Special to the EagleHerald/Phyllis Makowski
The last photo ever taken of Tammy Lynn Miciulis, just a few month prior to her disappearance from her home in Marinette. This week Tammy’s mother, Phyllis Makowski, received a letter from Georgia that brought closure to event that occurred over 30 years earlier. 
Special to the EagleHerald/Phyllis Makowski

The last photo ever taken of Tammy Lynn Miciulis, just a few month prior to her disappearance from her home in Marinette. This week Tammy’s mother, Phyllis Makowski, received a letter from Georgia that brought closure to event that occurred over 30 years earlier. 

MARINETTE — For Phyllis Makowski (formerly Phyllis Maciulis), the loss of her 11-year-old daughter, Tammy Lynn Maciulis,  under circumstances perpetrated in a vicious act at the violent hands of another, the search for closure comes slow. Over the years, it often arrived in emotionally distributed moments; and in those moments, a poignant mixture of memory and emotion surges.

And once those moments pass, the realization that is often left behind reveals that complete closure still remains in the distance.

“It’s something you just carry with you,” Makowski said. “There is no healing. It’s there all the time … we (family) always talk about Tammy. We laugh. We cry. She is always part of our lives and she always will be.”

Tammy Lynn disappeared from her home on Cleveland Avenue in the City of Marinette on a Friday, July 10, 1987, the victim of a kidnapping committed by Charles S. Blassingame, a state of Georgia resident and repeat sex offender. Blassingame was convicted and sentenced 22 years for Tammy’s kidnapping in the state of Wisconsin. However, as the authorities discovered the girl’s remains in Georgia, after serving his Wisconsin sentence Blassingame was extradited to the Georgia Department of Corrections system to serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the murder conviction.

NEARING CLOSURE  

And then, two days ago, Feb. 11 – Tuesday – Phyllis Makowski experienced one of those distributed moments of closure. Only this time, it arrived in the mail with a return address from the state of Georgia Office of Victim Services. 

That moment landed with a conclusion that brought both relief, happiness and sadness, not to mention one more step toward something closely resembling the finality of closure to events that occurred over 30 years earlier. 

“Please be advised that the Offender was pronounced dead while in the custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections on 02/02/2020,” the letter informed Makowski.

The letter identifies Blassingame “Offender.”

Mixed emotions followed the reading of that letter, and later, Makowski began leafing through old photos and reliving old memories about her daughter.

“Looking at Tammy’s picture … I would be crying … and then I would be happy that he (Blassingame) is off the face of the Earth,” Makowski said. “It just brings up some memories.”

Additionally, over the years, Makowski explained that she, her three surviving daughters and other family members experienced difficult moments during specific days of the year like holidays, when the family gathers, or on Tammy’s birthday, Dec. 22. Inevitably, recollections of Tammy would surface, and with those recollections, a flood of emotions.

“(Tammy) was a shy person,” Makowski said. “She was just a beautiful, blue-eyed blond-haired girl and she had a lot of fun with her siblings and cousins. She was so young then. She was just 11.”

COMMUNITY OUTPOURING

Over the years however, Makowski and her daughters maintained a strong network of friends, family and community support from Menominee, Marinette, the City of Peshtigo and elsewhere. Some of that support included the officers who served on the case so many years earlier and who played pivotal roles in the Tammy’s search, the investigation and the eventual conviction of Blassingame.

Jeffrey Skorik was a police officer for many years in Marinette. He remembers working on that case and the way it affected the entire community, including himself and his family. 

“The case was one of those that really has an impact on a person’s life,” Skorik said. “Personally, it was really something that had a tendency to shape your perspective as you go through your career … I have so much respect for Phyllis (Makowski), and I wonder how someone could lose a child — and lose a child under those circumstance.”

Other assistance arose from the community, raising money for Tammy’s funeral and providing emotional support to the family.

“I had so much help,” Makowski said through tears. “People were just pouring so much of their love and affection to me in cards and letter.”

ENDURING MEMORY

Most importantly, Makowski recounted the tremendous opportunities afforded to her that allowed her to carry on Tammy’s memory. 

Those opportunities included a trip to Washington D.C. to speak with the FBI and help pass a law concerning adult missing kids. Additionally, she works on various other efforts to aid organizations and programs that work to spread the awareness of how communities can keep children safe.

Then, on the 20th anniversary of Tammy’s death, Makowski wanted to do something special. 

She consulted with Skorik, who was then serving as the Marinette Chief of Police. She asked him what she might do to support the Marinette Police Department. Skorik came back to her with an idea that would facilitate an ongoing memorial and honor to her daughter: An annual scholarship.

With help from others, Makowski began selling Seroogy’s Chocolates candy bars and other candies to raise money for the Tammy Lynn Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship consists of two annual $500 checks, one for a Menominee High School Senior and one for a Marinette High School senior who plan to enter the law enforcement career.

According to Makowski, the generous and continued support from the community allowed the endowment of scholarships to 24 students.

“So that gives us joy, in keeping (Tammy’s) memory alive with something positive,” Makowski said.  

THE HISTORY

Just one month before Tammy’s disappearance from Marinette, in June of 1987, Blassingame was paroled from the State of Georgia prison system, while serving a 30-year term for a prior sex-related offense.

The initial search for Tammy lasted several days and involved hundreds of area volunteers and local law enforcement officers. However, her whereabouts remained a mystery until 1989.

Blassingame refused to inform authorities where he concealed Tammy’s remains until October of 1989 when he finally lead authorities to a shallow grave near the City of Dalton, Georgia. Through forensic evidence from those remains, authorities determined that Blassingame had murdered Tammy.

Despite the brutal crime and Blassingame’s intentional deception, Skorik identified one additional and important result — in addition to the enduring memory of Tammy — that continues to outlive the offender’s cruel act: The unity of the local community.

“That is one of the wonderful things about the people in this community,” Skorik said. “People came together ... We put out the call for help and we had all the volunteers that we could ever hope for … it was a community that came together at a tragic time.”

The Georgia Department of Corrections was contacted for this story regarding further details about the Blassingame’s cause of death, but they could provide no comment at this time.