Slain teen's sister, cousin object to former sheriff's remarks, says family did report girl missing

A major break in a 35-year-old cold case has the victim’s family speaking out against some members of law enforcement.

On Monday, Livingston County law enforcement authorities said a young girl found shot to death in a Caledonia cornfield in 1979 has been identified as Tammy Jo Alexander. Authorities say she was last seen in the late '70s in her hometown of Brooksville, Florida. The sheriff's office says it took them decades to identify the young girl because her family never reported her missing.

But now her family says that is not true, and has objected to a remark by former Livingston County Sheriff John York, who Monday said, "This case could have been solved long ago had she had a parent or a family member who cared enough to make a missing persons report."

Alexander's family in Florida says it's that comment that prompted them to speak to the media. They spoke with the Tampa affiliate of Messenger Post's news partner News 10NBC.

"I still appreciate everything that Livingston County did for Tammy — her burial, the gravestone," said Pamela Dyson, Alexander's sister. "I am very grateful for that, but for Mr. York to come out and say that she was just thrown away and no one cared is not true. Without a shadow of a doubt there was a report made."

Dyson said it was her DNA that investigators used to identify her sister. Alexander's cousin, Hailey Peat, says she thinks the family's missing persons report got purged, but her family never stopped its search.

"We didn't go back to Hernando County Sheriff's and ask," said Peat. "When she went missing there was no internet, there was no Facebook, there was no Myspace. However in my time there was. I've looked for Tammy ever since I could."

Dyson says she believes Tammy ran away, but would one day come back.

"Tammy was a very vibrant, independent, strong willed girl," she said. "She loved life, she loved excitement and I think her home life was the reason for her wanting to escape, run away and experience life."

Now this family has just two final questions they want answered.

In Dyson's words: "Who did this? Why?"

Alexander's family has agreed to leave her buried in Dansville. The Dougherty Funeral Home, in Livonia, told News 10NBC it is paying to have the "Jane Doe" headstone removed and property replaced with one that reads "Tammy Jo Alexander." There will be a public service this spring.