Hoping For Answers


“It just doesn’t seem fair.”

Those are the words of a woman whose sister disappeared more than a decade ago. 

Since then, she’s dedicated her life to finding out what happened and she’s not the only one looking for answers about a loved one. 

“Her and I did everything together,” Pam Dunn’s Half-Sister Deb Toth said. 

16-years-ago, Deb Toth lost her best friend and half sister. 

“She just disappeared,” Toth said. 

In December of 2001, 38-year-old Pam Dunn vanished from her Watertown apartment. 

“She was involved in a relationship with a man for two years. He was very abusive, very controlling,” Toth said. 

Dave Asmussen is currently serving a life sentence for kidnapping Dunn, but that doesn’t give Toth piece of mind. 

“Lord only knows where she is,” Toth said. 

Toth isn’t alone in her yearning for answers about a loved one.  

19-year-old Tammy Haas of Yankton went to a homecoming party near the South Dakota-Nebraska border in September of 1992.

Days later, her body was discovered in a ravine in Cedar County, Nebraska, not far from the party. Investigators say she had a neck injury. 

Marc Merrill was a close friend. He traveled home from basic training in North Carolina for her funeral. 

“It’s taken a lot of years to work through that anger. Still working on it I guess,” Tammy Haas’ Friend Marc Merrill said. 

He describes his friend as funny and someone who was always laughing. 

“I guess the world would be better with her in it. The world could use more kindness,” Merrill said. 

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. 

The case is among approximately 30 open, unsolved deaths or disappearances with ties to South Dakota, according to Attorney General Marty Jackley. 

“She’s a South Dakota girl. There is evidence of some things that may have happened in South Dakota as part of that. While certainly she was found in Nebraska, there are issues in South Dakota that we are following up on,” Attorney General Marty Jackley said. 

In 2004, a federally-funded cold case unit began taking up these issues in South Dakota, but the funding ended in 2008. 

Today, his office has one agent whose primary responsibility is following leads and digging into cold cases, but help from the public, local sheriff’s offices, and police departments is critical. 

In the case of Pam Dunn, the Watertown Police Department helps follow up on leads that come in.  

“If anybody has any information from back then or if they saw something that might help in finding or getting a resolution to this, we would appreciate being contacted so we could follow up on it,” Watertown Police Sgt. Chad Stahl said. 

While the department is eager for the public’s help, Sgt. Stahl says the man convicted of her kidnapping may just be the key to finding Dunn. 

“My hope is that Dave Asmussen stops being a coward and gives up that last power and control that he has over Pam and over their family and comes forward and actually says where she is so they can get that closure,” Stahl said. 

Closure is exactly what Dunn’s daughter, Stacy Thennis, is looking for right now. 

“We’ve had thoughts of having a memorial for her and everything like that, but nothing would compare to having a real funeral with her there,” Pam Dunn’s Daughter Stacy Thennis said. 

Volk: Is there any little glint of hope in your mind that she could still be out there, alive?
Toth: My heart says there’s a small chance. My mind is saying not after this long. 

If she is still alive…

“I would absolutely love to have the opportunity to hold her again,”Toth said. 

Even after all this time, Jackley says it’s not too late for the public to offer up information. 

In the meantime, for families and friends….

“Keep up your hope and be vigilant to make sure you’re doing everything you can to push law enforcement, to ask the media for help, to remember your loved ones, to hold those anniversaries so that people remember and it might jar someone’s memory,” Jackley said. 

“I want those days back,” Toth said. 

Even though she can’t get them back, it won’t stop her from trying to find her best friend and half-sister. 

Volk: Will you ever give up?
Toth: No, never. 

…even if it takes 16 more years. 

Again if  you know anything about the Pam Dunn and Tammy Haas cases or any other unsolved death or disappearance, you should let law enforcement know. 

You can find more information and resources for families on the Department of Criminal Investigation’s website. 

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