Thirteen years after an Indigenous woman went missing and was later found dead near Edmonton, her family held a news conference Thursday in an effort to revitalize efforts to find those responsible.
“Please come forward, I beg you,” said Tootsie Tuccaro, mother of homicide victim Amber Tuccaro.
Amber disappeared when she was 20 years old in August 2010. She had flown from her home in Fort McMurray, Alta., to Edmonton International Airport and booked a hotel room with her 14-month-old son and a female friend.
The next day, police said, she caught a ride into Edmonton with an unknown man and was never seen alive again.
Amber’s remains were found near Leduc in 2012.
Tootsie Tuccaro said since her daughter’s disappearance, every day has been a struggle.
“I wish I was not here speaking right now. I wish my daughter was here. I wish Amber was with (her son) Jacob,” she said, adding Jacob will be turning 14 soon and asks about his mom often.
The family referenced a 161-page report into Amber’s case, to be released next month, but couldn’t speak to more details.
“When you read it, people are going to be shocked at the way we were treated,” said Amber’s brother, Paul.
Both the RCMP and Amber’s family agree that police fumbled the case from the beginning.
“Amber’s case was mishandled right from the very, very start,” said Tootsie Tuccaro.
Nine years after her disappearance, the commanding officer of the RCMP in Alberta apologized to Tuccaro’s family for subpar police work in the early days of the investigation.
“Our Leduc detachment’s initial missing persons investigation was not our best work,” Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said at a news conference in July 2019.
“The early days of our investigation … required a better sense of urgency and care,” he said.
Tuccaro’s family didn’t accept the apology at the time.
Tootsie Tuccaro said racism played a part in the lack of urgency in the investigation, as Indigenous people are stereotyped as party animals.
“They just know us as a drunk, stupid Indian or whatever, but you know what? We’re caring, we’re loving, we’re a community,” she said.
“You feel it as an Indigenous person, we’re so stereotyped,” Paul agreed.
Amber’s family wants to see changes to how missing persons cases are handled by the RCMP.
“Basically what happens is you report your child missing to be told, ‘Oh they’ll come home, they’ll be home when they’re done partying,’” said Tootsie.
“That seems to be the norm, which is bull–t.”
“Our dream is that when you go report somebody missing … the person on the other side of the table says what they’re going to do and you leave there with a piece of paper saying they took down all your information,” said Paul.
Paul said the family works with the RCMP now but still wants the system to be improved.
“We can’t forget about what happened at that time, because right now a lot of families are at that time,” he said.
Assistant commissioner Trevor Daroux said the RCMP will not stop investigating until charges are laid.
“The RCMP is committed to continuing this investigation and moving it forward,” he said. “The resolve that that family has is equal to the resolve of the RCMP.”
Daroux said it’s important that anyone who has information about the case come forward.
“No matter how old they think that information is.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Alberta RCMP at 1-855-377-7267.
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