Tiffini on every account was a good person, fun and funny, always lively, and lived life on the edge. She went thru many of life’s hardships, unfortunately surrounding herself with the not-so-great guys, and sometimes falling in to the depression that brings us to drugs and alcohol. Nonetheless, everyone loved and supported her. She had parents, siblings, children, family and many friends.
Tiffini’s father reported her missing in Peoria County knowing that is where she was last known to be living. Tiffini’s family contacted me in the summer and told me that it was near to impossible to get a missing persons report made for Tiffini, and when they finally got to having a law enforcement agency complete it, no one was willing to take it to the media.
I had some trouble with this because while the family was willing to speak to me, they were not willing to speak to the media, or do a documentary. While I do understand the difficulties and challenges family must go through when facing the public, it is critical to be in front of the media to tell their story. It is indescribable what the family must endure whether in private, or the face of the public. In Tiffini’s case it would take just over a year for them to find Tiffini and charge a suspect with her murder. Every single day of not knowing where they are or what happened to them is excruciating, and regardless of how much I try to explain it, there’s no comparison with what they go thru.
I contacted the Sheriff’s Office and personally spoke to the Sheriff myself. Sheriff Wayne H. Strawn II of the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office was warm and easy to speak to. For over an hour we spent time going thru everything we knew about Tiffini and her disappearance. Unfortunately, we both had no choice but to believe she was endangered. Tiffini would have come to her family by this point. However, there was no indication to lead to evidence pointing that she was in danger, or that Berchtold had anything to do with her disappearance. Having full confidence that Strawn wasn’t going to let this go, I made the poster for Tiffini, and as difficult as it always is, had to stand back and wait like everyone else for a break.
Christopher Williams came forward and stated that Tiffini was intoxicated, got in to a fight with Berchtold and came home with them. When they got to the house, Berchtold made the witness go inside the house and told him no matter what he hears not to come out of the house. While he was inside the house he heard five or six gun shots. Then following day he saw that Tiffini was gone and a fire was burning outside. He admits to helping Berchtold in getting rid of the burnt pile. He brought law enforcement to a property where they bones and hair of a human. When law enforcement came back to Berchtold and questioned him again, he changed his tune. He then said that they were in a break-up fight when a gun went off. When he realized she was dead, he decided to get rid of her body by burning it.
The cause of death has not been confirmed, completed, or publicized.
The family told me from the beginning that the last person that was with Tiffini alive was thirty-nine year old Gary Berchtold of Edelstein, Illinois. He told her friends and family (and law enforcement) that the last time he dropped her off was at the Casey’s in Lacon, Illinois on August 31, 2018. He said he was with a friend when he dropped her off. All Casey’s gas stations have surveillance video, however, by the time we were notified of this, the gas station was permanently shut down. Those videos were gone, whether he was telling the truth or not.
Berchtold has been charged with two counts of first degree murder, one count of dismembering a human body and one count of concealing a homicidal death His bond is set at $1 Million. He has pleaded not guilty.
Later, he told law enforcement that he brought Tiffini back to his house. He then burned her body on a chair, then throwing tires and wood in to the fire. Berchtold told Williams that he needed to move the burnt pile because it had tattoo needles in it.
The search warrant on the property was approved. When law enforcement got their they saw the burn pile when Berchtold arrived at the residence. Hours of speaking to him, he admitted he never dropped Tiffini off in Lacon.
The Heart of Illinois News said that “according to court testimony, Berchtold got out of his truck to stop an argument between Williams and Murphy and saw they had his handgun. Berchtold claims he tried to break up the fight and shot the gun 5-6 times. He said at least one of the bullets struck Tiffini in the head.”
Tiffini’s remains were sent to Texas for identification. This is common practice for law enforcement as Texas and Indiana, among other State Crime Labs have better equipment and experience to deal with remains that have been charred or other causes in difficulty identifying them.
Gary C Berchtold
Case Number 2019CF43
Residence where Tiffini was murdered: 383 State Rt 40, Edelstein, Illinois
This residence was foreclosed on November 25, 2019
Jury Pretrial Date March 23, 2020 at 11:30 A.M. Marshall County Court House
Trial Date: April 27, 2020 at 9:30 A.M. Marshall County Court House
Seems as though the coronavirus has delayed many court dates across the country including this one. The trial date was removed and the next scheduled date is July 13, 2020 as a ‘scheduled conference’.
2 counts of First Degree Murder
1 count of Dismemberment of a Human Corpse
1 count of Concealment of a Homicide
1 count of Aggravated Battery and Use of a Deadly Weapon