Pamela Tinsley was spending the day at Lake Overholser in Oklahoma City when she went missing on Sunday, April 13, 1986. According to her friends, she accepted a motorcycle ride from an unidentified man and never returned to the lake. Her shoes, purse, and car were all left behind. Although police initially believed that the 19-year-old had voluntarily run off with the unidentified motorcyclist, after she had been missing for two weeks they admitted that she had most likely been k*illed.
Pam had been going through a rough patch when she went missing. She was engaged to be married, but her fiancé was in the military and was stationed in another state. Pam had allowed three people — two men and one woman — to move into her apartment with her but none of them was working at the time and they weren’t helping Pam out with her rent or any other bills. Pam had told her friends that she wanted to kick them out, but seemed to be afraid of them.
Two weeks before her disappearance, a police officer had shown up at Pam’s apartment and discovered marijuana growing in one of the closets. Pam was arrested and charged with cultivating marijuana; she was taken in for questioning and then released. She denied that the marijuana belonged to her, but police later determined that her fiancé would regularly write to Pam and ask her to send him drugs. They found several letters from her fiancé asking her for LSD or Ecstasy; it’s unclear if she complied with his requests. There was no LSD or Ecstasy found in her apartment.
By April 13th, Pam was tired of her freeloading roommates and in need of some relaxation. She decided to take a drive to Lake Overholser, a popular hangout for teenagers. She parked her Volkswagen pickup on the west side of the lake in an area known as The Flats. It didn’t take long for her to find a few of her friends, and Pam spent the early afternoon with them. Around 2:00 pm, the group watched as a man pulled up on a motorcycle. Although none of them recognized the man, he struck up a conversation with them and they invited him to hang out with their group.
At some point, Pam asked the man if she could have a ride on his motorcycle. The man agreed, and Pam told her friends to watch her purse while she was gone. As she climbed on the back of the motorcycle, Pam’s friends heard her say “You’re going to bring me right back, right?” If the man answered Pam, no one was able to hear him; they simply watched as the motorcycle sped away.
Hours passed without any sign of Pam or the motorcyclist, but none of her friends bothered to sound an alarm. Her friends eventually left the lake without her, and her roommates didn’t appear to be concerned by the fact that Pam never returned to her apartment that night. When Pam failed to show up for work the following morning, her employer was immediately worried; Pam never missed work and was always on time. When they were unable to reach Pam at her apartment, they contacted her parents. It was at this point that Pam’s family learned that she was missing.
Pam’s parents reported her missing to the Oklahoma City Police Department that morning, but detectives initially believed that Pam had simply decided to take off for a few days and would return when she was ready. Her family was certain that this was not the case, and they launched their own search for Pam. Her parents immediately had missing flyers printed and spent the afternoon handing them out at Lake Overholser. Several of Pam’s friends also went to the lake, hoping to find the people Pam had been with shortly before she went missing.
They eventually managed to piece together the events leading up to the disappearance. Those who had been with Pam noted that she had been wearing only a bikini top and shorts when she got on the stranger’s motorcycle; this seemed to verify that Pam thought she was just going for a short ride. Her cigarettes were found inside the purse she left behind, another indication that she intended to return. Pam rarely went anywhere without her cigarettes.
The fact that Pam was wearing only her bathing suit top and a pair of shorts was another red flag to those who knew her well. She had struggled with low self-esteem for years; she had pale skin that refused to tan and had been bullied when she was in school for looking like an albino. It took her years to be comfortable with her body and she had only recently been confident enough to buy her first bikini. No one believed that she would have voluntarily set off on a long ride without covering up with a shirt; it seems clear that Pam believed the motorcyclist would be bringing her back to the lake after a quick ride.
Although no one was able to provide police with the man’s name, those who had been with Pam when she got on the motorcycle were able to give investigators a detailed description of him. He was a white male in his early twenties, with brown hair and possibly a mustache. He stood between 5’10” and 6’ tall and weighed 180 to 200 pounds; he had been wearing jeans, a T-shirt and sunglasses when he was seen at the lake. His motorcycle had been a 650cc or 750cc blue Kawasaki, possibly with an out of state license plate. Police released his description to the media, hoping that someone might recognize him; if anyone did, they didn’t come forward.
By the end of April, the case was transferred to the Oklahoma City Police Department’s ho*micide division. Although detectives had not found any evidence proving Pam had been k*illed, it was clear that they didn’t expect to find her alive. Lieutenant Bob Jones, who was in charge of the ho*micide division at that time, admitted that he believed Pam had been k*illed shortly after she was last seen, and he told her parents to expect the worst.
Although Pam’s parents had been holding on to the hope that their daughter was still alive, they seemed to accept the fact that she had likely been a victim of foul play. They knew that Pam wasn’t the type to voluntarily disappear without telling anyone; she was close with her family and in love with her fiancé. They also believed that Pam might have known the motorcyclist, as they were convinced that she would never have accepted a ride from a complete stranger. While those who had been at the lake with Pam continued to claim they didn’t know who the man was, one witness thought she saw Pam flag the man down.
Detectives also thought it was possible that Pam — and her friends — knew the man on the motorcycle, but they had been unable to make any progress in learning his identity. Investigators speculated that the man might have some connection to the marijuana that was found in Pam’s apartment; they believed it was possible that her de*ath was drug related. If Pam had been truthful when she said the marijuana didn’t belong to her, it was possible that the actual owner feared she was about to turn him in and had k*illed her to make sure this didn’t happen.
Other investigators thought Pam might have died accidentally, in either a motorcycle accident or a drug overdose — and the person or persons she was with had panicked and hid her body. Although this was an intriguing possibility, it was impossible to prove. There had been no reports of any accidents on the day she went missing, and without her body there was no way they could determine a cause of d*eath.
Some of Pam’s friends thought that her disappearance could have had something to do with her unwanted roommates. Several friends and Pam’s fiancé had told Pam that she needed to get rid of them, and she had indicated that she planned to evict them around the time she went missing. It’s unclear if they had any connections to the drug world; one of the men had been an ex-convict from California, but if Pam knew why he had been in prison, she never told any of her friends.
Detectives continued to appeal to the public for help in identifying the motorcyclist last seen with Pam, but few tips came in and none led to the mystery man. The investigation into Pam’s disappearance stalled and then eventually went cold; it remained inactive until 2008.
In May 2008, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported receiving an anonymous phone call from someone who claimed to have information about Pam’s disappearance. Around the same time, the Oklahoma City Police Department received a series of calls about the case; all calls seemed to be from the same person and were traced to a restaurant in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area. The caller claimed to know who had ki*lled Pam; they provided police with the name of the ki*ller and a general location of where her body could be found. Police followed up on this potential lead, but were unable to substantiate any of the information.
Pam’s parents accepted the fact that their daughter was d*ead, but remained hopeful that police would be able to find her body so they could give her a proper burial. They submitted their DNA so that it could be entered into a national database and compared against any unidentified remains found; to date there have been no matches and the location of Pam’s body remains unknown.
Pamela Tinsley was 19 years old when she went missing in 1986. She has blue eyes and blonde hair, and at the time of her disappearance she was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 135 pounds. She was last seen wearing a black & turquoise bikini bathing suit and a pair of white shorts; she was also wearing a gold ring with diamonds. She has a mole on the left side of her mouth, and she was a cigarette smoker in 1986. If you have any information about Pam, please contact the Oklahoma City Police Department at 405–297–1000.