The 1996 Disappearance of Tennessee Toddler Lucy Rebecca Meadows

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Lucy Rebecca Meadows was born on Oct. 1, 1992, to Tom Meadows and Yong Mun Chong Meadows. She has an older brother, Daniel Meadows, and an older half-sister, Amy Brookmeyer.

Lucy’s mother was born and raised in South Korea. She relocated to the United States in the 70s after marrying Amy’s father, Larry Brookmeyer, an American soldier stationed at Camp Hovey.

Yong gave birth to Amy at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in August 1978. She and Brookmeyer divorced in 1981, and the judge split custody between the two until Amy was school-age. However, Yong eventually cut ties with her daughter for nearly 15 years. 

Yong met Tom Meadows through her boss, Mona Metcalf, also Korean and owner of a Clarksville bar called Mona’s Log Cabin Lounge. Mona was dating her future husband, Larry Metcalf, a friend and former student of Tom, an economics professor at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville.

After dating for a while, Tom and Yong married in March 1984. The first few years of the marriage were idyllic; the couple had few quarrels and were happy together. That is until one woman came along and changed everything.

Yong started attending a Korean church in Oak Grove, where she met Hyong Sim “Tammy” Dy. Tammy had four children — two adults and two school-aged. Her husband was leaving the Air Force, and the couple divorced. Tammy and her two young children temporarily moved in with the Meadows to hunt for housing.

The living arrangement was supposed to be for a couple of weeks. However, two months later, Tammy and her children were still there, and she had made little effort to find a home. Yong insisted Tammy remain permanently in the house, which did not sit well with Tom. After Tammy became a permanent household member, Yong changed. Tom later said that Tammy was a “devastating influence” on his family.

By the spring of 1995, Lucy’s family was falling apart. Tom and Yong separated, and she filed for divorce in April on the grounds of adultery and inappropriate marital contact, which Tom denied.

Yong had also ruined relationships with her mother, sisters, and Amy, now an adult and stationed overseas with the Army. She and her mother had reconnected the year before. Amy called her mother several times, but eventually, Yong made it clear she no longer wanted to speak to her daughter.

Following their separation, Yong began harassing her husband at his work office and making scenes in front of his colleagues. She had even threatened to blackmail them if they did not get her husband to sign divorce papers.

Tom petitioned the court for a restraining order against his wife, which Chancellor Alex Darnell granted in March 1996. The order prevented Yong from having contact with his friends and colleagues. Darnell also ordered her to turn over several guns at the farm to her lawyer until the divorce was finalized and refrain “from offering any indignities” to Tom at home or work. 

That same month, Yong gave Tammy power of attorney that authorized Tammy to sign checks and necessary documents for her. According to Tom, she did this so Tammy could take care of the children if something happened to her. 

A month later, Darnell dismissed Yong’s divorce petition because she could not prove the divorce grounds. Because Tom did not ask for a divorce or agree to one, the couple remained married but separated, and he continued to pay the mortgage and bills at the farm. 

Darnell also ruled that Tom could visit his children regularly, but his wife would not allow him to see them or speak to them on the phone. He did not take the issue to court because he still believed he could save his marriage. 

In June 1996, Tom, 56, lived in a triplex in Clarksville and started court proceedings to evict Tammy from the farmhouse. Neighbors told him they had found Lucy wandering alone and crying on the road early one morning and had to pound on the door before Tammy answered. Yong, 43, was working, and Tammy was supposed to be babysitting the kids. Yong had also left Daniel home alone for long periods. 

A hearing in the eviction case had been set initially for mid-July, but Dy’s attorney told the judge she could not attend court, so the judge rescheduled the hearing for Sept. 13.  

Lucy Meadows, 3, was last seen by her mother at 5:30 p.m. on July 25, 1996, in the Rivergate Mall’s parking lot outside the Castner-Knott department store in Goodlettsville. 

Yong told police she unbuckled Lucy’s seatbelt and the little girl exited the vehicle’s back seat on the drivers’ side. Yong walked to the passenger side to retrieve items from the front seat. When she turned around, Lucy was gone.

Police interviewed witnesses who said they heard the mother scream.

Witnesses reported seeing a brown- or champagne-colored minivan parked in a tree’s shade, one aisle away from the Meadows vehicle. Another witness saw a white female, a tanned male, and a small child near the minivan. The child went with the man. Police appealed to the public to find the occupants of the vehicle, but they were never identified. Yong said she did not recall seeing a suspicious person or vehicle near her car.

Police searched each store and the area surrounding the mall. A moving security cam in the Castner Knott store did not capture Lucy, but it did catch her mother searching the parking lot. It also showed the Meadows, but distance and a tree blocking the view made it difficult to tell who was there.

