Witness Claims Odd Sighting After College Student Disappears
Dorm roommate returns to a strange scene.
What happened to Ronald Tammen Jr.?
That’s the question everyone familiar with this case continues to ask themselves. How is that, over six decades and counting, a 19-year-old college student mysteriously goes missing from his dorm, and that his case remains cold to this day?
Ronald Henry Tammen Jr. was born on July 23, 1933, and, at the time of his disappearance, was 19-years-old, and on the varsity wrestling team in college. He played string bass in the school’s dance band, the Campus Owls, and was a business major and was doing well academically. He had brown hair and brown eyes. His height is listed as 5'9–6'0, and his weight at 175 pounds. At the time he went missing, he had a muscular build and dark/reddish complexion. He did not have a steady girlfriend at the time he vanished, though he did go on dates.
A Fishy Surprise
Ronald’s last sighting was in Old Fisher Hall, a former Victorian mental asylum-turned dormitory, at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, on April 19, 1953. Around this time, and while living there in room 225, he was a resident hall advisor.
Depending upon the source, between 8 and 8:30 p.m. that night, Ronald came back to his dorm room following a meeting with the Campus Owls. At the time, he left his gold 1938 Chevrolet sedan in the school parking lot. Not long after his return, however, Ronald discovered that someone had left a fish in his bed. Following this fishy surprise, he went to get new bedsheets from the Hall Manager. After coming back with some new bedsheets, some reports on his disappearance state that, Ronald later heard something that disturbed him enough into going out into the hall to investigate.
Roommate Returns to Strange Scene
Later on in the evening, at around 10 p.m., Ronald’s roommate, Charles Findlay, returned to the dorm room to a peculiar scene. The door was open, and both the radio and the light were on. Ronald’s psychology book was also found opened on his desk, and beside it were his watch, wallet, and his car keys. Regarding his psychology book, what made this find especially strange was that, three weeks earlier, Ronald had dropped his psychology course. Charles did not think anything was wrong at the time. He also assumed that Ronald was planning on spending the night at the Delta Tau Delta house, but still waited for him for an hour before going to bed. The following day, when he had yet to hear from him, Charles reported him missing. Every bus, rail, and air terminal subsequently was checked, and even the Air Force ROTC sent 400 men to help search the countryside for any sign of him.
Ronald’s Chevrolet sedan was located in the same spot where he had left it. In the backseat of the car was his bass fiddle. Robert had $200 in his bank account, and it’s also believed that he had $10 to $15 on him at the time. It was reported that he was not wearing a coat.
Ronald’s family and friends, from Maple Heights, near Cleveland, have said how out of character it was for him to leave without warning. Initially, authorities operated under the theory that Ronald could have developed amnesia, but then later reconsidered, with the new approach being that Ronald had voluntarily disappeared. His parents, who lived in Mable Height, Ohio in 1953, last saw him a week before his disappearance and recalled that he did not appear troubled by anything at the time.
A Witness Comes Forward
During the investigation, a woman from Seven Miles, 12–15 miles east of the Miami University campus, came forward claiming to have seen and spoken with a young man matching Ronald’s description on the morning of April 20. According to this witness, after hearing a knock at her door, she opened it to find this young man in a dazed and disheveled state, apparently unable to remember his name. She further stated that he had asked her for directions to the nearest bus stop. Since she knew there weren’t any in the area, she instead directed him to go to Hamilton. The witness also recalled, during this encounter, seeing a smudge of dirt on the young man’s cheek and that his eyes appeared vacuous. To make the encounter stranger, the witness also claimed that, although there was snow on the ground that night, the young man wearing only a t-shirt and pants despite the freezing temperature. After giving him the directions, the witness closed her door with the expectation of hearing a car starting and driving off; however, she neither heard or saw a one. It was then she realized that the young man was traveling on foot. The Oxford Bus Lines were later found to have been suspended the night Ronald vanished.
Detective Frank Smith, a partner at the Butler County Cold Case Unit in Hamilton, Ohio, and who is investigating the cold case, has stated that it’s believed that the woman’s testimony was false. He added that he tracked down and spoke with the witness’s son, who recalled the encounter in vivid detail.
Many subsequent sightings of Ronald were also reported, both of him and his supposed “ghost.”
Years later, in 1973, the then-Butler County Coroner revealed that Ronald had visited his office, five months before his disappearance, to request a blood test. The coroner said that he never had anyone, before or since then, make such a request in his then-35 years of practice. It is unknown why Ronald wanted to have a blood test done or why he didn’t just have it done in Oxford. If Ronald had wanted to find out his blood type, which was O+, local physicians in Oxford or even the university hospital could have done the test for him. Ronald had been scheduled by the Selective Service for a physical exam to get inducted into the army, though inductees did not need to know their blood type in advance.
In 1978, Fisher Hall was demolished, after which the rubbled was searched through for any signs of Ronald. There were none ultimately found.
Many years later, a Miami University alumni named Jennifer Wenger began conducting her research into Ronald’s case in 2010.
After spending nine years looking into it, Wenger believes that Ronald did not die the night of his disappearance. She added that he could have lived as long as 42 years after the fact.
It was during her research that Wenger learned that the FBI had discarded Ronald fingerprints back in 2002. The FBI’s regulations at the time allowed them to destroy fingerprints records seven years after a person’s death. Wenger also said that she believes Ronald’s psychology professor could have been involved with the CIA and that Ronald may have been a recruit.
As of 2019, both of Ronald’s parents have since passed. His brother, Richard, who was a first-year student at Miami the same year his brother disappeared, later graduated from it. Five years later, he died in a fire at his apartment. Their sister, Marcia, who was 10-years-old when her brother went missing, is still alive and searching for answers. Ronald’s case remains unsolved.
Questions Still Unanswered
- Since dropping his psychology course three weeks earlier, why was Ronald’s psychology book left open on his desk the night of his disappearance?
- Why were his watch, wallet, and car keys left on his desk?
- Why were the light and the radio left on in the dorm room?
- If this young man from the witness’s account was not Robert, then who was he? From where did he come? What became of him afterward?
- Oxford Police Department 513–524–5240
Note: Jennifer Wenger published a story published here with a different take on the case a couple of years ago.
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