SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Chad Zimmerman didn’t know Tammy Haas, the Yankton 19-year-old who was murdered 29 years ago, but he’s determined to help “move the case forward.”
He is working on a podcast on the Tammy Haas case. The finished product will likely take six to 24 months because he wants to do a thorough investigation.
“I don’t (just) want to re-tell the facts,” he said.
Zimmerman grew up in Sioux City and regularly watched the nightly news with his dad. He recalled hearing of the Haas case on the news but it wasn’t until recently that he thought of the case.
He was on vacation in the Vermillion area in April when he saw a newspaper story about the $15,000 reward being offered in the Haas case.
“I was looking for a case for the past year or two to kind of get involved with…,” Zimmerman said. “I was looking for a case, a local place that I could visit and do a proper type of investigation.”
Zimmerman said he’s in contact with some of the Haas family and friends who are aware of his research and planned podcast.
He’s not a full-time investigator. Zimmerman is a chiropractor who lives and works in Fargo, North Dakota.
But he’s had a long time interest in cold, or unsolved, cases. For 10 years after he watched Oliver Stone’s movie JFK, Zimmerman investigated that murder. He even received permission from the Kennedy family attorney to review archives including autopsy photos.
“Persistence and curiousity” led to that permission, Zimmerman said.
He plans to apply the same approach to the Tammy Haas case.
“Nobody is quite sure what happened (in terms of her injuries),” Zimmerman said of the Tammy Haas case. It’s uncertain at this point how she ended up in Nebraska and where her injury happened, he said.
Yet, “There’s enough information about this case where clearly somebody out there knows something,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman doesn’t want to dive into opinions or speculations on scenarios and those involved. Instead he wants to provide an opportunity for who may need to “share what they know.”
A homecoming disappearance
Family and law enforcement said Haas went missing at a homecoming party in Yankton in September of 1992. She was found dead in a nearby ravine near Crofton, Nebraska, a few days later, and her death ruled foul play.
A news conference from that time addresses some of Haas’ injuries.
Haas’ boyfriend Eric Stukel was tried in a Nebraska courtroom on a manslaughter charge in connection to her death, but a jury found him not guilty.
Zimmerman is aware of the opinions and speculation around the case.
In 2005, a high school friend of Haas wrote “The Homecoming.” A description of the M.C. Merrill book on Amazon says. “This is the true story of the murder of Tammy Haas, who went to a party on homecoming eve in 1992.”
Goodreads has the same description including this line “Even though the scream was heard, the party kept raging. Even though she was reported missing, the little town kept celebrating.”
But Zimmerman doesn’t believe the homecoming event will be the link that propels the case forward.
“Imagine 50 people all witnessing something 29 years ago and never saying anything. That’s almost impossible,” Zimmerman said.
The Justice For Tammy Facebook page has also helped draw attention to the Haas case. It’s also fueled opinions and speculation.
The attention the case has received over the years has been positive and negative, Zimmerman said.
In some instances, it’s opened doors to people who are willing to talk with him.
“Unfortunately some doors have closed because of it,” Zimmerman said.
Focus on forensics, facts
Zimmerman stressed he’s interested in the facts. He plans to pour over any case material and autopsy information that he can.
News stories and social media often state that Haas’s neck was broken, he said. That is not technically correct.
“She had damage to her (neck) ligaments,” Zimmerman said.
As a chiropractor, he understands what can cause those types of injuries.
He’d like to “punch some holes into existing theories,” Zimmerman said.
Checking the sites
Zimmerman said he’s visited the site where Haas’s body was found near a highway in Nebraska.
The site has an almost eerie presence because you know this is where a body was disposed of, Zimmerman said.
“The first site I went to was Tammy’s grave. To see the plaque with the prayer and the plea…,” Zimmerman said.
Tammy Haas’s family has endured the tragedy and not knowing what happened for 29 years, Zimmerman said.
Her brother spoke with KELOLAND News a year after her death.
Zimmerman said he may not “necessarily solve the case” but he can help move things along.
Zimmerman is not associated with the Justice for Tammy Facebook page but he can be reached at this email: email@example.com. He has not officially named his podcast yet.