Leppert. She was only seventeen years old at the time, but already by then, she’d won over 280 beauty pageants, started a professional modeling career and had broken into the film industry. Her first big break happened just the year before when she had a role in the teen exploitation movie: “Spring Break.”
Tammy’s mother would describe her as an exceptionally beautiful child who “woke up with a smile on her face and went to bed with a smile on her face”, as someone who could light up the room when she walked in and on the surface, these may just look like the words of a loving parent, but Tammy’s mother was also something else.
Linda Curtis was Tammy’s agent and the one who worked tirelessly to help her daughter succeed and she was also the main force behind the busy schedule that was Tammy’s life. She would run Tammy from pageants to rehearsals to casting interviews, but things at home weren’t always picture-perfect. When Tammy was seven, her parents divorced and she would move out with Linda to set up their own home where they would continue with Tammy’s busy schedule.
And it was during this period that Tammy gained a sibling. She already had a sister, but it was during this time that she got a brother too. Wing Flannagan was eleven years old when he moved in with Tammy and Linda. He was also one of Linda’s clients and it didn’t take either of them long to start acting like siblings, and it was in this patchwork-family that the children grew up.
Wing remembers how Tammy would kiss him on the cheek whenever she was on the way out and he hated it. She would leave a patch of lipstick on his cheek and he would get embarrassed, but over time, he grew to love it and wear it as a badge of honour.
And he was proud again when Tammy went to Florida to play her role in Spring Break, but he, just like the rest of the family noticed a huge shift in Tammy’s behavior when she came back. After filming had finished up, Tammy went on her own to a staff party and something happened on that trip that would forever change her.
When she came home, it was like she had shut down. She was always worried and would watch the street through the windows. Then she started not eating any food or drinking anything that didn’t come in an unopened package, and then she started talking about things that would just leave her family chilled. One day when Wing answered the phone, Tammy told him to tell whoever was calling that she wasn’t there. Wing didn’t know what to do, but when the caller, a man Wing didn’t know or recognize, asked for Tammy, Wing told him that she was out of town.
That seemed to put Tammy a little more at ease, but when Wing hung up the phone and asked her what was going on, she told him that she had seen something awful and she wasn’t supposed to see it. Wing tried to get more out of her, but Tammy wouldn’t say anything else about it, and it wasn’t long after that that she asked her mother, Linda, what she would say if Tammy told her that someone was trying to kill her.
Linda didn’t know how to answer that and instead asked Tammy what was going on and what had happened, but Tammy told her mother the same thing. She said that she had witnessed something that she shouldn’t have and “they” would kill her if she ever talked about it.
Then Tammy started spending more and more time in her room, sometimes not coming out for days at a time and at one point, she called Wing over to the window. She told him to look across the street and tell her what he saw and he saw that the neighbors had a new van so that was what he told her. At first, Tammy only said, “Exactly,” but when Wing asked her why it was so important, Tammy told him that the van had mirrored windows which meant that the people inside could see out but the people on the outside couldn’t look in, and then she went on to explain that that was where “they” were watching her from.
This kind of behavior went on for two weeks, but when Tammy was offered a small role in the Al Pacino film, “Scarface”, she made her way to Miami to the film set. Things went well enough at first, but then came the day when they were shooting a scene with a lot of blood and Tammy went ballistic. She started hysterically crying and no one could calm her down and eventually they had to call the family friend that she was staying with to come and pick her up.
When he got to her trailer, she was still crying and saying things about money laundering and how “they” were going to kill her and she didn’t know where to hide. He didn’t know what to do with her either, so he called Linda to come and pick Tammy up and told Linda that he should get Tammy to a hospital and to make sure that she talked to the police so they could look into what she was saying.
Linda did take Tammy home and she did take her to their local sheriff station, but when Tammy was there, she never once told law enforcement that her life was in danger or even that she thought it was, so they sent her home.
