DANSVILLE — The unsolved murder of Tammy Jo Alexander has stretched across the counties as the Allegany County Sheriff's Office has gotten involved.
On a cold winter’s day on Nov. 10, 1979 the body of a 16-year-old girl was found shot to death in a cornfield in Caledonia. She got the nickname “Caledonia Jane Doe” for 35 years until her identity was found. It was discovered in 2015 that Tammy Jo Alexander, of Brooksville, Florida was the “Caledonia Jane Doe.” The hunt for her killer continues.
There are many people who have come forward to express why this case is so important to them.
Allegany County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Dispatcher Jennifer Chiaino has felt a strong connection to the case since she first heard of it in 1997.
“I have been heavily involved in a group called Websleuths, and I had remembered a case like this in the 90s,” she said. “In Wyoming County a 7-year-old girl had been found three months later in a cornfield. She had been strangled and sexual abused. They found out it was her stepfather who did it. When I heard about a 16-year-old being found in a cornfield it hit home with me. She had come from a rough family.”
Chiaino said that someone on Websleuths had made the connection between Caledonia Jane Doe and Tammy Jo Alexander a few months before it had been released by the best friend.
“I got a renewed interest in the case when we found out who she was,” she said. “I watched the podcasts on her story, and read articles about it. I talked to the investigator who got boxes of this case thrown at him. I am extremely interested in seeing this case get solved.”
Chiaino said she wanted to do something nice for Tammy Jo Alexander, so she had a friend in the Dansville area drive by the graveside. It was empty, so Chiaino jumped into action.
“I wanted to decorate the grave and show that Allegany County Sheriff’s Office cares too,” she said. “I hope to do my part in keeping the attention on this case. My office does not have a crime investigation division. I am a small fish in a big pond. I am obsessed with unsolved murders and missing person cases.”
Chiaino added that this does take on a significant part of her life to dedicate herself to these cases.
“I saw her grave was empty and I felt bad for the family. I know they are in Florida and that life gets in the way,” she said. “There are hundreds of people in the community that knew her way before I did. She belongs to the community. I am not trying to take anything away from them.”
“My goal is to let her know someone still cares,” Chiaino continued. “I want her family and best friend to see these new pictures of someone caring for her grave. I did up her grave for Christmas with a stocking. I want people to feel free to put things a 16-year-old would like in her stocking. I just want current pictures up letting them know someone cares. I hope it warms their hearts.”
As Chiaino walked to her grave with the Christmas decorations in her hands she was in tears.
“I didn’t even know her, but I walked to her grave balling my eyes out,” she said. “I know there is a little girl in this earth, and we don’t even know who killed her.”
Chiaino said she plans on going back for other holidays and Tammy Jo’s birthday to decorate the gravestone again.
“I am really pleased that her family agreed to leave her here with us,” she said. “Tammy Jo means so much to this community.”
Chiaino declared this “Operation Merry Christmas Tammy” and she said now the 16-year-old waits for Santa.
Allegany County Sheriff's Deputy Rob Wilkins and the East Wind Nursery in Belmont helped donate wreaths and other ornaments.
Tammy Jo' s murder remains unsolved. Anyone with information is asked to call the Livingston County Sheriff's Office at 585-243-7100 or 1-844-LCSO-TIP. A tip can also be made online or sent it to the FBI at www.fbi.gov.