Security cams that scanned the mall’s parking lots were not focused on the Castner-Knott when Lucy disappeared.

Authorities checked all leads, including second-hand reports of an older Asian woman seen with Lucy 60 miles away in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

Police initially treated Lucy’s disappearance as an abduction. The day before, a stranger kidnapped seven-year-old Morgan Violi from Bowling Green, Kentucky, an hour’s drive north of Goodlettsville. Her remains were found in Tennessee, less than 15 miles from Goodlettsville. For a brief time, authorities thought the cases might have been related. However, within a month of Lucy’s disappearance, authorities started doubting her mother’s story. 

Yong failed both the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation polygraph test given July 30 and the FBI test given Aug. 12 and gave inconsistent statements. She initially told police that she took her eyes off Lucy for just seconds, then in an August 7 interview with The Leaf-Chronicle, said, “10 or 15 minutes” might have elapsed before she noticed her daughter was gone.

The time discrepancy and Yong’s failed polygraphs led authorities to search her home and surrounding area on Sept. 3.  

The Leaf-Chronicle reported “Goodlettsville Police brought their Emergency Command Post to the 101-acre cattle farm because “hot spots” were detected during a fly-over of the farm by a Tennessee Army National Guard helicopter equipped with infrared sensors. Police explained the hot spots could be attributed to groundhogs or something other than the girl’s body.”

The search involved multiple law enforcement agencies — the TBI, FBI, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, and mounted deputies from Sumner County Sheriff’s Office.

Raphael, a TBI German shepherd, twice indicated a scent while searching a pond at the farm and even went into the water. However, divers did not find the girl’s body. Authorities searched the farm for nine hours with no success. 

Tammy Dy refused to take a polygraph test and speak with authorities in Lucy’s disappearance. She also refused to let detectives interview her two young children.

Investigators stated there were also discrepancies between Yong Meadows’s account of her trip to the Rivergate Mall and Tammy’s statement. Yong Meadows eventually stopped cooperating with the police.

Lucy’s father was very active in searching for her and believed Tammy had something to do with her disappearance. With little evidence and few leads, the investigation stalled for several years.

In May 2006, a witness, 12 years old in 1996, told police he had information about the Lucy Meadows case. He said he was in Lucy’s home on the night before she vanished. He saw the little girl wrapped in a blanket on the farmhouse floor, and she looked as if she could have been deceased. 

The adults in the house were “panicked, huddled around her and were shouting her name,” according to the Leaf-Chronicle in 2006. The witness passed a polygraph test. Police never released his identity but said he is a family member.

After receiving the new tip, investigators interviewed Lucy’s mother, but she declined to give a public statement. They attempted to take the latest information before a grand jury, but it is unclear if they ever did.

Lucy’s case remains unsolved. Her parents’ divorce was granted in 1997. Tom Meadows passed away in 2010 at the age of 70. Tammy Dy now goes by Tammy Jang. She and Yong Meadows reside in Clarksville. Daniel Meadows is now in his 30s and also lives in Clarksville. 

True Crime Diva’s Thoughts

I feel this one is a no-brainer — the mom did it or her friend or both. I do not believe that Lucy Meadows could have vanished without a trace in mere seconds without her mother seeing or hearing something. 

Speaking of that, how was it possible for witnesses to see the brown-colored minivan and the adult couple with the small child, but not Yong?

It is never good when someone changes their story and fails two polygraphs or stops cooperating with the police. 

Yong Meadows and Tammy did something to Lucy. Maybe it was an accident, and they panicked, or Lucy was misbehaving, and someone snapped. Her mother had issues with losing her temper and striking out. That very well could be what happened in this case. 

But then there’s the sighting at the mall parking lot of a small child leaving with a man. Was this Lucy? And if so, where did the man take her? Back to South Korea? The man reportedly had a tan, but maybe he was Asian or Hispanic and knew Dy and Yong Meadows.

If Yong Meadows and/or Tammy Dy harmed Lucy, what the hell did they do with the body? The cadaver dog picked up scents in their pond, but authorities did not find the body. Maybe something happened to her in the pond area, and they disposed of her body elsewhere.

I wonder if the 2006 witness was Daniel, Lucy’s brother, although he was 11 in 1996. Yet, he would have been in that house, and I did not see any pre-2006 articles mentioning other relatives in that age group.

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True Crime Diva

True Crime Diva

I've blogged true crime since 2010, happily taking up only a tiny corner of the internet. I'm not here for attention; I'm here to tell you their stories.

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