Tammy Lynn Leppert from Rockledge, Florida, was entered into her first beauty pageant at just 4-years-old. An exceptionally beautiful and talented young girl, she was destined for stardom. Throughout her childhood, she competed in nearly 300 beauty pageants, winning a vast majority of them including “Little Miss Firecracker” and “Little Miss Talent.” In a 1975 article by The Orlando Sentinel, she was referred to as “Brevard’s answer to Shirley Temple.” Tammy’s mother, Linda Curtis, said that since a young girl, Tammy had been exceptionally hyperactive and that she tried to channel that energy into constructive interests. In addition to the beauty pageants, Tammy was a Girl Scout and was enrolled in acrobatic lessons. Curtis was a theatrical and modelling agent. She owned “Galaxy Productions” on Merritt Island and directed her daughter to stardom. In her early-teens, Tammy starred in the film “Little Darlings” and became the face of CoverGirl in October of 1978.
Leppert had dreams of becoming a successful actress in Los Angeles. In 1983, Leppert – who was now 18-years-old – had a small role as a participant in a boxing match in the film, Spring Break. She harboured no illusions about the film; it was a non-speaking role with Leppert in a swimsuit but she did feature on the movie poster. Things were beginning to look promising for the starlet. At least three producers were taking major roles in upcoming films while Steve Walz predicted that Leppert would be “one of the stars of the 80s.” He contended she would be as big as Brooke Shields and that she wasn’t “just another dumb blonde.”
After the Spring Break shooting, Leppert went on her own to a weekend party to celebrate. A close friend of Leppert would later say that when she returned from the party, she appeared to be “a different person.” Leppert – who was bubbly and extroverted – came back sullen and shy. She was said to be acting remarkably irrational and paranoid. Nevertheless, she still wanted to pursue her acting dreams. The next role Leppert had lined up was in Scarface where she was playing the part of the girl who was a distraction to the lookout car during the infamous chainsaw shower scene. However, on the fourth day of filming, Leppert came home. It was said that during filming, Leppert became hysterical during a scene where somebody was to be shot and have artificial blood spurt out. She was taken back to the trailer before returning home.
Curtis said that on her return, Leppert appeared on edge and afraid that somebody was going to poison her, refusing to eat or drink anything out of an open container out of fear it would kill her. She kept herself locked in her bedroom and refused to open the door as her paranoia spun out of control. On one occasion, Leppert told her mother how her friend bragged to her about a large-scale, drug-money, laundering scheme in Brevard. She claimed that a number of prominent figures were involved in the scheme including cops and bankers. According to her mother, Leppert said she witnessed “something so horrible I’m going to get killed for it.”1 Leppert also confided in her friend, Rick Adams, that she believed somebody was going to kill her. “I knew it wasn’t drugs. I can say for sure that Tammy wasn’t into drugs. She didn’t even drink,” he recalled. In early July of 1983, Leppert broke down to Adams and told him she had seen something she shouldn’t have. She didn’t elaborate on what she had seen but she asked Adams to accompany her to Rockledge’s Evangel Temple where she burst into tears and prayed.
Leppert’s family became concerned and asked the sheriff to speak with her. However, Leppert denied she feared her life was in danger. Days later, Leppert went into hysterics while outside her home with Adams. He claims that a gust of wind made the door slam and lock behind her, making her go “berserk.” Adams said that Leppert grabbed a baseball bat and smashed the window so that she could reach in and open the door. She then turned on Adams who managed to grab the baseball bat from her hands before she could attack him with it. After this disturbing outbreak, Curtis checked her daughter in at the Brevard Mental Health Center where she remained for just 72 hours. The doctors could find nothing wrong with Leppert nor did they find any traces of drugs or alcohol in her system.
On the 6th of July, 1983, Leppert pulled on a denim shirt with flowers on the front, a matching skirt, and sandals. “Bye mommy – I’ll see you in a little bit” she called to her mother before climbing into the car of her friend, Keith Roberts. The two were planning on driving down to Cocoa Beach in Florida for the day. Cocoa Beach was Tammy’s favourite place in the world: “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always dreamed of having a house on Cocoa Beach and living happily ever after.”2 However, on the way there, the two friends had an argument and Roberts dropped Leppert off “in a parking lot” along State Road A1A near Cocoa Beach’s Glass Bank building.3 Some reports state Leppert left her shoes and grey purse behind in the car. Leppert’s mother would say that Leppert was afraid of Roberts. This was the last time Tammy Lynn Leppert was ever seen.
