BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — A room in Norma Hendsill’s Raleigh County home is dedicated to information on the 1987 disappearance of her daughter, Tammy Daniel.
“It’s still hard sometimes to believe that I had a baby girl, then a little girl, then she growed up and become a beautiful young woman,” Hendsill said in October 2023, days before what would have been Tammy’s 61st birthday. “It’s so hard to really think that that was part of my life, but it was. And she’s still with me today, every day that I live, I think of her.”
She added she sometimes awakens in the night, remembering Tammy.
Tammy Daniel was 24 years old in 1987.
According to Hendsill, Tammy was a bright, beautiful young woman. She had a dog, Shasta, who she loved.
But in the period prior to her death, Tammy had abused substances and had reportedly become associated with people her family did not trust.
Despite these issues, Hendsill said, Tammy was close to her parents.
Hendsill said on June 2, 1987, they drove her from a nightclub in Beckley to the Stanaford mobile home she shared with her husband, Ronald Daniel, who was widely known by his middle name, Gene. It was around 3 a.m. Norma said, and Tammy told her parents she’d sleep outside, in a tent that was in the yard, so as not to disturb Gene. They saw her sitting on the trailer steps.
It was the last time they would see her.
Norma said, moments after having dropped Tammy off, she walked back to check on Tammy and didn’t see her. She heard a screen door slam. She and her husband drove home, thinking Tammy had gone inside.
The following day, she said Gene Daniel allegedly told them he and Tammy had argued and that she had left around 5 a.m.
A few days after Tammy was last seen, a neighbor allegedly told police, Gene Daniel had borrowed a vacuum cleaner and returned it with a bad odor and a sticky substance.
Shortly after Tammy Daniel’s disappearance, Gene Daniel was indicted in her death, but charges were later dropped, due to a lack of evidence.
In January 1989, Gene Daniel was convicted for the July 8, 1988, shooting death of Walter Morgan in a vehicle, in an unrelated case. Gene Daniel said the shooting was unintentional.
Tammy has been declared dead, but her body has never been found.
Chief Deputy Larry Lilly with the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office has investigated Tammy’s disappearance for years.
On Thursday, November 16, 2023, he said it is one he has never given up on solving.
“This case is definitely not a ‘whodunit.’ It’s a very solvable case,” said Lilly. “It’s a case that we’re, literally, a puzzle piece, or two, from being able to prosecute.”
Lilly and his supervisor, Raleigh County Sheriff Jim Canaday, said they believe Tammy was murdered, and they believe someone in southern West Virginia has the missing piece they need to bring her killer to justice.
“Please come forward. We would love to talk to you,” Sheriff Canaday said to those with knowledge on Tammy Daniel’s case. “Even if it’s something you feel is insignificant, maybe it’s the piece that we need. And as I said, we’re really, really on the edge of getting this, of getting this solved.”
Nearly 40 years have passed from that summer night Hendsill last saw Tammy, but she still has hope.
“My husband died, not knowing where our child was at, and I hope and pray that I find her before I die,” she said.
As for Lilly, the detective said he wants Norma Hendsill to have closure.
“Nobody deserves to not know where their child is,” said Lilly. “To not at least, I mean, I can’t even imagine not being able to have a grave to go visit, and that’s the case for Miss Hendsill. That’s just not something we’re going to give up on.”
Canaday and Lilly urged those with information to contact Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office or to call Crime Stoppers at 304-255-STOP.