Let’s Talk About It: Tiffany Papesh

This week’s “Let’s Talk About It” is Tiffany Jennifer Papesh, an eight-year-old girl who disappeared from Maple Heights, Ohio, in the Cleveland metro area, on June 13, 1980. She’d be 46 today if she is still alive, which is unlikely.

Tiffany’s case is one of the few murder-without-a-body cases where I believe the suspect, Brandon Flagner, may very well be innocent. He was convicted of murder but I really can’t see why. The only thing I can think of is his defense must have been very inadequate.

Flagner confessed to Tiffany’s kidnapping and murder something like 30 times, and he is definitely a serial child molester who had a history of threatening his victims — all young girls — with violence if they didn’t do what he said. Those confessions and his criminal history were, as far as I can tell, pretty much the entire case against him.

However…

Flagner also had an excellent alibi for the time of Tiffany’s abduction: he claims he was at work up until half an hour before Tiffany disappeared. Tiffany’s Charley Project casefile says Flagner’s workplace was 40 miles from where she disappeared; this source says 58 miles. It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other: at either distance he wouldn’t have had the time to race over to Maple Heights and abduct the little girl.

Now, it’s true that by the time the police got around to asking, no one specifically remembered seeing Flagner at work that day. But his time card WAS stamped, and furthermore, he worked in a factory production line that needed a certain number of people — him included — to function properly. Since the factory was functioning just fine that day, that seems like a pretty strong indication that Flagner was exactly where he said he was.

The police investigating Tiffany’s disappearance, as well as Tiffany’s own family, think the way that I do, that Flagner is innocent (of this crime anyway) and someone else abducted her. The case is still open. You can see a lot of articles and stuff about Tiffany’s disappearance and Flagner’s conviction here. He made headlines again about ten years ago when he claimed the Ohio Department of Corrections violated his religious rights by forcibly cutting off his beard (he had converted to Orthodox Judaism while in prison).

Flagner comes up for parole in 2019. Given his background as a serial child molester and his insistence that he’s innocent of Tiffany’s murder, I highly doubt he’ll get released then.

I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the man himself. I think he’s a danger to the community and belongs behind bars, but not for this reason. And as long as he sits in prison convicted of abducting and killing Tiffany Papesh, that means whoever DID abduct Tiffany is still out there.

So what happened here? Does anyone think Flagner is guilty? How did he get convicted in the first place, and how can this problem be fixed? If Flagner didn’t do this, who did? Let’s talk about it.

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7 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About It: Tiffany Papesh

  1. Marcy September 7, 2017 / 11:59 pm

    What about him joining the search? Seems pretty consistent with killers who end up gawking at the traffic surrounding the search. Any info on who’s clothes were in the box or what happened to them?

    • Meaghan September 8, 2017 / 4:41 pm

      I’ve seen crazy people attach themselves to missing persons cases, become obsessed with the cases, joining in searches and pestering families etc., where it turns out said crazy people were definitely not involved in the case. Timothy Bindner is a prime example of that.

      All the info I have on Tiffany’s disappearance is in her casefile — no idea about the details of that box of clothes. It could have been incriminating evidence in an unrelated instance of child molestation.

      I’m not saying it’s IMPOSSIBLE that Flagner could have killed Tiffany, I just think it’s unlikely, given the strength of his alibi.

  2. libraryjobber September 8, 2017 / 3:55 pm

    How did Flagner know about the scar on her knee? Why did he confess in the first place? Is it possible that Flagner was involved, but not as the actual abductor?

    I wonder how well the police looked at his known associates?

  3. Neighborhood person September 23, 2017 / 5:40 pm

    At that time I used to go to a local bar that was ran by an old lady. She seemed to have connections to things. Things you really wouldn’t want to ask too much about. She told me Tiffany’s dad was in debt to the wrong people and this was his punishment. Of course I doubt this is true and why would she reveal this to me? Still I’ve never forgot her telling me this.

  4. Virginia Carano DiBlasi September 23, 2017 / 6:00 pm

    Wasn’t the step- mother under some suspicion for a while??

  5. Timothy M Lowrie Jr September 24, 2017 / 8:05 pm

    I grew up in Maple Hts and remember this like it was yesterday.

  6. Kathleen September 28, 2017 / 1:35 am

    I went to school with Tiffany and still think of her often. She is the reason I hold my daughters so tight. I was a child myself, but remember all the talk and accusations people made against her family. Was so sad to hear people attacking this family after something so devistating. I do believe the right man is in prison, not because of facts just a feeling. RIP sweet Tiffany

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