While it isn’t know exactly what transpired that afternoon, it is known that at some point between leaving her home and vanishing, Leppert made a flurry of phone calls. She left three urgent messages for her aunt, Ginger Kolsch, at Kolsch’s costume shop in Cocoa Beach. Kolsch wasn’t in work that afternoon but Leppert left her three messages from a public phone in a nearby location. “Tammy was definitely afraid of somebody,” said Kolsch. Leppert also made a phone call to her friend Ron Abeles, who owned a video store on the corner of SR A1A. He too wasn’t in to take the call.
Throughout the investigation, theories have been plentiful. Some speculated that Leppert had a mental breakdown while others considered that she had quite simply ran away. Those who knew Leppert scoffed at this theory; Leppert was deeply close with her mother and always called her to let her know where she was and where she was going. “The only way Tammy wouldn’t call Linda is if something bad happened to her or if she was under someone else’s control,” said Kolsch. Others aren’t so sure, however. Abeles once said that when he first heard of Leppert’s disappearance, he wasn’t too surprised. “I remember Linda as being very – well, how should I put this – aggressive about Tammy’s acting career. I always wondered if there were problems there,” he said. According to Cocoa Beach Detective Harold Lewis, they received two phone calls from a woman who claimed that Tammy was still alive shortly after her disappearance. During the first phone call, the woman told police that Tammy was well and that she would call them when the time was right. During the second phone call, the woman told police that Tammy was going to school to become a nurse. “I have a gut feeling that Tammy just split,” Lewis said.4
Curtis contended that the Cocoa Beach police blew the investigation when they said they couldn’t find any evidence of foul play. Curtis said that Leppert was afraid of Roberts and that police should have pursued him further as a suspect in her disappearance. Cocoa Beach police argued that they did look into Roberts as a suspect but found no evidence of him being involved. However, Lt. Jim Scraggs, who handled the case, said that he only had two telephone conversations with Roberts who broke two appointments to come down to the station for a face-to-face interview. According to Roberts, however, Leppert had confided in him that she was unhappy at home and that she wanted to leave. “Everything seemed to be falling in on her at the time and she was acting real paranoid.” According to Roberts, Leppert was going to stay with friends in Fort Lauderdale but when he told her he could only drive her as far as Cocoa Beach, she became irrational and forced him to pull over and let her out. He said that this was the last time he ever saw her. Roberts would also claim that he cooperated fully with the investigation and that he was never called down to the station for a proper interview.
Another theory is that Leppert was abducted and murdered by someone else after getting out of Roberts’ car. One plausible suspect is serial killer, Christopher Wilder, who murdered 8 or 9 young women in Florida. He lured his victims in by promising to photograph them for magazines. However, his first reported murder was in 1984, half a year after Leppert vanished. Curtis filed a $1 million wrongful death suit against Wilder’s estate, claiming that Wilder met Leppert on the set of “Spring Break” in Fort Lauderdale. Despite the lawsuit, Curtis would later claim she never actually considered Wilder a likely suspect in her daughter’s disappearance and that she sued his estate in the hopes it would force him to answer questions about Leppert. Wilder was shot to death during a tussle with a state trooper in spring of 1984. After his death, Curtis dropped the lawsuit. Another suspect was serial killer, John Crutchley, who is suspected of killing as many as 30 women. He committed suicide in prison in 2002. A spokesperson for Brevard County Sheriff’s Department stated: “John Crutchley is not currently a suspect in the disappearance of Tammy Leppert.”
If you have any information about the disappearance of Tammy Lynn Leppert, please call: 321-868-3251.
- Florida Today, 16 February, 1992 – “‘Unsolved Mysteries’ Episode Focuses on Tammy-Lenny Leppert’s Disappearance”
- Florida Today, 18 March, 1990 – “7 Years Ago, Model Says Goodbye, Hasn’t Been Heard from Since”
- Florida Today, 20 September, 1995 – “Dying Mother Fights for Clues to Daugther’s Fate”
- Florida Today, 25 February, 1985 – “Model’s Whereabouts Remain a Mystery”