But Tammy’s behavior only got worse. She then started only eating from other people’s plates to make sure that her food wasn’t poisoned and she sometimes asked Wing to taste her food to make sure that it was safe.
But she had her good days. Her family remembers times when she was almost herself again and they held onto that hope that she would come around and deal with whatever it was that was going on, but one day, Tammy just snapped.
Wing was on the couch reading a book and she accused him of looking at her. When he said that he wasn’t and asked her what was going on, she blew up, yelling at him and running outside of the house. She only made it a few steps out onto the porch before it all got too much and she turned around and tried to get back in, but the wind had blown the door shut and she was locked out. She started screaming, banging on the door and yelling at everyone inside to let her back in, but then she grabbed a baseball bat and started smashing in the windows.
Wing opened the door for her and tried to calm her down, but then she pounced on him, pinning him down on the floor and attacking him with her hands and screaming at him. She accused him of locking her outside of the house, but at that point, Linda had made it out there and she tried to get Tammy off of Wing. She kept telling Tammy how much she loved her and saying things like: “It’s your mother. It’s me, Tammy, I love you,” and eventually, Tammy came around.
It was after that that Linda checked Tammy into a mental hospital. She was afraid of what would happen if Tammy lost it again and she was either not around to help her or that maybe the next time Tammy just wouldn’t listen to her. Tammy stayed at the hospital for 72 hours while doctors ran tests and observed her behavior, but they didn’t diagnose her with anything or find any evidence of drug or alcohol abuse and Tammy was sent home.
As soon as she got back, Tammy told Linda that “he” was still going to try to kill her and that Linda had to promise to get him back when he did.
A friend picked Tammy up the next day and she would tell him that she had seen something that she wasn’t supposed to and they would both go together to church so that she could pray. While she was there, Tammy kept uncontrollably crying and then she told her friend that she loved him and she may be going away for a while.
The next day, she woke up and made plans to go to the beach with another friend and he picked her up around 11:00. Linda remembered getting incredibly nervous as she watched Tammy get into her friend’s car, but she bit it back and tried to be happy that Tammy was out and about and trying to be her normal self, but this was the last time that Linda would actually ever see Tammy again.
Tammy’s friend, Keith Roberts, said that when they were driving towards the beach, he and Tammy started arguing. She got more and more upset and finally she asked him to just drop her off somewhere. He dropped her off in a parking lot around five miles away from her home and then that was the last he saw of her. Tammy tried to call her aunt’s shop, which was very close to where Tammy was dropped off, and she left three messages, but her aunt was on vacation and didn’t see them until she got back. Then Tammy tried to call a friend who also couldn’t answer the phone, and then Tammy just disappeared.
The police would question everyone, including Keith Roberts, but eventually the case went cold. Everyone pointed the finger at someone else. Tammy’s friends said that Tammy had been having problems at home, that she and Linda had been arguing over her career and that Tammy had told them that she was going to get out of there as soon as she turned eighteen so she’d probably just had enough and left on her own.
But Linda said that everything was fine between them. She admitted that they had had some disputes over Tammy’s career, but nothing that would’ve warranted her running away and she pointed the finger back at Tammy’s friends, especially Keith Roberts. She said that Tammy had told her that Keith wanted to kill her and Linda suspected that Keith was the man that Tammy had been warning her about all along.
But the police didn’t believe he was a suspect. They actually looked into several possible suspects, including a few serial killers that were active in and around the area at the time, but Tammy’s case still remains open to this day.
Some people believe that Tammy had a mental breakdown and suffered from paranoia. Her family believe that she was telling them the truth and that something happened to her because she witnessed something that she shouldn’t have. They wish that they could go back in time and believe her from the very start and that, maybe, they could’ve asked her something that would've been able to help her before she disappeared.
But Linda would die in 1995 without ever finding out what happened to her daughter and both Wing and Tammy’s sister, Suzanne, are still fighting for her case to be solved and are hoping for someone to come forward with the truth.