Details of Disappearance
Tiffany was last seen inside the Convenient Food Mart in her hometown of Maple Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, on June 13, 1980. Tiffany purchased hamburger buns at the store and left at approximately 2:45 p.m. that afternoon.
She disappeared while en route to her family's residence, which was half a block away. Tiffany has never been heard from again. The search for her began at 3:00 p.m., when she had not returned home.
Tiffany's father was at work at the time of her disappearance; he was cleared as a suspect in her case early in the investigation. Tiffany's stepmother, who had raised her since she was four years old, passed a polygraph and was also cleared.
Brandon Lee Flagner, whose given name was Chico Virgilio Tenorio, confessed to Tiffany's rape, murder and dismemberment in while he was imprisoned in Texas in 1983, three years after her disappearance. He was incarcerated for child molestation and burglary. A photo of Flagner is posted with this case summary.
In interviews with the FBI, Flagner said he abducted Tiffany and drove her to a wooded area by a nearby school. He said he shot her in the head accidentally when she resisted his sexual advances. He stated he ate parts of Tiffany's body and disposed pieces of it in various parts of Ohio.
He also wrote two ministers and an Ohio television station about the murder. He mentioned the scar on Tiffany's knee, which was not generally known to the public at the time.
Flagner ultimately made at least 30 confessions to the crime, but many of his statements contradicted each other. He later retracted all his confessions, claiming he only made the statements because he was about to be released from prison and wanted to stay and get sex offender treatment. He was nonetheless convicted of two counts of aggravated murder and one count of kidnapping in June 1985.
His molestation victims from Texas, all girls who were under the age of ten at the time they were assaulted, testified against him at trial and said he had threatened them with violence. Flagner was sentenced to life in prison for Tiffany's murder and twenty-five years for the kidnapping. He will not be eligible for parole until 2019.
Flagner grew up in Elyria, Ohio, not far from Maple Heights. He was arrested for burglary in 1978 and sentenced to two five-year terms, but paroled after only sixteen months. He was released from prison three months before Tiffany went missing.
He became actively involved in the search for Tiffany and offered to sell t-shirts with the child's picture to raise awareness and funds for the search. The Papesh family had him arrested and the police warned him not to bother them.
After Tiffany's disappearance, Flagner asked his wife and brother to destroy a metal box which was in the trunk of his car. The box contained, among other things, some children's clothing. In November 1980, he told his brother that Tiffany's father had hired him to find the child's killer and that he thought Tiffany's father himself had committed the crime.
It is worth noting that many people believe Flagner to be innocent of involvement in Tiffany's case. The police initially discounted his confessions, saying his statements were inconsistent and there was no evidence to support them. His time card shows that he was at work at Sta-Co in Creston, Ohio, about 40 miles away from Maple Heights, up until half an hour before Tiffany's disappearance on June 13.
Some have suggested that one of Flagner's co-workers stamped his time-card for him, but all of his fellow employees denied doing so. His employer says that while no one specifically remembered seeing Flagner at work that day, the production line needed five people, Flagner included, to function properly.
Flagner, who converted to Orthodox Judaism while in prison, was convicted in Tiffany's case largely because of his confession and because he has a criminal record for child molestation; he says he molested over 400 young girls, a claim most investigators believe is exaggerated.
He remains in prison, but investigators in Tiffany's case and many members of her own family do not believe Flagner was the responsible party.
Tiffany's remains have never been located.