Tuesday two-fer: two new pieces of evidence that support our theory that Ron Tammen was alive in 2002

I have a couple pieces of news for you. First, the FBI responded to my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for Lyndal Ashby’s Additional Record Sheets yesterday. 

Lyndal Ashby’s Additional Record Sheets

For those who need some refreshing, Lyndal Ashby is the name of a young man who’d gone missing seven years after Ron Tammen. Ashby was 22 when he’d disappeared in 1960 from Hartford, KY, a town of roughly 2700 people on the western side of the state. His story is different from Ron’s. He was a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. According to Ashby’s obituary, after he’d gone missing, it was learned that he’d been living under a new name in California and had died on April 11, 1990. He had a family. 

Photos of Lyndal Ashby from the “Find a Grave” website

Although Ashby was cremated and his ashes were strewn in the Pacific Ocean, near the Golden Gate Bridge, his family erected a memorial to Lyndal in Walton’s Creek Church Cemetery, in Centertown, KY—the town where he was born and where he’d graduated from high school.

Ashby’s case had nothing to do with the CIA or hypnosis or any of the curious details we’ve discussed regarding Tammen’s case. However, the two cases did have at least two things in common. First, J. Edgar Hoover was very much at the helm of the FBI when both men disappeared. Second, both men had their fingerprints on file with the FBI’s Identification Division when they’d disappeared. Theoretically, the FBI protocol that had initially applied to Ron’s fingerprint records—that they be kept until he was 99 years of age—should have applied to Ashby’s fingerprint records too. Since Ashby was born in 1938, the FBI should have his fingerprint records until at least 2037.

That’s why I submitted a FOIA request for Ashby’s Additional Record Sheets. As we’ve discussed elsewhere on this site, Additional Record Sheets were sheets of paper that were part of a person’s fingerprint jacket, attached to the back of their fingerprint cards with two-pronged fasteners. Identification staff would jot down notes on them whenever they performed an action on the file and then place everything back into the fingerprint jacket. When the fingerprint cards were digitized beginning in 1999, so were the Additional Record Sheets.

Here’s what the FBI sent me.

As happy as I was to receive anything at all from them, it’s not what I was hoping for. I was hoping for the sort of document that’s in this photo, which I’d captured from an FBI video:

I was hoping for scribbles denoting every potential sighting of Ashby as well as the exact moment when the FBI figured out that he’d changed his name and was living in California.

Instead, I received Ashby’s fingerprints from his time in the military.

Do I think the FBI sent me everything in Ashby’s fingerprint jacket? I do not. Am I going to appeal? I will not.

The reason is that I’m a small person of limited means, and I need to prepare myself for bigger battles. Also, I’ve learned enough from what they’ve sent me. By sending me Lyndal Ashby’s fingerprints, the FBI has let me know something valuable: They didn’t expunge them. They didn’t expunge them when they knew he was no longer missing, and they didn’t expunge them after he died almost 32 years ago.

The FBI appears to be abiding by its record retention schedule and holding onto Lyndal Ashby’s fingerprints until at least the year 2037. (The retention period has since been extended to 110 years, so they may be holding them until then.) They ostensibly didn’t even expunge his fingerprints seven years after his confirmed death, which is part of their retention schedule protocol.

Moreover, the fact that they still have Lyndal Ashby’s fingerprints on file, and not Ron Tammen’s, reinforces the notion that the expungement of Tammen’s fingerprints was due to unusual circumstances.

We already know that Ron’s fingerprints were expunged in 2002 due to the Privacy Act or a court order. Some readers have wondered if there might have been a mass expungement of fingerprints when the FBI automated its system beginning in 1999—whether to protect the fingerprint owners or to simply thin out the numbers of prints to be digitized. Although, admittedly, Ashby was deceased by then, I don’t know the precise date when the FBI made that discovery. FBI records that I’ve received indicate that they were still conducting DNA testing for his case in February 2011. Therefore, it’s reasonably safe to conclude that there was no mass expungement of missing persons’ fingerprints sometime around 2002 due to the Privacy Act.

Court-ordered expungements in 2002

My second piece of news has to do with court-ordered expungements. You may recall that, in an effort to figure out the precise reason for Ron’s expungement—was it the Privacy Act or was it a court order?—I’d submitted two FOIA requests to the FBI. In the first, I requested documents associated with the early expungement of fingerprints between 1999 and 2002 on the basis of a court order. In the second, I requested documents pertaining to the early expungement of fingerprints for the same time period due to the Privacy Act. Both FOIA requests resulted in the same response: “Unable to identify records responsive to your request.“

I’ve since refined my request having to do with Privacy Act expungements, and I’m eagerly waiting for the FBI to acknowledge that request, which, I might add, is a thing of beauty. As for the one having to do with a court order, I’ve been letting it lie, since I wasn’t sure where to go next. 

And then, last weekend, I put two and two together. 

