Tammy Zywicki, last seen 3 decades ago near La Salle, memorialized by former high school

Iowa college student’s car broke down on Interstate 80 near La Salle

Tammy Jo Zywicki, an Iowa college student last seen after her car broke down on Interstate 80 near La Salle.

More than 30 years after the disappearance and death of Tammy Jo Zywicki, an Iowa college student last seen after her car broke down on Interstate 80 near La Salle, her friends, family and community still are searching for answers.

“Somebody knows something,” Zywicki’s childhood friend Maryanne Fox said. “People can’t keep secrets. There is somebody out there somewhere that has told somebody and that person told somebody.”

Zywicki, who grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, was killed Aug. 23, 1992, after dropping her brother off in Evanston and heading to Grinnell, Iowa, for college.

Zywicki’s family and friends have made it their mission to keep her case in the spotlight, teaming with the Facebook group “Who Killed Tammy Zywicki?” to organize a motorcycle ride in Zywicki’s memory in August or September for the past few years.

For the first time in 2023, her former high school soccer team came together for the Tammy Zywicki Memorial Game, marking 30 years since her disappearance and death. They will play another memorial game on Monday night against Riverside High School in Greer, South Carolina.

“We want to keep her case public,” Fox said. “Simply because all of us have been carrying this around with us for 32 years. Hopefully, we can have someone come forward and we can let this go once and for all.”

Tammy Zywicki's family speaks to the media in 1992 at the Illinois State Police Headquarters in La Salle.

Zywicki graduated from Eastside High School in Taylors, South Carolina, where she played on the girls soccer team.

The team wore patches on the armband of their jerseys with her name and her number 15.

Dean Zywicki, Tammy’s brother, said the entire family competes in soccer and remembers Tammy playing against their older brother Todd and younger brother Daren often.

“She played against boys all the time, because she was just that good of a soccer player,” Dean said. “It was a lifelong love of soccer.”

Dean said it was really special to see the effort that Fox, Eagles soccer coach David Craig, former teammates and members of the JV and varsity teams put into making the memorial game happen.

“The people she was around and the people she touched that just remembered playing soccer with her and being around her just kind of culminated into all of this happening,” Dean said. “Tammy gave all she had to the high school and the sport. Not just being involved in soccer. So, it’s really special to see that not just once but now for a second time.”

Fox said she hopes that by continuing to keep Zywicki’s name out in the world, it not only invites people to come forward with new information, but spreads awareness to kids in high school that may be headed off to college.

“There are dangers out there,” she said. “And luckily we live in a better time where we have cellphones and we have ways to communicate when we find ourselves in situations like Tammy found herself in. I want them to be aware that things can happen and hopefully by knowing her story when they’re out there becoming young adults and going to college they will be a little bit more cautious and observant of their surroundings.”

Tammy Zywicki's car is impounded in 1992 at the Illinois State Police Headquarters in La Salle.

Zywicki was seen last on the afternoon of Aug. 23, 1992, according to the Illinois State Police website.

Nine days later, her body was found along Interstate Highway 44 in rural Lawrence County, Missouri, between Springfield and Joplin. She had been stabbed to death.

Some of her personal belongings were never recovered, according to the FBI website, including a Cannon 35 mm camera and a Lorus-brand wrist watch. The watch had a green umbrella on its face and a green band and plays the tune “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.”

According to the FBI website, a tractor-trailer and its driver were spotted near Zywicki’s car between 3:10 and 4 p.m. Aug. 23. The driver of the tractor/trailer was described as a white man with dark and bushy hair who was between 35 and 40 years older and more than 6 feet tall.

Years passed without any new leads, until May 2020, when authorities in Iowa apprehended a long-haul trucker who had been implicated in the murder of three women in the 1990s and might be responsible for other homicides.

According to news reports at the time, a day later, Illinois State Police released the following statement: “At this time, [he] does not appear to have been involved with the murder of Tammy Zywicki, who was abducted and murdered by an unknown assailant after experiencing vehicle troubles alongside I-80 near La Salle, Illinois, in August 1992.”

Anyone with information about the Zywicki investigation is asked to call the Illinois State Police, Division of Criminal Investigations Zone 3 at 815-726-6377. Callers can remain anonymous.

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