Like most mothers, Norma Hensdill of Piney View remembers the first time she saw her daughter.

Hensdill’s due date was Oct. 15, 1962, which was her wedding anniversary. But the baby — a blue-eyed girl — was born Oct. 20, after an especially hard labor.

Nixing her first name choice, Robin, after her mother told her it was the “name of a bird,” Hensdill instead named her baby “Tammy,” which she’d heard on TV.

“When I laid eyes on her, I thought that was the most beautiful gift God could give anybody,” Hensdill said. “I just love my babies. When you lose one like this, they’re still your baby, and you remember all the good memories. I think that’s how God comforts us.”

The last time Hensdill saw her daughter, Tammy Jean Daniel, was on June 2, 1987.

Tammy had married a local man, Ronald “Gene” Daniel, around 18 months earlier and was living with him in a mobile home in Stanaford.

She was 24 and had grown from a miniature cheerleader during her years at Piney View Elementary School to a 1980 Woodrow Wilson High School graduate to a “sweet, beautiful” young woman with wavy blond hair and a wide smile, Hensdill recalled.

She still enjoyed riding the motorcycles that she’d grown up riding with her parents and brother, and she had a dog, which she’d named Shasta.

“She loved her,” recalled Hensdill. “She called (Shasta) her baby.”

It was in the “wee hours” of June 2, 1987, that Hensdill and her husband, Jeff, had driven Tammy to the door of her mobile home, recalled Hensdill.

Hensdill said she’d asked Tammy to come to the Hensdill home, but Tammy had said she wanted to go to the trailer.

“She said, ‘It’s my home and my husband, and I’m going home,’” said Hensdill. “So we took her there.”

The Hensdills were feeling protective of Tammy at that time, said Hensdill.

In the months and years leading up to June 2, 1987, Tammy had been photographed with black eyes. She had also recently undergone a splenectomy to remove an injured spleen.

So when the mother and daughter got out of the Hensdills’ truck at the Daniel trailer during those pre-dawn hours, Hensdill had again asked the younger woman to come back to the Hensdill home.

“I tried to get her to come home with me, and she wouldn’t,” recalled Hensdill.

The trailer was dark, said Hensdill.

“I offered to pound on the window and wake Gene and let her in, and she said, ‘You better not,’” said Hensdill. “She said she’d sleep in a tent in the yard.”

As the Hensdills drove away, Hensdill looked back at Tammy.

The young woman was sitting on the trailer steps, dressed in a black leather jacket, a black T-shirt and blue jeans.

It was the last time Hensdill would ever see her.

“We drove up the road, out of sight, and I told Jeff to stop the truck, I was going to walk back,” said Hensdill. “I couldn’t sleep a wink if I knew she stayed outside.”

Her husband complied, and Hensdill began walking back to the Daniel home.

“As I was walking, I heard a noise, like a storm door shutting,” she recalled.

At the trailer, Hensdill looked on both sides of the trailer, but Tammy was gone.

“When I got there, I couldn’t see her anywhere,” said Hensdill. “I was sure she’d gone inside the trailer, so I left.”


No one has reported seeing Tammy Jean Daniel since June 2, 1987, and her disappearance has languished as a “cold case” at the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office, despite a thorough, initial investigation by police and follow-up investigations since 2006, according to Raleigh County Sheriff’s Lt. Larry Lilly.

But Lilly and Sheriff Steve Tanner have revived Tammy’s case in the hopes of giving answers to her family.

Lilly is asking family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances and neighbors of Tammy and Gene Daniel to remember any details that could be helpful.

According to Lilly, Tammy has been declared legally dead, and investigators are looking for her body.

“The body is the huge puzzle piece we need in order to bring this case to a resolution,” he said.

Her husband was indicted for murder in the months following her disappearance, but the indictment was later dismissed due to insufficient evidence, according to court records.

