September 27, 2021 | By Maddie Sharpe
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class.
Tammy Salyer’s greatest desires in life were to work hard, get married, and start a family.
At only 18 years old, she already bought her own car – a 1989 Chevrolet Sprint – with the money she made working at Burger King and was on track to obtain a managerial position. She hoped to own a franchised location one day.
Her dreams never come to fruition.
On the night of February 28, 1990, she was found dead in her car on Interstate 81, just three miles from her home in Bristol, Virginia. She had been shot to death.
Growing up, Tammy was always an outgoing and family-oriented person — she loved going to big family reunions and learning how they were all related to one another. She also loved meeting new customers at work and had a soft spot for the elderly and small children, always telling her sister Teresa that one day she wanted to have a house full of children.
Tammy was a beautiful young woman with brown eyes and brown hair who took great pride in her appearance. She particularly loved doing her hair and would often have her sister braid it. She sometimes woke up extra early before work to make sure her hair looked good.
“If her hair didn’t look right then she’d stay up, wash it, and fix it,” Teresa recalled. “But if it was laying right then she’d go back to bed and sleep another 30 minutes.”
Tammy also loved animals, especially her cat, Socks.
Teresa vividly remembers that before her sister left for work on that February day, Tammy asked their mother to be sure and take care of her beloved cat.
“My mother was not an animal lover, but she loved Tammy, and Tammy loved Socks,” Teresa said.
That night, Tammy was driving home from work in the northbound lanes of I-81. Suddenly, a bullet came barreling through the driver’s side window, striking Tammy in the head.
She was killed instantly by the gunshot. Her car drifted across the northbound lanes and into the other side of the interstate before coming to rest.
The police had originally treated the crime scene as an auto accident before later discovering a bullet shell casing in the backseat of the car.
Sergeant Steve Crawford of the Bristol Police Department is still working on Tammy’s case despite it going cold.
Currently, he is dealing with lots of paperwork surrounding the case and says it’s been difficult to make any progress given the lack of physical evidence and the fact that many of the people who gave information have moved out of the area or died.
Steve went to the same high school as Tammy. He remembers her as a very friendly and hardworking girl. He was 19 years old when she was killed, and his father was the supervisor of the Bristol Police Department at that time.
“He’s looked at some of the same stuff I’m looking at now,” Steve said.
Despite the years, Teresa says she will never stop trying to find justice for her sister.
She has collected newspaper clippings and photos related to her sister’s case and created an album housing it all. She has also kept in close contact with Seargent Crawford.
“There’s just so many theories and still no answers, just more and more questions,” she said. “But I’ll never give up hope.”
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Tammy Salyer, please contact the Bristol Police Department at (276) 645-7400.
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