Caroline Briggs

Remains found in Georgia have reopened the cold trail of Ronald Henry Tammen, who mysteriously disappeared from his Miami University dormitory 54 years ago.

The Butler County Sheriff’s Department is working in conjunction with Walker County Sheriff’s Department of Georgia and the Oxford Police Department (OPD), according to Butler County’s Sgt. Monte Mayer.

The remains found in Georgia are dated to the same spring as Tammen’s April 19, 1953 disappearance, Mayer said.

“This is certainly a good lead that requires some following through,” he said. “But many cold cases have hundreds, if not thousands of leads. We know it was a body buried in the 50s.”

According to Mayer, Detective Frank Smith, Butler County’s cold case investigator, is handling the case by working with Georgia regarding identification of the remains found, as well as gathering up all known information of Tammen.

“We are months from making a decision on this case,” Mayer said. “Everything remains very speculative at this point.”

Sgt. Jim Squance said OPD is currently working with Butler County, but that the station retained minimal record of Tammen before he disappeared at the end of his sophomore year. Tammen was reported missing by his roommate after disappearing the night before with his lights and radio on and textbook open.

“Our role is to assist Detective Frank Smith and the Georgia team in any way we can,” Squance said. “We don’t have a hole lot of information (on Tammen). We have as much as you can have from 1953.”

OPD’s records include no more than a traffic ticket Tammen had received for running a red light at High and Main streets just a month before he was last seen at Miami’s former Fisher Hall. Walker County Sheriff’s Department was unavailable for comment.

However, the story of Tammen has continued to boggle the minds of more than five decades of Miami students, faculty and staff.

Former Miami President Phillip Shriver arrived at Miami in 1965 amid continual speculation as to where Tammen went that April without his possessions or car keys.

Shriver said one of the last people who saw Tammen was Richard Farmer, for whom the Farmer School of Business is named. Farmer resided in Fisher Hall where Tammen served as a resident assistant. Tammen then asked for replacement sheets and a pillowcase from a house manager, because his residents had placed a dead fish in his bed, Shriver said. Then Tammen disappeared from his studies and from the university. A woman from the nearby town of Seven Mile reported a young man with no coat and mud on his face knocking on her door late the same night asking for the nearest bus stop, Shriver said. The woman reportedly told him to go up the road eight miles, then reported the incident to police investigating Tammen. The coatless stranger has never been confirmed as Tammen.

Shriver, president of Miami from 1965-81, has followed the Tammen case over the years and said he keeps a large folder of clippings from the press the case has attracted.

“I can remember several leads police have followed (regarding Tammen),” Shriver said. “The rate has lessened over the years.”

Shriver is known for remembering Tammen in his speeches as an upstanding student who tragically disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Despite the story serving as a Miami ghost story for years, Shriver said he follows news of Tammen with hope of an ending.

“It’ll bring closure to a night that’s been discussed for years and years,” Shriver said. “Hopefully with the new technology that is available to police, members of his family and the school will finally find closure.”

Shriver said that while he was president in the 1960s, students’ interest was still so focused on Tammen’s whereabouts that a spiritualist psychic was brought to Fisher Hall. According to Shriver, the psychic allegedly had a vision of a young man investigating a basement noise when two men jumped him. The man reportedly had no further vision and allegedly had no prior information of Tammen’s final night at Miami.