In 2007, a report by local media resulted in a tip that led Tanner, Lilly, local police and forensic anthropologists from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., to an unsuccessful search of property in the Sand Lick area of Raleigh County.

“The investigators (in 1987) interviewed everyone they could possibly interview,” said Lilly. “They’ve looked everywhere.

“They contacted the Department of Health and Human Services, the Social Security Administration, all those government entities to make sure if she popped up somewhere else, we’d be notified. She’s never been seen since then,” he emphasized. “No activity on anything.

“The focus for our investigation is to locate her remains for her family and then, at that point, hopefully, it would be enough for a prosecution in the case.”

Hensdill says she “knows” Tammy is dead.


In a missing persons complaint filed by the Hensdills June 7, 1987, the parents said they had returned to the trailer in the afternoon on June 2 and that Hensdill had spoken to Gene Daniel.

According to the report, Daniel had told Hensdill that his wife had been inside the trailer but that he’d asked her to leave. He’d promised to call the Hensdills if she returned.

On Thursday, Hensdill said, she “just knew something was wrong.”

She’d gone to the Daniel home again and had seen a two-tone, tan van parked outside the trailer, but there was no sign of Tammy.

According to police, a couple who lived next door reported that Daniel had borrowed their vacuum around June 5 and that he had brought it back.

“When that person used the vacuum cleaner, they noticed there was a terrible odor coming from it, and got to looking, and there was a sticky substance,” Lilly reported. “The detectives came, and they tested it, and received positive tests for blood.”

The blood matched Tammy’s type, according to reports.

Investigators obtained a search warrant for the Daniel trailer, said Lilly, but only a sofa was left in the residence.

Detectives found “a stain” on a bedroom carpet and what they had believed to be blood in the carpet padding and flooring.

According to police records, Daniel denied involvement in Tammy’s disappearance.

Daniel told investigators that Tammy had “run off in the past and had been gone for a long time” and that he believed she had just run away on June 2, 1987.

In January 1989, Daniel was convicted for the July 8, 1988, shooting death of Walter Morgan in a vehicle.

Daniel stated in court documents that the death was unintentional, the result of Daniel becoming disoriented and feeling threatened due to substance use and being “jumped” by two men outside of his group at the Legends bar in Daniels in the moments prior to the shooting.

Daniel said he fired a shot into the vehicle where he and Morgan were passengers but had not aimed at Morgan.

According to police, he served a sentence for the murder and was released.

Attempts Friday to reach Daniel were unsuccessful.


Over the past 27 years, Hensdill has had countless, vivid dreams of seeing Tammy again.

“Some are good, some are bad,” she said. “(In) the good ones, I just love seeing her. God sure comforts you that way.”

Time with Tammy has given way to dreams and documents — hundreds of Hensdill’s own records of the police investigation and writings about her dreams of Tammy.

“I’d write (the dreams) down when I’d get up, then I typed them, because ... I keep thinking there’s maybe something in the dreams that will give me some answers,” she said.

Hensdill has created a flower garden in Tammy’s honor in her yard and said she hasn’t given up hope of finding Tammy’s remains.

“I’ve prayed for 27 years, every day, that God would allow me to find her and have some answers to what happened to her, and to have some justice,” she added. “He may know I can’t even handle what happened to her.

“But I still feel like someday, He will (answer this prayer) if He thinks I can handle it. The not knowing what happened to my child is sometimes more than I can bear.”


In his office, Lilly has a “3-foot-tall” stack of investigation documents and no body but said his department hasn’t given up on solving the disappearance.

“We would love to find her,” he said. “Ms. Hensdill feels like she knows what happened. She just wants to find her daughter now. That’s just heart-wrenching, that a victory to her would be to find her daughter’s body. I would love to be able to help her. Hopefully, somebody will see something or feel comfortable now telling us what they maybe didn’t feel comfortable (telling us) a few years ago, or way back when.”

Lilly urged anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers at 304-255-STOP or the Raleigh Sheriff’s Office at 304-255-9300.

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