Tami Engstrom was a 22-year-old wife and mother who was brutally murdered and dismembered in rural northeastern Ohio on February 7, 1991. Kenneth Biros confessed to her murder and received the death penalty. His was the first state execution in history in which Sodium Pentothal was used as the form of lethal injection.
Tami Engstrom was a 22-year-old woman who lived near Vienna Center, OH. She was married to Andy Engstrom; the couple had a one-year-old son, Casey. Tami worked with her mother at the Clover Bar in Hubbard, Ohio. She was well known and came from a large family that lived in and around the upper northeastern section of Ohio. Being that this area was so close to the state line, she frequented Pennsylvania regularly.
On February 7, 1991, at approximately 5:30 p.m., Tami Engstrom dropped her son off with a friend who was babysitting. She then reported to work at around 6:30 p.m. At approximately 9:30 p.m., Tami left work due to illness. She had intended to go home but drove to the Nickelodeon Lounge in Masbury, Ohio, where she met with her uncle, Daniel Hivner.
Approximately one hour after she arrived at the lounge, Kenneth Biros arrived and joined the two. Biros was an acquaintance of Hivner, but he and Tami had never met. The three of them continued drinking until around 1:00 a.m. Engstrom was very intoxicated and stated that she wanted to go home. Due to her extreme intoxication, Hivner refused to let her drive herself. Biros offered to take her for a cup of coffee to help sober her up. When neither of them returned to the lounge, Hivner left after the bar closed.
At approximately 11:30 p.m. that same night, Tami’s husband, Andy, had arrived at the Clover Bar to see Tami. He had bought her a gift that he wanted to surprise her when Tami’s mother, explained that she had gone home earlier that evening due to feeling ill. Andy drove home to find that Tami was not there. He checked in with the babysitter, who agreed to continue watching their son. Andy called the Nickelodeon Lounge and was told that Tami and her uncle had already left. Assuming that Tami would make her way home, Andy went home to wait for her.
When Engstrom still had not returned home by the next morning, her husband Andy began looking for her. He and a friend of his had found Tami’s car at the Nickelodeon and took it home. He learned Biros was supposed to have driven her home earlier that morning. Andy went to the home that Biros shared with his mother. Tami was not there, but Andy noticed that Biros had a cut above his eye and all over his hands. When asked about the cuts, Biros explained he had been locked out of his house and had had to break a window to enter.
When asked about Tami, Biros said that he was driving Tami to get a cup of coffee, but Tami had fallen asleep. When she woke up, she panicked and ran away from his car. She was extremely drunk and didn’t know where she was going, but after running away, Biros had not seen her since.
Andy did not believe Biros and immediately contacted the police.
On the day that she was determined to be missing (Friday), Tami’s family began searching the Sharon, Pennsylvania area where the Nickelodeon was located. Biros joined that search. No clues to Tami’s whereabouts were found. During this time, Biros’s mother had found a ring in her bathroom and when she confronted Biros about it, he stated he had no idea where it had come from. It would later be found hidden in the ceiling of his bedroom.
The next day (Saturday), investigators asked Biros to come in for questioning. Investigators from Ohio and Pennsylvania were present during the initial interview. Biros admitted to Captain John Klaric of the Sharon Pennsylvania Police Department that he knew Tami was dead. As the questioning progressed, Biros became panicked and offered several explanations as to the series of events that lead to Tami’s death.
In one explanation, Biros had said that Engstrom had been run over by a car. In another version, Engstrom had jumped from his car while he was driving. After a long period of extensive questioning, Biros eventually confess to murdering Tami.
Biros explained he had driven a very intoxicated Tami from the Nickelodeon Lounge to his house on Kings Graves Road in Vienna Center. He stated he had been driving next to the railroad tracks not far from his house. When he touched her leg, Tami (who had been passed out) woke up and defended herself. She jumped from the car. He struck her with his car and when she fell; she hit her head on the train rail. The medical examiner would later determine that this was a lie.
Once she was deceased, he went the short distance to the home that he shared with his mother. He cleaned himself up and went back out to Tami’s body. Biros removed every single organ and then dismembered her. Biros further explained that he drove around the Northeast Ohio/Northwest Pennsylvania area and scattered her organs and dismembered body.
Through search warrants, Biros bloody clothing and several knives were recovered from his home. DNA testing confirmed Engstrom’s DNA on both the clothing and knives.
On Sunday, February 10, 1991, following Biros’ directions, investigators located the first site of Tami’s remains.
The Extent of His Crime (**Warning: Graphic Content**)
According to Dr. William A. Cox, the Summit County Coroner, Biros severely beat Engstrom, hitting her ninety-one times. Dr. Cox found defensive wounds on Tami’s arms and hands. Biros stabbed her post-mortem 5 times with a large pocketknife. He also sexually mutilated her body.
Biros strangled Tami, which was confirmed by the medical examiner who stated her hyoid bone was fractured and had trauma to the surrounding area. Investigators searched the area where Biros had stated the crime had taken place. They discovered the crime scene with blood, organs, and other physical matter (including the intestine) present. Investigators also found some of Tami’s belongings, including clothing, in a shallow grave near the train rail. A search of Biros’s truck yielded blood and a piece of Tami’s liver.
During the trial, Biros explained that after he had killed Tami, he had buried her in a shallow grave near his property. When he attempted to place her into the hole he had dug, she wouldn’t fit, so he dismembered her. After receiving the threats from her family members during their initial missing person search, he exhumed her body from the shallow grave. He then drove over the state line into Pennsylvania to dispose of her remains in several locations.
In the case of Tami Engstrom, Kenneth Biros was found guilty of aggravated murder, felonious sexual penetration, aggravated robbery, and attempted rape. On October 29, 1991, the court sentenced Biros to death by lethal injection. His death sentence was carried out on December 8, 2009, at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, OH. The Biros execution was the first case of lethal injection in which a single drug, Sodium Pentothal, was used to carry out an execution. Prior to the Biros execution, a concoction of three drugs had been used to carry out a death sentence.