You may recall when I was seeking records from the FBI’s Cincinnati Field Office in relation to another aspect of the Tammen case. They’d responded by sending a raft of electronic documents with only subject headings, and one of those documents was titled “COURT ORDERS RE EXPUNGMENT [sic] SHOULD GO TO BCII.” Now, I would very much love to see what the entire document has to say on that topic, and I’ve asked them to declassify it, please and thank you. But I was wondering if something can be determined now, in the meantime, from the subject head alone?

For example, exactly who or what is BCII? At first, I thought it might have been part of the FBI or Department of Justice, but I’ve found no evidence of that. What I later discovered was that the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has a Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), which also has an Identification (I) Section. So they have all the necessary letters. Upon further reading, I learned that Ohio’s BCI handles court-ordered expungements for cases throughout the state of Ohio, in care of the Identification Section, and that the people there work closely with the FBI. It makes total sense that the FBI’s field office in Cincinnati would recommend that court-ordered expungements be sent to Ohio’s BCII.

Over the weekend, I’d submitted a public records request to the Ohio Attorney General’s office seeking “all segregable records pertaining to the expungement of fingerprint records that took place in the year 2002 due to a court order.” Again, I was trying to figure out if they had any court-ordered expungements at all that year, and if not, we could be certain that Ron’s expungement was not due to a court order. Of course, there could also have been 10 or 20 or 50 court-ordered expungements in 2002, in which case I’d be back to square one, not knowing if Ron’s case was among them.

Yesterday morning, I’d just gotten back from my run when I checked my phone and saw that someone had left a voicemail. It was from the chief counsel for Ohio’s BCI, and he’d called seeking more information about my request. I returned his call, expecting to be immediately directed to voicemail or at least to have to run through a menu of choices and button-pushes to reach him, but no. Dude picked up on the first ring.

You guys. You know how I think the people from the National Archives and Records Administration are rock stars when it comes to FOIA? Well, move over, NARA, because the people in the Ohio AG’s office have you beat. NARA had responded to one of my requests the next day, which is super impressive. But Ohio’s chief counsel for the BCI responded to my public records request the very same day. 

Now, before I tell you what their response was, let me just say that, in our phone conversation, as I was giving him the specifics, he let me know that they don’t maintain court orders by year. But knowing the person in question was helpful, he said, though, again, he wasn’t sure what information he’d be able to provide. I sent him all of Ron’s identifying information. I also pointed out to him that the AG’s web page on missing persons has a page devoted to Ron.

“Who knows…we may be able to solve your missing person case,” I told him.

At around 3 p.m. yesterday, I received the BCI’s response:

BCI has searched its records for “all segregable records pertaining to the expungement of fingerprint records that took place in the year 2002 due to a court order. The records that I’m seeking will document that an expungement of fingerprint records has taken place due to a court order in the year 2002.” Following receipt of your request, I contacted you by telephone to clarify your request and to narrow the focus of BCI’s search of its records.

Upon review of BCI’s records, BCI does not have any records responsive to your specific request.  As such, this concludes BCI’s response to your request. 

When we consider these two findings together, I think we can say with confidence that Ron Tammen’s fingerprints were expunged in 2002 because of a conflict with the Privacy Act, and not because of a court order. Also, his conflict with the Privacy Act had nothing to do with a mass expungement during the period in which the FBI was switching to an automated system. 

I’m more and more certain of it: Ronald Tammen was alive in 2002 and he himself requested that his fingerprints be expunged from the FBI’s system.

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Julie
Julie
11 months ago

A year after this, 2003, the White House would also be burning spies (not that I think Ron had foreknowledge of Valerie Plame or that he feared the same thing would happen to him, just one of those things).

But the suicide angle – well, let me expound on my initial thought when the topic of the expunged fingerprints was first mentioned on this blog. Back in July 2002 here in Cleveland something strange happened, although no one knew it was strange until 8ish months later. On the 30th, an old man was discovered decomposing in his Eastlake apartment. He’d shot himself in the mouth, with a calendar clearly counting down the death date. The curtains had been shut and the AC turned off. A search of the apartment found everything, even the gun, had been scrubbed of fingerprints. There was only a bed and computer for furnishings. The man, Joseph Newton Chandler III, was a known hermit who only left to work and eat.

So pretty weird. But things took a turn for the weirder when Chandler’s estate went to probate and attempted to find his next of kin. The supposed sister in Columbus, Mary Wilson, and her address, didn’t exist. And that’s when it was discovered that Joseph Newton Chandler III had died in Texas in 1945 at 8 years old, not Ohio at 76.

Unfortunately, by this time, the body had already been cremated, because the initial assessment was suicide but nothing alarming. But the likely reason behind the suicide was that Chandler had been diagnosed with colon cancer and was no longer able to be treated. Fortunately, the hospital seeing him still had a bit of blood left they had taken, and police held onto that until it could be tested.

