Evidence Points to Murder, But Still No Body
Christmas was Tammy Salle’s favorite holiday. The mother of two, from Anaconda, Montana, loved to decorate the entire house, make Christmas truffle cookies and her famous chocolate pie. So when Christmas Eve 2012 arrived and Salle never showed up, as promised, to make cookies and chocolate pie with her 18-year-old daughter, the family knew something was wrong. Within days a missing persons report would be filed. Tammy Salle had vanished without a trace.
A New Life with a Mystery Man Her Family Doesn’t Know
Tammy Salle just finalized her divorce after 22 years of marriage and started dating John Goldberg, a local Salle knew for years. But her family never heard of Goldberg. The two quickly became a serious couple, joined at the hip. They never went anywhere without each other, according to Salle’s mother, Elisabeth Maigatter. Salle told family it was the happiest she had ever been, she felt better about herself and met a wonderful man who treated her well. But the small town of Anaconda, described as a pipeline of gossip, was buzzing with allegations about John Goldberg’s past. Ex-wives and ex-girlfriends came forward to tell Salle’s family Goldberg had a violent past in former relationships. Tammy Salle and John Goldberg headed to the JFK Bar in Anaconda with friends on December 23. Bar customers and friends say nothing seemed out of the ordinary, the couple was laughing and having a good time. But this would be the last time anyone saw Tammy Salle alive.
Where’s Tammy Salle?
No Tammy Salle on Christmas Eve, no Tammy Salle on Christmas Day. She was not answering her cell phone and she had not reached out to her two girls or her own mother. The four were very close and there’s no way Salle would ever lose contact or not call, according to family. When Salle’s youngest daughter reached out to the boyfriend, John Goldberg, to find out if he knew what happened to Salle, Goldberg claimed they had an argument and said Salle left in her car to cool off and her cell phone was broken. This was the same information he gave to Salle’s mother, Ms. Maigatter, when she called. But when Maigatter began to put pressure on Goldberg, that’s when Maigatter says Goldberg began to change his stories. Goldberg claimed Salle left him for good, but he never told the family because he didn’t want to ruin their holiday. Then, Goldberg said Salle ran off with another man, an alleged new boyfriend. But Salle’s family wasn’t buying it. They called police. On December 26, investigators arrived at John Goldberg’s home to question him about Salle’s disappearance. Police didn’t see anything suspicious, nothing out of place, nothing broken and no indication of a fight. They also took Tammy Salle’s computer. On December 28, cops found Tammy’s Pontiac Grand Prix, with a flat tire and a bag of clothing, abandoned by an overpass on I-90 near Deer Lodge, Montana, about 12 miles from the couple’s home.
Suicide, a Rambling Note, Evidence of a Murder and a Missing Body
After his initial contact with police at the home, John Goldberg refused to come into police headquarters for a formal interview. Numerous family members told investigators Goldberg was acting strange and they were suspicious. Goldberg was never heard from again. On December 29, John Goldberg was found at a truck stop off I-90, west of Missoula, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Inside Goldberg’s vehicle, cops found Tammy’s favorite dog, a yorkie named Sammy, and a 4-page suicide note. Investigators confirm the suicide note contained a bunch of ramblings but gave no clues as to Salle’s whereabouts. Police executed a search warrant at the couple’s home to find evidence of a clean-up and blood spatter reportedly under the floor board and throughout the kitchen. Cops also discovered a black trash bag with towels and throw rugs covered in blood, hair and flesh, plus a kitchen knife. A state crime lab confirmed blood found on the towels is Tammy Salle’s. With all this evidence, it was clear to investigators, Salle was dead, most likely murdered. But there was still no sign of her body.
Missing Mother’s Family Wants More Out Of Landfill Search
Investigators began their search for Tammy Salle’s body by tracking “pings” from John Goldberg’s cell phone. Cell phone towers indicated Goldberg traveled approximately 100 miles on back roads around the time of Salle’s murder. Salle’s family and dozens of volunteers also joined the search. Then, a tip leads police to a local landfill on the border of Anaconda and Butte, Montana. There, two heavy equipment operators and almost two dozen law enforcement agents sorted out 400 tons of trash. All investigators found during the nearly week-long search were dead animals and blood which state lab kits confirmed was not human, according to Anaconda Police Chief Tim Barkell. After 6 days of searching the landfill, without a cadaver dog, investigators stopped the search because of a lack of funding, resources and man power. Plus, searchers started running into a bulk of garbage with mail dated months before Tammy Salle’s death. But that wasn’t enough for Salle’s family. They wanted closure and needed to find Salle’s body to lay her to rest. Convinced Salle’s body is at the landfill, the family links up with a New Mexico K9 forensics expert who brought in a cadaver dog to the landfill. A source familiar with the investigation says the cadaver dog “hit” on several areas, but the “hits” are reportedly not linked to anything human.
A Needle in a Haystack?
Police Chief Tim Barkell believes the search has been sufficient up to this point. Barkell says because Anaconda, Montana is located in the middle of dense woods, unfortunately when someone comes up missing, it makes it that much more difficult, not to mention the heavy snow that was on the ground at the time of Salle’s disappearance. Barkell says the department wants nothing more than to find Salle. They are waiting on more results from evidence sent to the state crime lab. It’s believed there’s only one suspect in the Tammy Salle death investigation, boyfriend John Goldberg, and he’s taken his own life. But Anaconda police confirm they are still waiting on DNA results, and if it reveals there is more than one person involved, they will investigate. The Montana Division of Criminal Investigation is now leading the investigation. The evidence indicates Tammy Salle was murdered by her live-in boyfriend John Goldberg. But the questions remain how did he get rid of Salle’s body? Are Salle’s remains somewhere in the middle of the woods or in the landfill? While her family will never stop looking for their beloved Tammy, will we ever know? What happened to Tammy Salle?