The Case of Tammy Dickson

22-year old Tammy Dickson was preparing for a new start in life. She was a recently divorced young mother and was looking ahead to a new beginning. But Tammy would never get to fully realize the dreams she had for herself.

A trial ended in a conviction for a man named Foster Bates, but he has long maintained his innocence and continues to file for appeals in hopes of a new trial. For some though, including Tammy’s family, there is no doubt that the man in prison was rightfully convicted.

About Tammy Dickson

Tammy was no stranger to new starts. She had been raised in the Biddeford-Saco area, a coastal part of the land we now call Maine, just a few miles from popular Old Orchard Beach. She left home when she was 15-years old. Tammy later married a man named Anthony Dickson and they had a child together in 1992, a little boy. 

In early 1994, however, Tammy and Anthony divorced and agreed to share custody of their son. According to a 2001 report in the Bangor Daily News, theirs was an “amicable divorce” that had been finalized just days before Tammy died.

Tammy was petite, only standing at 5’2” tall and weighing about 100 pounds. She had a bright smile and dark brown hair, which she kept short and liked to wear in spikes. Eric Russell reported for the Portland Press Herald (3/1/19) that friends described Tammy as “outgoing and trusting.”

She was living at the Cortland Court apartments in South Portland, Maine in the winter of 1994, but was in the process of packing up her belongings and getting ready to move back to the Old Orchard Beach, nearby where she grew up. In her third-floor apartment at Cortland Court, Tammy liked to keep her curtains open and didn’t usually lock her apartment door. The building required a passcode to even get inside, and, for the most part, Tammy felt safe there. She knew a lot of her neighbors and was well-liked. 

To support herself and provide for her son, Tammy worked multiple jobs. She not only worked at an answering service, but also as a manicurist and as a dancer at a nearby adult entertainment club called Doctor’s. When she was working and had the baby, Tammy arranged for help with child care with her neighbor, Foster Bates, and his wife. 

Besides being a new father, Foster was also a student and athlete at Southern Maine Technical College. According to a 2002 article in the Bangor Daily News, Foster’s wife was hospitalized for a few weeks with severe postpartum depression after giving birth to her son, and so Foster, too, needed help with childcare for a time. Sometimes Tammy would watch the Bates’s newborn son when Foster was attending class and, at other times, Foster would watch Tammy’s toddler. Outside of this arrangement, they occasionally saw each other at parties held inside their building. 

Outside of work and spending time with her baby boy, Tammy met up for coffee with two friends from the apartment building most mornings, a bit of a social hour that she looked forward to. But on the morning of Friday, February 18th, she didn’t show up. She didn’t show up on Saturday or Sunday, either. That’s when her friends noticed that Tammy’s curtains were closed and her door was locked. That wasn’t like Tammy.

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