A lot of theories have been kicked around about who he was, especially when the searches found on the computer that police irreparably broke during the investigation related to Nazis and plastic explosives (former SS? Nazi hunter?) Internet sleuths thought he may have been the Zodiac killer.

And in 2018, familial DNA revealed him to be Robert Ivan Nichols originally of New Albany, Indiana, and the obvious reason why he can’t be Ron. A lot of people still think he did something sinister, but I’m more inclined to believe he suffered PTSD from having his ship bombed in WWII. Possibly George White or another MKULTRA “experimenter” thought he would make a great test subject. Even if he wasn’t, absconding to San Francisco put him in situations where mind-altering drugs were much easier to come by than as a married man in SE Indiana, which in unsupervised, uncontrolled quantities absolutely increases paranoia and hallucinations or can trigger them if you haven’t got them.

But again, it’s one of those weird things that happened shortly after the expungement that made my brain jump to conclusions before rationalizing all the reasons they couldn’t be the same men.

If you want more, listen to this, the Wiki page leaves out a lot: https://ohiomysteries.com/ohio%20mysteries/2002-who-was-joseph-newton-chandler-iii

Julie
Julie
11 months ago
Reply to  jwenger

It’s unfortunately impossible to say without certain agencies releasing more information (looking at you, government officials that are probably monitoring this blog). At this point I’d believe anything happened after mid-2002 including alien abduction, ascending to heaven, or achieving nirvana and becoming a buddha.

Julie
Julie
11 months ago
Reply to  jwenger

What’s the old saying – silence speaks louder than words? Sometimes I pretend it’s a bizarre type of altruism and that at least maybe a few people out there don’t want to lie or would provide the full truth if they didn’t have to support a family or whatever the reasoning, because it’s the only way to stay sane.

Julie
Julie
11 months ago
Reply to  jwenger

Seems like it’s usually the people with personality or antisocial disorders who can brush off or flat out deny being caught in a lie (serial killer Ed Edwards’ daughter tells of a time as a child when they had company for dinner and he was boasting about how hard he cooked, and everyone was like, dude, we can see the KFC bucket in the trash. And he got mad and doubled down on the fact that he made the meal.) But the FBI probably has those sorts of people employed in places besides public relations.

Barbara
Barbara
9 months ago
Reply to  Julie

Wouldnt there be a record of Ron requesting the expungment? Who requested it?

Julie
Julie
9 months ago
Reply to  Barbara

I don’t know for sure, but theoretically such a request could be sealed by a court order, especially if someone went through the justice system to get everything expunged in the first place.

mm
mm
11 months ago

It’s fascinating, isn’t it, that silence or distraction tactics are almost as informing as straight facts? I’ve found this to be true just talking with people. Even when it’s a lie, they are telling you something fairly insightful about what is and isn’t important to them, how they want to appear, their assumptions about you and the situation, etc.

Good work! I love your insight and bulldog tenacity.

Stevie J
Stevie J
11 months ago

I would expand the request from only 2002 to a decade’s worth, just to see what happens.

Stevie J
Stevie J
11 months ago
Reply to  jwenger

I didn’t mean only Ron. Request all people for a decade. See if it ever happens. There might be a difference pre- and post-911 also.

Jule E Miller
Jule E Miller
11 months ago

911 certainly changed America and the world.
2.01.2022 Tuesday.
I walked 3 miles today here in Wooster. Pulling my canvass cart empty is always a joy. Coming home after getting lab work and about a 100 plus pounds of groceries I relished a great meal.
I had cut thru the College of Wooster campus and watched the flag of USA crack above the football field full of athletes with poles and nets making
gestures without said ball.
I stopped in my tracks and just prayed for what seemed like forever. Giving thanks and enjoying the moment was spiritual gain. Amen.
Yesterday was hard as I spent time remembering Marcia Tammen. Aug 31, 2020 was her passing.
I stopped at her Living Urn red maple tree today.
There is comfort in the blanket of snow.
Amen.

Brett Nelson
Brett Nelson
11 months ago

This Tuesday two-fer post gets a double wow! 😮 😮
Incredible results, J! This case is gaining momentum!

Kyle
Kyle
11 months ago

Amazing as always.
Ironic that removing prints might be a slip up that leads to Ron.
Now wondering though if he did it because he was going to commit suicide and didn’t want matched to prints?
Or, criminal related?

Brett Nelson
Brett Nelson
11 months ago
Reply to  jwenger

Yep! My 911 theory could also relate to something else too—that perhaps Ron needed to request the expungement of his own prints because he knew ahead of time that he’d be required to have them taken again (Civil fingerprints) for a background check! Possibly for numerous things, even medical & welfare/domestic needs. The latter is why I was fingerprinted last year with the FBI because my little grand-niece was eligible for daycare benefits through the government. My parents, a sister, and my niece were also fingerprinted too. For Ron, it could have been something similar. He knew if he didn’t get his old prints expunged, his identity would be revealed from the FBI—officially declaring him as a “missing person” with a “criminal record.”