Yankton teen's family still searching for answers - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Yankton teen's family still searching for answers 21 years after her death

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YANKTON, S.D. (KTIV) -

For a parent, the loss of a child is one of hardest things to endure. Imagine still not knowing how your child died, or even why, 21 years later.

A Yankton, South Dakota mother is still hoping for answers after her teenage daughter was found dead in a roadside ditch.

"It's hard to really wrap your mind around it," said Nancy Haas.

Even though two decades have passed, there's not a day that Nancy Haas doesn't think about her daughter.

"Your children are your children, for always," she said.

Tammy Haas was a ballerina at heart.  The 1991 Yankton graduate loved to dance, loved her brothers and loved her friends.

But in September of 1992, the body of the 19-year old was found in a ditch near the Crofton, Nebraska Golf Course, which is just across the South Dakota border, near Gavins Point Dam.

An autopsy showed Tammy died of a broken neck.  Authorities at the time said there was evidence her body had been in the trunk of a car and dumped there.

"What really happened?  We don't know.  We don't know," said  Haas.

For 21 years, Nancy Haas has waited for answers.

"That no one will say, "I'm sorry. I did this." However it happened," she said.

Three years after Tammy's death, the last person to see her alive was charged with manslaughter.  A Cedar County, Nebraska jury found Eric Stukel not guilty.

Despite few other leads, many in the community believe there are people who know the truth.

The death of Tammy Haas is still such a mystery.  There are so many questions left unanswered, that even at Tammy's gravesite, there's a prayer that's been put in place called "God's Will Be Done."  It asks for help for those who are "shielding the secrets of how and why" Tammy died.

"In my mind they can't be having a life," said Haas.  "For whatever reason, to let me, my family, her friends, that have had to live with this.  We need to know."

Because even though time can heal, it can also be a reminder of what was lost.

"To us she will always be 19," she said.

Forever absent from any new family photo.  Tammy's two younger brothers grew up without their big sister, and their kids will miss out on meeting their aunt.

Nancy Haas said, "I've never thought of myself as being angry, but yeah, when you realize that this little guy will never know her, then it does."

But Haas believes in the power of forgiveness, saying her faith helps her move forward, one day at a time.

And it's that same faith that brings patience as she continues to wait for answers and comfort, for the daughter she loves.

"Knowing that she's in heaven.  Because there's no greater thing and that she got to go there," said Haas.

Tammy Haas would have turned 40 years old this year.

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